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“This Is Ghetto Row”: Musical Segregation in American College Football

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 August 2020


A historical overview of college football's participants exemplifies the diversification of mainstream American culture from the late nineteenth century to the twenty-first. The same cannot be said for the sport's audience, which remains largely white American. Gerald Gems maintains that football culture reinforces the construction of American identity as “an aggressive, commercial, white, Protestant, male society.” Ken McLeod echoes this perspective in his description of college football's musical soundscape, “white-dominated hard rock, heavy metal, and country music—in addition to marching bands.” This article examines musical segregation in college football, drawing from case studies and interviews conducted in 2013 with university music coordinators from the five largest collegiate athletic conferences in the United States. These case studies reveal several trends in which music is used as a tool to manipulate and divide college football fans and players along racial lines, including special sections for music associated with blackness, musical selections targeted at recruits, and the continued position of the marching band—a European military ensemble—as the musical representative of the sport. These areas reinforce college football culture as a bastion of white strength despite the diversity among player demographics.

Research Article
Copyright © The Society for American Music 2020

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