UK among those using artificial noise to enhance fan experience. But there are rules
Kentucky fans cheer, boo, shriek, grouch, boast, complain, grumble, applaud, shout, second-guess, roar and react to game action in many other ways.
This season has added murmur to the list … sort of.
Those attending Kentucky home games or watching on television might have noticed that the size of the crowd and the noise level generated in Rupp Arena seem slightly off kilter. That’s because they are.
In this school year of a coronavirus pandemic, the Southeastern Conference allows schools the option of adding artificial crowd sound at games.
“What it’s intended to be is just a crowd murmur,” said Herb Vincent, SEC associate commissioner for communications.
The SEC hoped that the adding of artificial crowd noise would add a familiar ambiance to games. It’s permitted in football, soccer, volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball.
John George, the public address announcer at Arkansas home games for 41 seasons and for the past 14 SEC Tournaments, applauded the move as a way to make game attendance “at least semi-enjoyable” for fans.
“In the world we’re in today, electronics are so prevalent,” he said. “And they do enhance the experience.”
There are rules.
For instance, the murmur must be non-partisan.
“It’s not meant to favor one team over another,” Vincent said. “You can’t elevate the sound when this team is doing this or this team is doing that.
“The crowd that is there is the one that adds to the ambiance when there’s a slam dunk or a big momentum shift. That’s the responsibility of the live crowd.”
The SEC asked Arkansas to tone down the murmur at its football games.
“The SEC was alerted by the other team that they thought it was too loud,” said George, who also does the public address announcements in football. “So we were asked to keep it at an X-decibels level.”
Booing of a referee’s call is not permitted.
The artificial murmur has to be at least 60 decibels and no more than 70. According to the IAC Acoustics website, 60 decibels is equivalent to conversation at a restaurant or hearing an air conditioning unit from 100 feet away. The noise of a vacuum cleaner is about 70 decibels.
Lexington Center Corp., estimated the typical crowd noise in Rupp Arena for UK games in a pre-pandemic season reaching about 100 decibels. According to Purdue University, that is the equivalent of a Boeing 707 or DC-8 one nautical mile before landing.
Kentucky has used the artificial crowd noise in at least three sports: football, plus men’s and women’s basketball
Nathan Schwake, associate AD for marketing and licensing, said the murmur is turned on at tip-off of games in Rupp Arena and stays on except during timeouts.
When asked the origin of the crowd noise used, Schwake said, “It’s not our facility. It’s just a track of some arena somewhere. It just loops.”
Pat Lowry, a coordinating producer for ESPN and the SEC Network, said the artificial crowd noise was not something television requested. But TV — and tender ears — can benefit.
“It also helps muffle some of the players’ or coaches’ sounds that you don’t necessarily want to go out on national TV,” she said.
© The Fan Experience Company 2020