Schoellkopf's new scoreboard offers replays, stunning visuals and a better fan experience
It was January 2010 and Kent Austin's second day on the job as Cornell's new Roger J. Weiss '61 Head Coach of Football. He was standing on the Tanner Terrace at the north end of Schoellkopf Field, and something was bugging him.
"How old is that old scoreboard?" he asked recruiting coordinator David Archer. "Pretty old," answered Archer.
From that moment, installing a new scoreboard became part of Austin's revamping of the Cornell football program, which included a stadium makeover.
Less than two years later, a brand new Daktronics scoreboard has ushered in the Big Red's 2011 season, offering a modern game-day experience for fans.
"Football needs to be an event that the university rallies behind, that draws on past traditions and that can energize a student body and faculty in a way that you really get on campus," Austin says. "The scoreboard [was] a big piece of the puzzle that was missing."
The old scoreboard, well past its expiration date, would often act up during games, requiring scoreboard service company technicians to be on hand for every contest. To Cornell's embarrassment, the scoreboard broke down completely during a 2004 NCAA lacrosse quarterfinal.
"Our previous scoreboard was so out of date, we couldn't even get replacement parts for it," recalls Jeff Hall, Cornell's associate director of athletics for sales and marketing.
Nestled in the south end zone, the towering new board has a view of the game that makes the flagpole jealous: An 18-by-31-foot high-definition video screen inside a giant frame ensuring that fans all around Schoellkopf Field will be able to see the action. At rest, the scoreboard puts out a gentle hum that belies its sonic power. But once the game is under way, the machine comes to life with powerful speakers.
Besides live-game action, the board shows out-of-town scores, live statistics and -- most important -- replays. The scoreboard will also be in use at all home sprint football contests as well as men's and women's lacrosse games.
Also planned are half-time video games to keep fans entertained, a "kiss cam," shots of the parking lots outside the stadium and interactions with mascots, cheerleaders and fans. In short, Big Red supporters will get everything they have come to expect from modern scoreboards at professional sporting events.
Putting the game experience together takes an impressive staff. Rochester-based Varsity Media will have a crew of seven people on hand, including four cameramen positioned around the field, a graphics coordinator, a replay coordinator to cue up replays and other videos, and a director in charge of it all.
"All seven people need to be working together to give the Big Red fans the best overall product on game days," says Ben Turchin, president of Varsity Media.
The contributions of multiple alumni made the board possible, and their fast response enabled the installation of the scoreboard in three months. "Thanks to the generosity of a number of loyal alums, we are able to put up a video scoreboard in keeping with historic Schoellkopf Field's significance," says Andy Noel, the Meakem*Smith Director of Athletics and Physical Education. "This is also going to be great for Cornell Commencement. With the size of the board, parents and grandparents will be able to see far more of the event in a capacity crowd at Schoellkopf, making it a more enjoyable experience."