The Columbia University Marching Band, better known as the CUMB (say it out loud), is the beautiful chaos every shitty college football program deserves at halftime. Historically, the Columbia Lions stink. Starting with the final game of the 2012 season — a 22-6 loss to Brown — the FCS program lost 24-straight games before beating Wagner in 2015. Sadly, that’s not even the football team’s worst run. From 1983 to 1988, Columbia lost 44 games in a row. Yikes.
The Lions aren’t exactly must-see football, but that’s where the wild and wacky CUMB came into play. In short, this “scramble band” is the most ridiculous, insane, wacky, edgy, off-the-wall halftime show you’ll ever see. Watch one of their performances and be amazed at this beautiful mess.
The CUMB first performed in 1904 as a regular marching band before transforming into the scramble band chaos you watched in that video. After that switch in the 1950s, the CUMB and university officials clashed for numerous reasons in New York.
Dubbed “The Cleverest Band in the World,” pranks and irreverent jokes pulled over the years at football games included forming the image of a topless woman (two sousaphones gracefully became the nipples), protest images during the Vietnam War, portraying the consummation of same-sex marriage in the 1990s, and adding a musical section called the “miscie,” which basically means band members invent instruments using everything from spare tires to toilet seats.
The best part? They know they’re not that funny. A former CUMB show writer once said, “These shows comprise both jokes read over the loudspeaker and formations the band attempts on the field. Generally speaking, but with notable exceptions, the material is not very funny.”
It’s wild. It’s chaotic. It’s beautiful. It’s all a ruse, and it even caused the university to preview the band’s planned formations prior to every sporting event in fear they’d bust out a giant, throbbing penis.
Columbia’s Orgo Night
One of the Columbia University band’s most famous traditions (aside from fighting the Harvard band in 1973) is called Orgo Night. Beginning in 1975, the band invaded the Butler Library reading room at midnight before a massive Organic Chemistry exam. The idea was to entertain and ease the minds of students cramming for the final exam, but after three decades, a couple of whiners complained about the band’s hour-long set.
The university subsequently banned them from entering the library in 2016.
The CUMB wouldn’t be denied, however. Band alumni spent two years fighting with the university, citing free speech and censorship, among other things, while the band played on. After invading Butler Library in 2018 and playing its traditional show despite warnings from school officials, Columbia cut $15,000 of the band’s university funding.
This lengthy Orgo Night feud peaked prior to Columbia’s first home game the 2019 football season when the university immediately banned the CUMB from performing at all future athletic events.
Before the ban, the school suggested CUMB leaders apply for separate funding from other sources to remain active, but according to a news release from The Board of the Columbia University Marching Band, the organization’s requests weren’t recognized in a timely manor prior to the start of the academic year.
“[Columbia Athletics and Undergraduate Student Life] are doing everything in their power to ensure the organization no longer exists,” the press release states.
Columbia University Marching Band Statement
“The Band’s mission has been to create an inclusive organization that welcomes everyone regardless of income, identity, or musical ability. We are currently the only campus musical organization that does not require members to audition or interview to join.Advertisement
“As of the current moment, the Columbia University Marching Band will no longer exist in an official capacity. The Board is weighting all possible options and would appreciate any support the community can offer. The Band has been bringing school spirit to this campus for over a century, and we want to continue in that mission.Advertisement
“The show, as always, must go on.”
What a load of elitist, crap. This student group of anarchist rebels are having fun playing toilet seats for God’s sake, which obviously doesn’t jive with Columbia University’s pristine, Ivy League, hoity-toity reputation.
As for the football team, things are looking up under head coach Al Bagnoli. After nine Ivy League Championships with the Penn Quakers, he took over the Columbia football team in 2015 and led them to an 8-2 record in 2017, winning Ivy League Coach of the Year honors that year.
While the Lions try to right the ship on the field against teams like Cornell, Yale, and Fordham, the university’s coolest tradition is being silently squashed after more than 100 years of harmless fun.
Let the kids play!