KU Unveils New Technology

It's big. It's flashy. But, what the heck will they do with it? Phog.net's Kristi Chartrand speaks to video board guru Mike Lickert and to Kansas coach Bill Self about the pending debut of the new video scoreboard in Allen Fieldhouse.

These days most major sporting venues, college or professional, feature a big screen replay board. Stadiums and arenas across the country have caught on to this technological fad. The big screen atmosphere was born through college football when large scoreboard screens were primarily used for replays. This trend was jump-started by Nebraska’s college football program in 1993. The Cornhuskers became the first school to boast a big screen and the rest is history. Mike Lickert, KU’s Rock Chalk Video Services Director, was a part of that Nebraska staff and has had a front row seat for this technological transformation over the last 12 years.

“When I arrived at Kansas in 1999, every school in the Big 12 except Baylor had one for football. Today all 12 have big screens for football,” stated Lickert. “The influx in stadiums across the country since 1993 has been really incredible. The reasons for that are basically professional sports. They kind of started it all. Now it’s to the point where the general fan, when they go to a sporting venue, they expect to have big screens there.”

Kansas will now add its name to the growing list of schools implementing this technology at basketball games. As part of KU’s facelift of historic Phog Allen Fieldhouse, the athletic department added a state-of-the-art video board and sound system from Daktronics. It’s something KU coaches and officials feel will add to the overall game experience.

“Allen Fieldhouse is the best college basketball arena in the country,” Kansas Athletic Director Lew Perkins said. “We want to make sure that we do everything we can to enhance our fans’ experience without detracting from the atmosphere that makes the Fieldhouse so special. We are confident that these improvements accomplish that goal.”

Lickert is no stranger to big screen productions and being “big screen guy” is his full-time job. KU’s video wizard produces content for football and looks forward to producing material for men’s and women’s basketball games. Lickert echoes Perkins’ sentiments.

“One of the great things about this board is that it looks like it belongs in Allen Fieldhouse,” said Lickert. “Just the aesthetics of it and how we built it-- it’s not your standard square-looking video board. It was definitely built to fit in to Allen Fieldhouse.”

Kansas Head Coach Bill Self spear-headed the initiative to help transform Phog Allen Fieldhouse, The new video board is just one of the elements Self felt would add to an already electric environment.  

“It will definitely help for crowd atmosphere …..I see things to get guys (players) involved, get fans involved,” Self continued. “I see educational things going on that will educate fans. I see a history of Kansas basketball, introductions. I see a lot of things that I think will definitely make for a more entertaining night which will lead to a better home court advantage.”

Exactly what’s in store for fans during pre-game introductions is still a bit of a mystery. Together, Self and Lickert will formulate a plan that gets the players and the fans juiced up for game action.

“I don’t know if we’ll make a big deal about it but we’ll utilize the board to make a bigger deal about it than we did without the board. No doubt about that,” confirmed Self.

“I’ll sit down with both coaches and we’ll plan out what their vision is for it and see the things that we can do,” said Lickert. “I’m sure we’ll make some cool headshots of the guys but exactly what we’re going to do, I don’t know right now.”

Kansas is a unique program that’s rich in history and boasts a long, storied tradition; attributes that Lickert will also look to take advantage of.

“We don’t know exactly what it’s going to be but who has a richer tradition than Kansas basketball? Nobody,” Lickert continued. “We’re not going to probably throw it all out there the first year and have a feature every timeout or anything, but we’ll definitely call on that history… so we’ll try to maybe, if not every game very frequently, have a feature or have some little piece on Wilt Chamberlain or on Jo Jo White. I mean there are so many names out there that will definitely add plenty of material to work with just to show all the tradition of Allen Fieldhouse.”

A walk down KU basketball’s memory lane and flashy introductions will be integral parts of each and every Jayhawk home game but fans should be equally entertained by the board’s primary use – replays.

“The most important thing for fans is what most fans call them, and that’s ‘replay boards,’ Lickert stated. “That’s the biggest element that can entertain the crowd because nobody’s coming to see me, nobody’s coming to see my production-- people are coming to see Kansas basketball or Kansas football. What I hope to do as producer of the big screens is to add to their gameday experience. The instant replay part of this that’s the biggest thing so that when somebody comes down and does a big dunk and we go into a timeout then we can show that dunk from two or three different angles.”

But Lickert is quick to explain the difference between basketball and football from a replay perspective.

“Replays are shown in football and will be in basketball -- but since basketball is such a faster moving sport the number of replays will not approach those at football games,” said Lickert. 

The flashy new board from Daktronics will undoubtedly have fans in awe but hopefully the “big” screen will make a “big” impression on prospective recruits who visit Lawrence. 

“When they go to venues and see where they’re going to choose to go to college, that’s something they expect to see because that’s the age they’ve grown up in – There’s video boards everywhere,” Lickert said. “ They want to see themselves replayed hitting that three-point shot…so as much as anything else it’s everybody has one and to keep up with the Jones’s you kind of have to have one.” 

The new board will be unveiled at Late Night in the Phog later this week and right now the specific details are hush, hush.  Fans will have to wait and see.

“Late Night there’ll be some cool videos. That’s about all I can say about that,” said Lickert while laughing.

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