Hoosiers creating new experience for football fans
Indiana is going all out to increase attendance at football games.
Hoosiers athletic director Fred Glass on Monday outlined a package of changes school officials hope will create a better game-day experience for the crowd. The two most notable alterations will be the addition of the USS Indiana's prow outside the stadium and the addition of a 154-foot flagpole that surpasses Ohio State's 146-footer as the tallest in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Glass calls it a fitting tribute for Indiana's Memorial Stadium.
''The flag will go up as we sing the National Anthem,'' Glass said. ''And when we win, we will hoist the victory flag on it.''
But it will take more than fresh looks to win over fans at a program that has traditionally ranked near the bottom of the Big Ten in attendance.
So Glass intends to make sure everybody outside the stadium is aware of what's going on inside.
Fireworks will go off about 15 minutes before opening kickoff and again at the start of the second half, a reminder for fans to take their seats. When the Hoosiers run onto the field, they will run through a smoke screen and will be welcomed by loud booms. When Indiana scores, fans will hear the sound of a cannon nicknamed ''Big Jake'' being fired.
Indiana will illuminate the north end zone in red spotlights after victories, has installed flat-screen televisions around the concourse and upgraded its cellphone reception. The school also has expanded the security command center in the press box to help with emergencies.
All of these modifications were part of a months-long discussion about how to make Memorial Stadium a more fan-friendly environment.
''We're battling against fans watching the games at home, and people are feeling that around the country,'' Glass said. ''So I think one of the things we need to do is make the experience as desirable as possible to give you some things that you don't get to see at home.''
That includes a couple of ideas incorporated from Indiana basketball games - a live-look at the Hoosiers on the big scoreboard before they take the field and the addition of a new football song and video that will be introduced during the Big Ten opener Oct. 5 against Penn State.
One thing that isn't likely to change yet is Indiana's basketball home, Assembly Hall.
Glass acknowledged that while changes are needed at one of basketball's grand venues, he believes it will be more cost-effective to renovate the building rather than build a new one.
''I think that would be about 300 million bucks and suck the oxygen out of everything else we're doing,'' Glass said, estimating the cost of a brand-new basketball arena. ''When you're an opposing player or coach and you feel like Gen. Custer with all the students looking down on you, I think that's pretty imposing. So I don't think there would be a new Assembly Hall, but I think there are some ways to improve it.''
Rather than elaborate on those possible upgrades, though, Glass kept the focus at this basketball school on football.
He said Indiana has sold more than 30,000 season tickets thanks in large part to a substantial increase in student-ticket sales. Glass said that comparable to where the Hoosiers were at this time last year.
But the big question is how many fans will show up for games this season?
''If we're over 40,000 for the (opening) game, I'll be really happy,'' Glass said. ''I think before long we'll be at 52,929 week in and week out.''