Music at athletic events can keep a crowd swaying and engaged, but it can also signal a certain response.
When the sound of a rooster crow rings through Williams-Brice Stadium to indicate a crucial third down for the Gamecocks’ defense, fans are trained to react with raucous applause in the hopes of making things challenging for the offense.
In the past, SEC stadiums broadcasting prerecorded music between plays was limited to games against nonconference opponents.
But starting in the 2014 season, the SEC is relaxing the rules for conference games, too, in an effort to boost the in-game atmosphere.
The new rule will allow recorded music between plays and up until the point the quarterback gets in position at the line, as the ACC does.
South Carolina and other league members will be looking for ways to utilize the change and get fans more involved.
The most obvious way for South Carolina is having the rooster crow at all games now, said Eric Nichols, USC’s chief marketing officer.
Other ideas, like more opportunities to play “Sandstorm,” will be tested and discussed throughout the season. Whatever fans react to best is likely what will stick. Nichols said it’s unlikely “Sandstorm” will be played any more than it is currently played.
“The rooster crow will definitely come back,” Nichols said. “We do that in nonconference games and the fans certainly seem to respond to it on all third downs, so we’ll definitely bring that back. Then we’ll just evaluate it as a staff to see what we can do. We don’t want to overcorrect and play music between every play, but we’ll come up with some ideas to engage the fans, whether it be music or even video with music. We’ll see what the crowd responds to.”
Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity is on an SEC working group, chaired by Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin, that looks at marketing, promotions and fan interaction.
The group felt that adding music to the in-game atmosphere “would create more excitement across the conference,” and entertain fans more and help generate more enthusiasm, McGarity told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Nichols said he thinks the SEC initially disallowed recorded music in between plays because the league wanted to remove the possibility of abuse by the home team in case it tried to use the music to affect the opponent in an “unsportsmanlike manner.”
Though prerecorded music was restricted, bands were allowed to play in between plays. Nichols said there are musical dead periods for the start of the game, before halftime and after halftime -- when the band made its way back to its seats in the stadium after pregame ceremonies and going to and from the field for the halftime performance.
Those times are when Nichols and his team would look to take advantage of the rule change.
“It definitely makes a difference,” Nichols said. “Our fans know that when they hear ‘Sandstorm’ that something good just happened. When they hear the rooster crow, something good just happened. We’re all creatures of habit and when there can be some things that can elicit a positive response, we’ll do them in the right situations.”