Bethune-Cookman and Miles College are top bands in final rankings of the year

Over the season, they were judged the best across all categories


December 20, 2018


The last ESPN/The Undefeated HBCU Band Rankings of the season have Bethune-Cookman and Miles as the top two bands in the Division I and Division II rankings.

Congratulations to the bands and their schools for the hard work, dedication, precision and music that they’ve given us this season.

The final judging was done by all 10 judges, each of whom is a current or former band director with roots at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The previous judging this season was done by two panels, with five judges each, evaluating the Division I bands, from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) and independents, and five for Division II, for the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association and Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

“Getting feedback to improve HBCU band programs from judges like Julian E. White and Harold Haughton is valuable and refreshing,” said Jorim Reid, director of bands at Fayetteville State University, which was ranked No. 1 earlier this season. “Both accomplished musicians are highly respected in academia and the band community. They have been my personal mentors and role models for the development of my academic career and musicianship since high school.”

The 40-plus bands were evaluated weekly on musicality, drill and design, percussion, auxiliary corps, drum majors and other factors. These rankings include the ratings in each of those categories. Feedback from the judges was provided to the bands to help improve their routines. Julian White, band director emeritus at Florida A&M, is chair of the MEAC/SWAC judging panel, and Harold Haughton led the Division II panel.

“The positive growth from the beginning to this point is wonderful,” said Haughton, director of bands emeritus at Virginia State. “Positive growth is what competition is supposed to promote. The musicality of the bands has improved tremendously. I loved it. The creativity was truly outstanding.”

This season’s first ranking had Bethune-Cookman as the No. 1 Division I band, while Winston-Salem State was tops in the Division II rankings. The Pride of Bethune-Cookman University, The Marching Wildcats, was top-ranked in two of this season’s four polls, as was Miles College’s Purple Marching Machine.

“I commend ESPN for creating the initiative of Undefeated HBCU band rankings. The process provided valuable comments to band directors. I observed improvement in the overall quality of the bands’ performance level,” said White. “Directors and students displayed a great deal of pride in reacting to constructive comments from the panel. I also think that the performance fundamentals will be further emphasized during pre-drill rehearsals next year.”

Don P. Roberts, executive consultant for the ESPN/Undefeated Rankings committee, has worked with college and high school bands for years. He said HBCU bands have performed as models of excellence for decades.

“They have consistently demonstrated precision in marching, superior musicianship, with extraordinary choreography and flair. One goal of the ESPN/The Undefeated Band Rankings is to create an informal assessment that will motivate and elevate these dynamic music ambassadors to even higher levels of superior performance,” said Roberts. “We made incredible strides in 2018 and 2019 will be even better.”

North Carolina A&T University

Alcorn State University

Southern University

Top 10 HBCU Division I Bands

1. +1Bethune-Cookman 3 1 1 2 7
2. +5North Carolina A&T 6 5 2 1 1
3. Jackson State 1 3 4 7 2
4. +1Tennessee State 4 4 3 4 10
5. -1Southern 8 2 9 6 6
6. -5Norfolk State 2 7 7 3 3
7. +1Prairie View A&M 7 8 6 5 5
8. +1Alabama A&M 13 6 8 10 8
9. -3Florida A&M 11 14 5 8 17
10. North Carolina Central 17 17 11 9 13

Drum Major

  1. Jackson State
  2. Norfolk State
  3. Bethune-Cookman
  4. Tennessee State
  5. Alabama State

Drill and Design

  1. Bethune-Cookman
  2. Southern
  3. Jackson State
  4. Tennessee State
  5. North Carolina A&T


  1. Bethune-Cookman
  2. North Carolina A&T
  3. Tennessee State
  4. Jackson State
  5. Florida A&M


  1. North Carolina A&T
  2. Bethune-Cookman
  3. Norfolk State
  4. Tennessee State
  5. Prairie View A&M


  1. North Carolina A&T
  2. Jackson State
  3. Norfolk State
  4. Alabama State
  5. Prairie View A&M

Miles College

Winston-Salem State University

Fort Valley State University

Top 10 HBCU Division II Bands

1. +1Miles 1 1 1 2 9
2. +5Virginia State 4 7 4 3 4
3. -2Benedict 6 9 2 1 16
4. -1Winston-Salem State 10 6 3 4 11
5. +3Elizabeth City State 2 5 6 6 6
6. +1Central State 12 3 10 5 2
7. Talladega 8 2 5 7 3
8. +1Morehouse 3 8 7 10 1
9. +1Fort Valley State 5 10 9 11 7
10. Kentucky State 7 4 11 17 14

Drum Major

  1. Miles
  2. Elizabeth City State
  3. Morehouse
  4. Virginia State
  5. Fort Valley State

Drill and Design

  1. Miles
  2. Talladega
  3. Central State
  4. Kentucky State
  5. Elizabeth City State


  1. Miles
  2. Benedict
  3. Winston-Salem State
  4. Virginia State
  5. Talladega


  1. Benedict
  2. Miles
  3. Virginia State
  4. Winston-Salem State
  5. Central State


  1. Morehouse
  2. Central State
  3. Talladega
  4. Virginia State
  5. Albany State

Band judging criteria

Drum Major: Conducting, baton carriage, utilization of space, marching technique, accuracy and definition, style and discipline.

Drill and Design: Intervals and spacing, creativity, marching style, precision in timing, definition of patterns, showmanship, instrument carriage and showmanship.

Musicality: Tone, intonation, balance, technique, consistency of style, interpretation and musical effect.

Percussion: Rudimental excellence, general appearance, showmanship, technique/stick control, drill execution, style consistency and discipline.

Auxiliaries: Dance/flag routine, baton/flag carriage, utilization of space, marching/strut technique, uniform, style and more.

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