Want to Sing the National Anthem at a Temple Football Game? It Will Cost You. A Lot.
On Saturday night in front of a sold-out Lincoln Financial Field and a television audience projected to be in the millions, East Falls’ Allison Boyle (a current Temple student) and her sister Jessica will perform the National Anthem prior to the much-anticipated Temple-Notre Dame football brawl. They were chosen to sing at the game prior to the season, when it was just another on the Temple football schedule; since then, the game has basically turned into Philly’s Super Bowl. But the Boyle sisters didn’t turn up here by chance. They basically were required to pay their way into the spotlight.
“We have the National Anthem as an asset,” explains Scott Walcoff, the associate athletic director of marketing and sales for Temple University’s athletics department. “We sell it.”
Of course, Walcoff doesn’t mean that Temple sells “The Star Spangled Banner” itself. How could they, since the song is not theirs. The most precious, revered and important song in the United States, the National Anthem is all of ours. It’s in the public domain.
What he means is that Temple sells the right to perform the National Anthem. If a person wants to belt out “the rockets’ red glare,” the sales department requires that they sell or buy a certain number of tickets to the game.
Walcoff says that the Boyles sold around 150 tickets to Saturday’s matchup. With the cheapest ticket priced at $60 and no group pricing available, that’s a minimum of $9,000. Temple also “sells” the National Anthem for basketball games.
Walcoff points out that the price can actually go up for bigger football games, but the Boyles lucked out, as there was no price gouging for Notre Dame. “We’ve increased the price from time to time for individual games,” he explains. “But for this game, we did not jack it up.”
We spoke with 13 of the AP’s top 20 college football teams in the country, and none of them handle the National Anthem this way. Some were perplexed by the notion.
Most of the schools don’t actually have singers; they simply use the school band. But those that do use singers say that they don’t charge the performers.
“Our singers are auditioned and offered the opportunity to sing,” says Julia Aubrey, associate professor of music at Ole Miss. “There is no payment involved.”
Notre Dame generally uses the band for its home football games but sometimes has singers at its basketball games. “But no finances are involved there,” insists Notre Dame senior associate athletics director John Heisler.
We also checked in with the Eagles and Phillies to see if those teams capitalize on the National Anthem. Nope. “Our anthem is not sold or exchanged for tickets,” promises Phillies publicist Deb Rinaldi. “We definitely do not get paid,” says Brett Strohsacker of the Eagles.
Temple says that while they may sell the National Anthem, it’s not like just any tone deaf Joe Schmoe can walk in and pull a Roseanne Barr, Steven Tyler or Christina Aguilera. “We do ask for any sort of YouTube footage, just to make sure everything is on the up and up,” says Walcoff. (Here are two such videos of Allison Boyle singing the National Anthem.)
That’s all well and good, and we generally don’t like to get in the way of somebody trying to make a buck. But this is the National Anthem we’re talking about, and the whole pay-to-play thing just feels wrong. Clearly, there are a lot of talented, ambitious musicians in Philadelphia who would also love the opportunity, and that’s what this should be about. Giving Philadelphia singers and musicians opportunities. Not selling tickets or making money.
In any event, there are only two home games left in the regular season, and only one of them — November 28th against the University of Connecticut — isn’t booked yet. So, aspiring singers, you better get moving.
Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter. Additional reporting by Rob DiRienzo.