Kick off for Stagg Bowl XLIII was just after 7 p.m. on a cold and windy night in which wind chills would fall close to zero and we were ready to entertain the crowd that came out to support their teams, and why wouldn’t they being from Ohio and Minnesota. The hardest part of running
Kick off for Stagg Bowl XLIII was just after 7 p.m. on a cold and windy night in which wind chills would fall close to zero and we were ready to entertain the crowd that came out to support their teams, and why wouldn’t they being from Ohio and Minnesota.
The hardest part of running the Stagg Bowl, really, is the pre-game. That starts about 80 minutes prior to kickoff and during that time there are numerous transitions, short videos, slides, PAs, introductions and other elements that must run on time, or the whole show can look bad. With audio coming from three different sources, there’s some sound mixing that’s involved too.
Thankfully, Doug Ripley built in several gaps to allow us to catch up if needed. There were several points in the pregame that we had 30-60 seconds of nothing except the logo on the video board to allow us to get back on track. It was only needed once, and that was on one of the first elements.
With all of the content provided by the NCAA as well as the City of Salem to build the game, there is a lot to make sure stays in order and on time. The biggest thing to consider is the music that’s played between each element or when the element doesn’t have set music. Since it’s close to Christmas, there was a mix of Christmas music, country music, rap, Top 40, and rock music. Thanks to my work with the Washington Kastles, some songs are cued up to the point of relevance and I would run those when I needed 30-60 seconds to fill.
The hardest part of pre-game is the National Anthem (performed by the Pride of Salem Marching Band), the coin toss, then the countdown video. Which, when done right, looks awesome. When you have to cut the countdown video, it really does take a lot away so there is some extra pressure to make sure things go off without a hitch. In our case, there was a minor hitch, but everything worked out and the only people who knew of the hitch was us up in the box.
Once the pre-game begins, we’re at the mercy of the game. While Doug is recapping the plays, there’s also listening to the sound system to make sure it’s not too loud, watching the game, and setting up for what’s going on during the next media timeout.
Media timeouts incorporate the video board and/or P. A. announcement, then the band plays. Mount Union was the only school to bring a band this year so it was easy to default to them. When both teams bring a band, there’s more work involved in making sure each band gets fair playing time to entertain their crowds without playing over each other. My personal belief is to not play anything pre-recorded to fill time once the game has started. The atmosphere is so much different when there is a pep band, and this is their stage to shine.
At the first media timeout, we ran a special video produced by the NCAA to honor the men and women in the armed forces. This is one of the few times that the production track wasn’t used, instead Paul McCartney’s “Freedom” was played underneath, though it took coordination with the video board truck to make sure we were both on cue. This is one of the highlights of my experience as it recognizes the military in attendance in a positive way and it is always a feel-good moment for all.
Keeping everything straight and watching the “red cap”, or the person on the sideline that is the ombudsman between the TV truck and on-field officials to know when we’re going to media timeouts. However, this year, our video board director, Tim Harris from Big Screen had communication with the ESPN truck who would tell him when they were going to break away after a touchdown or change of possession. In tonight’s game, they came after touchdowns more often than not.
At halftime, it gets a little more stressful because the band plays the teams off the field, then each school has a dance team that performs. The music comes from my sound computer. After that, we had a ceremony for the Salem High School football team who won the Virginia High School League 4A state championship. I bedded “We Are the Champions” with this ceremony. Afterwards, several area youth flag football teams took the field and played games. Kids-related music was used during this time to match with the theme. After these games, another video and commercial block was put in before the build into the second half which helped to get the crowd jumping.
The third quarter was filled with touchdowns. The teams combined for more touchdowns in the third quarter (5), than they’d scored in the first half (4). At one point, all three media timeouts had been used and the quarter wasn’t even half over. That left a lot of time to just sit back and watch some amazing football.
Mount Union began to pull away and would finish off as the national champion for the 12th time in school history. Congratulations to Mount Union!