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Saturday Night Lights at Vaught-Hemingway Produce Electric Response

By Andrew Gardner
Journalism Student

Photo by Hannah Johnson.

As the slow October wind gently sweeps across a familiar Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, each Ole Miss fan simultaneously feels the warm glow of artificial light flicker on and off their skin. Cue the goosebumps.

“(The lights) become an extension of what we’re trying to do to get the crowd up and bring energy to the place,” said Micah Ginn, associate athletic director for Sports Productions and Creative Services. “It goes out of the realm of practicality into original use and creative use. And that’s obviously a great thing.”

On Sept. 7, Ole Miss football returned to its home with a crushing loss under its belt to face the Arkansas Razorbacks. Vaught-Hemingway greeted its friends with an unannounced light-show set to AC/DC’s teeth-gritting “Thunderstruck.” This light-show utilized none other than the often forgotten and equally massive stadium lights. The result was a fan base on its feet.

Ginn has been with the university for eight years, presiding over everything from the documentary series “The Season” to the tiny yellow football schedules scattered all over town. A graduate of Ole Miss himself, Ginn’s passion for the university is matched only by his passion for elevating its sports.

“It’s kind of hard to explain unless you’re there,” Ginn said. “You’ve just got this completely synchronized light experience that’s complementing the audio experience. So, everything you’re hearing you’re seeing.”

Several years ago, UM Athletics replaced the numerous, standard gas lights at Vaught-Hemingway with LED lights — the rising industry standard.

“Everyone these days are going to LED, and that’s not just in stadiums,” Ginn said. “In fact, that’s kind of the last place that LED is getting to.”

Although the previous gas-powered lights took minutes to reach full power, the stadium’s new LED lights reach full power in a matter of milliseconds.

“LED is the way to go. It consumes less power, and it doesn’t burn out,” he said. “It doesn’t have filaments or lights that can burn out. Basically, it’s just a superior technology compared to the original tungsten-based lighting.”

The answer was a full-stadium light show experience that provides visual stimulation that the auditory lacks.

“When you add this other component that totally marries with the song, and the energy of the song, it’s pretty moving…you can’t ignore it,” said Ginn.

Merrick McCool, a sophomore student and part-time employee of Sports Productions, enjoys the best of both worlds, viewing the university’s athletics from a sideline view while continuing to engage in curricular studies.

“I thought working for Athletics would kind of take away from being a fan, but it hasn’t at all. It’s pushed me more towards being an even bigger fan and seeing all the steps that they’re taking behind the scenes. It’s really cool.”

Ginn hopes that in a “trickle-down” way, his department’s work can affect change through the fans attending the game.

“If we can help get the fans up, that can permeate to the overall energy of the stadium. Our goal is to contribute to an environment that gets our guys ready to go. But, that starts with getting our fans up and in it and loud and vocal. Any team is going to feed off that.”

For Ginn, creative thinking in regards to practical objects at the university could turn the mundane into something awe-inspiring.

“I’m positive there are other practical elements around game day that could be also used in that way. Somebody’s going to figure out how to do something different that’s never been done before with something that’s been there all along.”

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