ESPN/The Undefeated HBCU Band Rankings

Southern University’s Human Jukebox takes top spot in final HBCU band rankings

Prairie View remains No. 2, while Bethune-Cookman ends football season as No. 3

Southern University’s Human Jukebox has moved into the top spot in the final ESPN/The Undefeated HBCU Band Rankings for 2017, bumping Bethune-Cookman to No. 3.

The final rankings shuffled the previous Top 10 from November, with Grambling State making its first appearance, Texas Southern back in at No. 10 and North Carolina Central falling out of the rankings.

Unlike football rankings, the judges are looking at new material and performances on each band before each ranking. The evaluations are based on the new music, formations and design for each adjudication.

“The Southern University Human Jukebox is one of the most complete bands in the country from top to bottom. Band director Nathan Haymer has done an extraordinary job of continuing the great traditions while creating new innovations with the Southern University Band,” said Don P. Roberts, executive consultant for the ESPN/Undefeated ranking committee.

Southern moved up in the final ranking because the Human Jukebox ranked as the top band in three categories: drill and design, drum major and auxiliaries, which it did with their Dancing Dolls. Roberts also said the final adjudication by all the judges in all categories was the most thorough from top to bottom.

The rankings evaluate bands on musicality, drill design, percussion, auxiliary corps, drum majors and other key factors. Each week, judges will review video content from a secure site to make recommendations for rankings. The rankings identify the top bands from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), the two FCS conferences that will be represented in the 2017 Celebration Bowl in Atlanta on Dec. 16.

“The Prairie View A&M Band showed everyone why they are one of the best bands in America, as they showcased their superior musicianship, marching and choreography at the Macy’s parade on Thanksgiving Day,” said Roberts. “They then traveled all the way across country back to Houston, Texas, on the following day and performed an incredible performance that put them in the No. 2 spot in the poll. Now that’s what I call dedication.”

Southern University now gets the chance to perform the SportsCenter theme song, just as previous No. 1s Bethune-Cookman and N.C. A&T have.

These are the final rankings in which only MEAC and SWAC bands are ranked. In 2018, weekly rankings will be released from the start of the season and all HBCU bands will be included in the rankings. Those rankings will culminate with the first “Band of the Year,” to be recognized during the Celebration Bowl weekend in December 2018 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

The most improved band is from the University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff, and the rising star bands are North Carolina Central, Alabama A&M, Alcorn State, Savannah State, Morgan State, Hampton, Howard, Mississippi Valley State, Delaware State and South Carolina State.

Here are the previous three rankings this season:

First: We got the beat: HBCU Band Rankings, Undefeated style

Second: N.C. A&T claims top spot this week

Third: Bethune-Cookman reclaims top spot in latest ESPN/The Undefeated HBCU band rankings

Top 10 HBCU Bands

Overall Rank Drum Major Drill Design Musicality Percussion Auxiliary
1. +3 Southern 1. 1. 6. 10. 1.
2. Prairie View A&M 3. 3. 3. 11. 2.
3. -2 Bethune-Cookman 4. 5. 2. 2. 6.
4. +3 Jackson State 2. 2. 9. 1. 7.
5. -2 North Carolina A&T 6. 7. 5. 8. 4.
6. Florida A&M 7. 9. 1. 4. 12.
7. Norfolk State 5. 14. 4. 3. 14.
8. Grambling State 19. 4. 8. 5. 9.
9. Alabama State 8. 6. 12. 18. 3.
10. Texas Southern 9. 8. 13. 7. 11.

Drum Major

  1. Southern
  2. Jackson State
  3. Prairie View A&M
  4. Bethune-Cookman
  5. Norfolk State

Drill and Design

  1. Southern
  2. Jackson State
  3. Prairie View
  4. Grambling State
  5. Bethune-Cookman


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


  1. Jackson State
  2. Bethune-Cookman
  3. Norfolk State
  4. Florida A&M
  5. Grambling State


  1. Southern
  2. Prairie View
  3. Alabama State
  4. North Carolina A&T
  5. North Carolina Central