Banded together: NGU’s band to play for Paladins in NCAA opener
At the end of January, the Furman Paladins men’s basketball team was on a winning streak. If they kept it up, they’d have a chance to make it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 43 years.
But if the team made the tourney, they’d be without the pep band, which was scheduled to play in Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day. You can’t play in the NCAA tournament without a pep band!
Drew Ingraham, senior associate athletics director for external affairs, picked up his phone and called Gary Rhoden, director of athletic bands at nearby North Greenville University. Would North Greenville’s band play for the Paladins?
Absolutely! Rhoden is a Paladin alumnus. He graduated twice from the university, with a bachelor’s in 2011 and a master’s in 2017. He said Sue Samuels, Furman director of bands, is terrific, and the band director community is tight, so he was happy to help. Plus, there were obvious up sides for NGU students.
As a Division II school, NGU “students don’t get a lot of chances to go to events like this,” he said. “My first thought was, this would be a fun time for my students.”
The bands from the two schools got together and practiced, and the NGU learned the musically challenging Furman fight song, “The Paladins Song.” Then, Rhoden said, Samuels handed over the reins. The combined band is made up of 21 NGU students and seven Furman students who didn’t make the Ireland trip.
The band played for the NCAA Selection Sunday watch party in Timmons Arena on March 12, getting a feel for the rhythms and tempo of the Furman fans. Meanwhile, Samuels, in a Zoom interview with WYFF 4News reporter Peyton Furtado, said the Furman band was in a Limerick, Ireland, hotel, huddled around a computer, watching the selection, cheering and yelling.
On Tuesday morning, the NGU/FU band loaded into busses and headed for the airport. The flight to Orlando would be the first time flying for many NGU students. Rhoden said they’re excited and ready to play. They’ll be decked out in Furman gear and tuned up, and even ready to go All Dins with the “FU All the Time!” cheer.
“We’re having a great time,” Rhoden said.
Fans of the Paladin Regiment Marching Band can catch the crew on St. Patrick’s Day, Friday, March 17. Samuels said they will likely be on Irish TV, RTE, around 8 a.m. Furman time. Go to RTE’s Website or Facebook page.