Gator Country did it!
Well, maybe not quite, but Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin was aware of the grassroots effort. . . the countless threads and messages begging the UAA to “turn the camera.” He not only listened, but Stricklin agreed and eventually acted. An unexpected announcement revealed that Florida’s televised basketball games would have the student section – The Rowdy Reptiles – as the backdrop, as opposed to the, well, less rowdy alumni section.
“For so many of our fans who watched our games and realized that this wasn’t the picture that best represented what a home basketball at O’Connell Center looked like. . . those of us on the inside realized it too,” Stricklin said. “That’s why we were equally frustrated.”
That “visual” fans and the administration wanted to change showed too often empty seats and a subdued atmosphere. This was less of a slap to alumni fans than a comment on a design issue. The recent renovation of the O’Connell Center added a club level above the pitchside seats where fans could eat, drink and watch the game. But this attribute had an offset.
“One of the reasons the seats behind the bench aren’t always full is because it’s a really nice club up there,” admitted Stricklin. “That’s positive, but we don’t necessarily want to project that to the outside world.”
What Florida wants to highlight is a student section that was once considered one of the most boisterous in the country and an environment that has made Florida’s home court a tremendous asset.
“We have a great student department,” Stricklin said. “My seats are over in that club section and I’d look over and look at the rowdies and say… ‘That looks great. But nobody else sees it (on TV)’.”
Stricklin believes that the television world that “sees” it will have profound promotional implications for basketball in Florida.
“That was a ‘building expense,’ but it’s really a marketing expense — although we don’t deduct it from marketing spend,” he said. “I think it will represent a different level of energy in the arena.”
And on the subject of cost – although a costly one, Stricklin revealed the final price was less than originally estimated. The initial $1,000,000 figure was a hindrance and a frustration.
“It became a math problem . . . a financial problem,” he said. “And the original number we got was that it was going to take a million dollars to rewire, rewire, build a new platform… which was a frustrating number. We have a lot of resources, but with 21 sports, we pull a lot on those resources.”
But Stricklin and his staff didn’t give up, and neither did the screaming, die-hard fans. (You’re seen here @ChanningCrowderHungry).
“We kept asking for more information about the number. We reduced the number to $500,000 or $600,000, so it got expensive — but not as expensive as we originally thought,” Stricklin said. “And then we made it a priority. . . At some point you have to step on the gas and say: ‘We can do it’”.
Stricklin “hit the gas” a year ago — after a few seasons of discussion, prioritization, and due diligence. It was a decision made well before Florida’s recent coaching change.
“I remember thinking, ‘We’ll fix this before next year,’ during last season,” Stricklin said. “So Todd wasn’t part of that decision, and I’m not sure he has the context. But I may have told him that the back of his head will be on TV a lot.”
As Stricklin alluded to, the new camera angle will feature The Rowdy Reptiles prominently, although not entirely at the expense of viewers watching the carriages and benches.
“The same platforms across the street still exist, so they could still shoot from that angle if they wanted…sometimes they call it a slash camera…for a second view of the carriages,” Stricklin said. “But I think for most games, the cameras on the baseline are used to provide images of the coaches or benches.”
And fear not—Florida’s iconic logo won’t be upside down.
“We flip the field so the logos are facing the camera,” Stricklin assured.
In addition to the camera change, Stricklin revealed another change intended to improve the game’s atmosphere.
“Another thing that we did that I don’t think was reported is that apart from tables for radio and TV stations we removed all the other pitchside tables and those fans with pitchside seats are literally getting up be on the court,” he said. “The closer you can get people to the action, the more energy you convey. And on TV, you see people right there on the court…just like in the NBA.”
A jubilant message board response suggests Florida fans are excited to see this anticipated change on TV. And with the start of the season only a few days away, the wait is almost over.
Kudos to the university sports club and to the fans for the passionate pursuit
OPERATION: ROTATE THE CAMERA.