The Georgia Bulldogs have a veteran coach, a senior quarterback and a wealth of experience at tailback and receiver going into the 2014 season.
What they don't have is a song.
The Southeastern Conference for the first time will be allowing piped-in music between downs in an effort to energize fans in key situations. The traditional song for years at Sanford Stadium has been the Redcoat Marching Band's "Glory, Glory to ole Georgia," but athletic director Greg McGarity is seeking that electric tune to create the havoc to help the Bulldogs defense collect a third- or fourth-down stop.
"We don't have a go-to song," McGarity said. "We don't have a song right now that our fans, when they hear it, act like some of the fans of other schools when they hear their songs. We've never really had a go-to song or something people hear that makes them react in a certain way."
Until now, the use of institutionally controlled sound systems and artificial noisemakers has been restricted to pregame, halftime, postgame, after a score or during timeouts. SEC associate commissioner Herb Vincent said the league's Fan Experience Working Group got with marketing administrators throughout the league and recommended easing the restriction.
Piped-in music or noise now can be used throughout the game, though not from the time the offensive center is over the football until the play is whistled dead.
The recommendation was approved by the athletic directors last August with the intent of amending the applicable bylaw during the upcoming spring meetings in Destin, Fla. The change is intended to combat declining attendance, especially among students, but league athletic directors now face the challenge of finding something new and exciting that will not offend too many older fans who bask in SEC traditions.
"We are going to try and create a blend to make it all work," McGarity said. "Are we going to please everyone? No, but we don't please everyone now. We know this is one area where everyone will have an opinion. There are a lot of experts among our fans, and what we're going to try and do is create the best mix that accommodates the tastes of all of our fans.
"At the end of day, what you're tying to do is create a level of enthusiasm that makes people want to get up and cheer and yell and make it tough on the opponent."
Georgia experienced such an environment on Aug. 31, when the Bulldogs opened last season with a 38-35 loss before 83,830 fans at Clemson's Memorial Stadium. Piped-in music has been allowed for years in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and McGarity heard from fans and players after that game asking why Georgia couldn't do the same.
Mike Money, Clemson's assistant athletic director for marketing and game events, said that "Jump Around" by House of Pain had been used before but really sparked fans early in the Georgia game and was prominent the rest of the season. The same song has been popular the last several years with Wisconsin's student section, but Money stressed that Clemson's band always will have priority.
"The key thing for us is having the right mix between the band and the [piped-in] music," Money said. "The band is an integral part of our game-day atmosphere, and we won't play on top of the band. We consider ourselves traditional and conservative, and we don't want to make it like an NFL game.
"Fans will let us know if we're doing too much, and the approach we've taken is that we don't want to ram it down anyone's throats. We will only play piped-in music in key spots, and very rarely have we ever played anything on first or second down."
The SEC change will occur several months after Tennessee band director Gary Sousa was put on administrative leave. Sousa had been outspoken about reduced playing time in games for the Pride of the Southland Marching Band.
South Carolina fans have gone berserk at Williams-Brice Stadium in recent years to Darude's "Sandstorm," and Georgia suffered a 35-7 throttling there in 2012. The same goes for Alabama fans at Bryant-Denny Stadium when AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" is blaring as coach Nick Saban leads the Crimson Tide players from the locker room to the edge of the field.
McGarity is hoping to find the same connection at Georgia so more games can provide the boisterous experience Bulldogs fans have enjoyed on occasion through the years -- most notably against Clemson in 1991, the Auburn "blackout" of 2007 and last year's thriller over LSU.
"We have not really been known, with the exception of a couple of games, for having an electric atmosphere," McGarity said. "We need something on third down instead of our P.A. announcer announcing that it's third down. We've got a big bowl of soup right now, and we're trying to sprinkle in a little bit of institution A and a little bit of institution B and maybe a little NFL. We have certain things that are sacred that we're not going to alter, so I would call this tweaking or maybe adding to our in-game atmosphere.
"We've got to figure out our go-to song. I'm sure we will engage a large population of students and football players and some of our stakeholders, and we will try and figure that out. That's our task and our homework assignment, because right now our stadium really doesn't go crazy unless something good happens in the game."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...