Photo: Anna Walker / The Daily Gamecock

Marketing AD: Gameday experience changes focused on recruiting

As excited as players and students are for the addition of the in-stadium DJ, associate athletic director for marketing Eric Nichols says the decision was really centered around recruiting.

The DJ, along with in-game hype videos displayed on the videoboard and a revamped recruiting entrance, is part of the strategy to boost the image of the South Carolina football program to talented high school prospects.

"The number one priority is the recruit and putting on a great show for the recruit," said Nichols, who is in his ninth year at USC, "and that was not always the case."

Nichols says that the focus sometimes in the past was geared toward pleasing different sections of the fan base, but going forward, the gameday experience will be geared toward the recruits on the sideline.

In evaluating the Williams-Brice Stadium atmosphere from previous seasons, Nichols says music was an area that needed improvement, which led to the decision of adding a DJ.

"If recruiting is your number one goal, there's no recruit that's going to have a problem with a DJ," Nichols said. "So that makes that decision easy, where maybe in years past, it was a little more difficult."

The traditionalist fans were definitely kept in mind throughout the decision-making process, as Nichols said the DJ wouldn't take away from the band, a statement Will Muschamp echoed at his July 30 press conference. Muschamp said it was very important to keep the Carolina Band in a prominent role, referring to the group as "fantastic."

Nichols ensures that the DJ will only be playing in the times that music was being played before, to avoid overshadowing the band, which he says is one of the defining differences between college and professional football.

But when the DJ is playing?

"The times that (the band doesn't) play, we had to make better," Nichols said.

To do that, Nichols and the rest of the decision-makers are turning to the players to help make the hire.

"We want the players to have significant input in the decision, so the intent is to bring someone and let them play for them at practice," Nichols said.

The players helped to pick out the music last season, but Nichols says there was an issue in deciding what music to play at what times.

"It's not as easy as just saying 'Hey, what songs do you like?' because it's parts of songs played at the right time that's most important," Nichols said.

The DJ hire has not officially been made, but Nichols said there is a leading candidate, while adding that sports DJs are "hard to come by."

When looking to improve gameday atmosphere, Nichols says that in addition to other college venues, his staff looks at what is being done at professional stadiums, like those of the Atlanta Falcons or Carolina Panthers.

Outside of the DJ, videos and the new recruiting entrance, some other changes will be coming this season as well. Before home games, local bands will play in Gamecock Park in an effort to add some extra energy around the stadium.

Inside the stadium, decisions are still being made regarding the "mic man," who leads the student section every Saturday. Like the DJ, that decision should be made in the next week or two.

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