Frustrations about Notre Dame’s stadium restrictions helped drum up this week’s “percussion discussion.” According to a spokesman for the Purdue marching band, the one stadium tunnel large enough to accommodate the drum is being kept off-limits to the Boilermakers and their band.
“We have been told that visiting teams and bands have to use a separate tunnel that is much smaller,” spokesman Aaron Yoder said Thursday via email. “Our Drum is about 10 feet tall on its carriage and 565 pounds so it doesn’t even come close to fitting in this other tunnel. So unfortunately, in its 100th year, the Big Bass Drum will not be there this Saturday during our halftime show.”
He added that the band will perform at a football game without the drum for the first time since 1979.
A Notre Dame athletics administrator familiar with stadium operations noted that the marching band and its drum would not use the visitors tunnel but would enter and exit through stadium and field entrances, some of which are also too small for the drum upon its carriage. He emphasized that denying Purdue use of the home team tunnel for its drum was consistent with protocols in place since 2017, which include limiting access for media members, and not representative toward ill will toward an opponent. The administrator added that Notre Dame welcomed Purdue and its band, which included having the school’s Boilermaker Special train mascot on campus.
Purdue is playing Notre Dame for the 87th time, but Saturday will be their first meeting since 2014. Three years after that Shillelagh Trophy showdown, a major renovation to Notre Dame Stadium included the addition of a narrow tunnel for visiting squads, at which point the much larger main tunnel was reserved for the home team.
Purdue’s trademarked title of its drum as the world’s largest is just that: a long-standing title, and not a technically accurate description. According to Guinness World Records, the largest drum on the planet resides in South Korea, stands 19 feet, six inches tall and weighs over seven metric tons. Earlier this year, the community of Fort Good Hope in Canada’s Northwest Territories was reported to be constructing a steel drum that could be even bigger. Even among college marching bands, Texas has called its drum, known as “Big Bertha,” the largest, though all such claims raise questions of whether diameter or volume should be the standard.
According to Purdue, its drum dates from 1921, when an Indianapolis-based manufacturer had to extend a search to Argentina before finding a steer large enough to supply material for the drumheads. The instrument has used synthetic drumheads since 1954, and it began to be called the “World’s Largest Drum” seven years later.
“Since that time, the exact measurements of Purdue’s Drum have been kept secret to preserve the mystique surrounding it,” the Purdue drumline’s website states.
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