The Beginning

The Herd of Thunder (HOT) Marching Band at the University of South Florida first took the field in September of 1999. With the addition of a football team in 1997, the marching band was a needed faction of USF and was implemented by then University President, Betty Castor. With the help of the Athletic Department, the Alumni Association, and the USF School of Music, the Herd of Thunder was born.


The first year, the HOT Marching Band was all about starting traditions and trying new things. Three hundred uniforms were ordered and instruments were purchased. At the first day of Band Camp ‘99, 140 students were in attendance, under the direction of Sid Haton. Ready with their shiny new instruments, these students were prepared to learn the first notes and drill sets of Pregame. A Field Guard of 24 members rounded out the band. New members continued to join HOT every day, during this important growth period for the band. That first year began the tradition of the “running of the bulls” in which the band ran from the tunnels of the stadium, stampeding onto the football field. By the first game, the band had grown to over 200 members!  Ironically, the sky thundered during the debut of the Herd of Thunder and the marching band was unable to march. The rain couldn’t stop them though, as they still performed from their seats.


Year two was another great year for HOT. The numbers increased with returning members and new members taking their place on the field.  The band also performed at Chamberlain High School in exhibition.


In 2001 the season went well and the HOT band was invited to perform at the BOA Regional in Orlando. The band also performed in exhibition at the Seminole Sound Spectacular in Seminole, FL.


The ’02-’03 season was pivotal for the Herd of Thunder. Under new direction of Dr. Michael Robinson, the band continued to excel. It was in the fall of that year that the HOT Show Band was formed. The Show Band is an elite group of 30 musicians selected to perform at different university and community functions in the Tampa Bay Area. The Marching Band provided entertainment at 5 football games. The band made a trip to Daytona Beach for a BOA Regional where they were once again able to shine. Spring of 2003 brought more dreams to reality for HOT. It was then that the HOT Winter Guard and Indoor Percussion Ensembles were formed under the direction of Mary Dooley and Ron Lambert respectively. These groups made numerous appearances at area and state events showcasing the talents of our USF students. The Winter Guard had an outstanding first season and placed second in the FFCC Independent Class A Championships.


In the fall of 2003, the band kicked off a great year supporting the Football team as USF joined Conference USA.  The band made an appearance at the BOA Regional in St Petersburg and at local high school competitions at Durant and Chamberlain High Schools. The Indoor Percussion Ensemble continued to perform in exhibition locally. The Winter Guard took home the gold in the FFCC Independent Class A Championships.


Fall of 2004 kicked off a rocky season with hurricanes interrupting several days of band camp and many practices. None the less, the band finished its first show in time for the first game. An exhibition during the halftime of a Buccaneers game gave the Bay Area community and many others the chance to see the Herd of Thunder. A second show was learned early in the year and became a favorite of students, football game attendees, and the band. The third show was taken on the road to the Tarpon Springs Outdoor Music Festival where the crowd loved the show! The Basketball Pep Band performed at all Bulls Basketball home games, and in Spring of 2005, traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina for the Women’s Conference USA Championship and then to Memphis, Tennessee for the Men’s Conference USA Championship. The Winter Guard placed 17th overall in their first trip to Winter Guard International Championships as well as several other local competitions. They maintained their 1st place title at FFCC Independent Class A Champions.


The HOT 05 – 06 season was definitely one for the record books. The band fielded a record 205 marching members and performed their three halftime shows for record crowds at Raymond James Stadium. On Saturday, October 1, 2005, the Herd of Thunder performed in their first ever away game at the famed Orange Bowl against the U. of Miami. Although the weather in Miami was stormy, reminiscent of that very first HOT game, the band still managed to have a great time. The 2005 season also included a win over state rivals UCF and FAMU with both of their bands visiting RJS for the first time. An exciting make-up Homecoming Game against West Virginia rounded out a great home season for the HOT. Then the real excitement began as the USF football team qualified for the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, NC. Not only would this be the 100th USF football game, but the Herd of Thunder and teams first ever bowl appearance! The football team may have lost, but the band certainly won against the NC State Wolfpack Band. Including the bowl game, the HOT Marching Band performed for nearly a HALF MILLION PEOPLE in 2005!! With marching season over, basketball season began and this first year in the BIG EAST Conference was certainly shaping up to be a great one. The women’s basketball team made it to the Big East Championship games in Hartford, CT and the Pep band strongly supported its lady Bulls. The women’s team later went on to attend the NCAA Tournament in Virginia as well. The show band made quite a showing appearing at several on campus events, as well as USF Day at the Capitol in Tallahassee, performing for the Tampa Bay Storm, and escorting Santa into Westshore Mall! The USF Winterguard had another award winning season and made more history! In just their fourth year of competition and after a narrow miss of finals the past year at WGI… the Winterguard broke into national prominence with a score of 91.90 and a rock solid third place finish in the Independent A Division, USF placed TOP 3 in the world winning the BRONZE MEDAL at the WGI National Championships!. Three weeks after winning the Tampa WGI Power Regional and once again defending their FFCC Circuit Championship. The HOT Athletic Band program ended it’s year with many new records on the books that they hope the break in the future.


In 2006, the Herd of Thunder performed a Halloween show at an Orlando FBA exhibition, in front of a high school audience. Following the Bulls’ away game vs. UCF, the Bulls and the Knights performed with and for each other. The Herd of Thunder performed a Latin/jazz show in the Seminole Sound Spectacular marching contest. At the end of the season, Herd of Thunder performed in the PapaJohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama, in which the USF beat ECU 24-7.


The number of HOT marching band members escalated yet again this season, with 292 marching. In this memorable season, the band traveled to its first out-of-state away game at Auburn, which the Bulls won in the last play of overtime. At another point, the band made a full-day trip to an FAU game. In the home game with UCF, the bands performed together yet again. The football team continued to improve under Coach Jim Leavitt, becoming a ranked team for the first time and climbing as high as #2 in the nation. The band traveled to El Paso, Texas for the Sun Bowl, and enjoyed a joint band party at Cattleman’s Steakhouse with Oregon.

The indoor percussion group, “Brahma from USF,” was restarted by drumline instructor Doug Moser. The Winter Guard group “USF Winter Guard” was a finalist at the Winter Guard International Championships.


In 2008, Dr. Robinson bid goodbye to USF to become a band director at UGA, giving John Schnettler the opportunity to step up from assistant director and become the full-time director of the Herd of Thunder. The band had grown to a record 318 members. It held its first ever “HOT Day,” which gave high school students from around the state the chance to march and play with the band. At the homecoming game was the first ever “HOT Alumni Band” performance on the field. In 2009, the new Marshall Student Center opened up on campus, and the band was called forth to play for the opening ceremony.

The band played at the St. Petersburg Bowl and stayed at the Tradewinds Resort on St. Pete Beach.


In 2013, the University of South Florida along with nine other schools formed the American Athletic Conference. The HOT Band’s first show of the season was dedicated to Willie Taggart – the new head coach of the bulls football team.

Contributing Historians:

Ashley Jones, 2005-2007 (“The Beginning” – 2006)
Kathleen Baumback, 2010-2011 (2006-2009)