When Oklahoma State football players sprint across the field, larger-than-life versions of them will appear on a colossal screen in the east end zone.
The gargantuan new video board, spanning the middle of Gallagher-Iba Arena’s exterior wall that faces Boone Pickens Stadium, dwarfs the existing screens in the venue.
OSU football fans will see the bright lights and crystal-clear images on the video board this season. The board, which is 56 feet tall and 110 feet wide, is one of many features, from designated “cool zones” to beer sales, added to boost the fan experience at Boone Pickens Stadium.
I have no doubt the screen will elevate the crowd’s energy level. But it won’t impact only the fans.
Before the season starts, the Cowboys have practiced on Lewis Field with the board as a backdrop. Coach Mike Gundy said he was shocked to see it, adding that the screen’s images are clearer than the picture on his new TV. He said he didn’t notice it distracting the Cowboys, but they’re going to play on the field at night to see if the lights affect them.
“A lot of times, with young people, if you don’t bring it up, they don’t even notice it, so they did fine,” Gundy said he told his assistant coaches.
Although the board didn’t stop the Cowboys from executing plays, they couldn’t ignore it.
“I was kind of staring at it a little bit,” Justin Phillips, a senior linebacker, said. “It might have been a little distraction at first, but I think that’s why we were out there just to get a feel for it and to get to look at it before it’s game time and we get caught staring at it.”
Phillips is right. They’ll get accustomed to playing with the enormous screen looming over them, so it isn’t a negative factor. Instead, it will give the players a big energy boost, just as it will for the fans.
The Cowboys are hyped about the video board. It makes a statement about OSU Athletics’ continual investment in the football program. As the fans roar when they watch highlight replays on the video board, their enthusiasm will fuel the OSU players’ intensity on the field. The screen, along with the beer in the stadium, will create a pro-football vibe.
“It literally feels like we’re gonna be in a movie theater every game, so I’m excited,” said Larry Williams, a redshirt senior offensive lineman. “I can’t wait.”
For the Cowboys, the screen is also an oversized mirror.
“I’m really excited about playing behind it, making a play and seeing one of my teammates make a play and then looking up and seeing the replay on the big screen,” said Darrion Daniels, a senior defensive end.
If Daniels makes an aggressive tackle, the board will magnify it. If Justice Hill rushes down the field for a game-winning touchdown, the screen will enlarge that play. If someone makes a critical mistake, the board could also replay it in huge dimensions. That gives the Cowboys extra motivation to smoothly make the right plays, avoiding embarrassment.
Even when the novelty of the video board wears off for the Cowboys, its sheer size will surprise many opponents. It’s the eighth-largest screen at any college-football-only venue.
Phillips expressed hope for the board to fluster his rivals.
“Hopefully they’re trying to look at themselves, trying to see how pretty they are and stuff, and we’re playing,” Phillips said.
Although it’s a humorous statement, it makes sense. OSU Athletics has options for the ways it can use this video board. Along with replays, it can use bold, eye-catching graphics. Will it use graphics of someone throwing a football to distract opponents? Will it show rowdy fans in the crowd, screaming and dancing as they sport orange face paint or crazy costumes? The possibilities are vast.
Soon, the screen will make its game-day debut. Before the Cowboys face Missouri State on Aug. 30, people will migrate to their seats and look at the board in awe for the first time. They’ll clap along with the Cowboy marching band, whose images will appear on the screen. And when the moment arrives for the Cowboys to emerge from the smoky tunnel, that video board will hold at least as much meaning to the athletes who are bursting out of the locker room as it carries for the fans who surround them.