In recent football seasons, the Tennessee Vol fans traveling from the Chattanooga area to Neyland Stadium have often found themselves being entertained even during timeouts in a game.
And perhaps this is no truer than during the first half, when a hauntingly rhythmic electric guitar sound will echo from above the south end zone, and numerous eyes will turn toward the Mitsubishi Diamond Vision big screen video board.
Another installment of “This is Tennessee,” sponsored by UT Medical Center, is being shown, and viewers often are not sure initially of the subject of the Vol-related feature.
For example, during the Georgia game on Oct. 8, it began with photos of an unidentified young girl. Soon, however, fans realized the person was Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Summitt, recently diagnosed with early-onset dementia.
As more and more viewers became aware that Coach Summitt was being saluted amid the well-received music, the cheering became louder and louder. And then at the end, after the words “You are not alone” were put on the screen and a live shot of a waving coach Summit on the sidelines was shown, the crowd went about as wild with applause and yells as they did for any play on the field.
The man behind these and the other videos shown on the giant video board is Barry Rice, the senior video coordinator for the UT Athletic Department.
During the week, while the coaches are breaking down film of an opponent, he is editing and putting together videos of the Vols.
Likewise during the home games, while the offensive and defensive coordinators are in the press box watching the action below during a game, he is up on the stadium’s fifth floor doing some coordinating as well, including helping get the segments on the screen.
“I have a lot of fun,” he said from his office in the lower floor of the UT Communications Building. “We don’t always hit a home run, so when you do, it’s always great because we put a lot of hours into it. When something really resonates, it’s the greatest feeling in the world.”
Helping Rice is a large crew that includes Link Hudson, who also works with “The Derek Dooley Show” and helps coordinate the numerous student interns. Others are Trevor Greene, Dan Nugent, Erik Peterson and Andy Jeffers, when he is not working with NASCAR.
Rice had a leg injury earlier this year – just like several members of the injury-riddled Tennessee football team – and Jeffers has helped him even more, Rice said, including with the Halloween “This is Tennessee” segment that was shown during the South Carolina game on Oct. 29.
Another key person, Rice said, is videographer Steve Anderson, who uniquely shoots on 16mm film.
In contrast to his supervisory role he enjoys today, Rice’s career began much more humbly, although also amid the cheers of Vol football fans and players.
An Army brat, he moved to Knoxville shortly before starting at the old Doyle High School. After graduating, he enrolled at UT.
Interested in a career like administration or journalism, he found out Mike Moore, his predecessor with the UT athletic department who is now with ESPN, was looking for student interns. So he began helping him.
An early assignment included working as a “grip” (assistant) for a cameraman doing the TBS broadcast of the Tennessee-Vanderbilt game in 1985 when the Vols clinched their first Southeastern Conference title in 16 years. As fate would dictate, he went into the Tennessee locker room with the cameraman after the game to capture the celebration.
“I’ll never forget going in there and saying, ‘This is incredible,’ “ he said.
After graduating in 1988, he worked for WBIR Channel 10 before editing videotape for the football coaches during the 1989 and ’90 seasons. He ended up putting in as many hours as the coaches and suffered exhaustion.
He was about ready to look for another career when he was asked to work with the video division of the athletic department helping put together the coaches shows.
"I committed for two years. That was 22 years ago,” the Rogersville commuter said with a laugh.
The stadium videos evolved after a previous big screen was installed in Neyland Stadium in 1999.
When he is putting the “This is Tennessee” segment together, Rice is often working on the final editing a day or two before the game. Besides the Summit tribute, other popular segments in recent years have included Nick Reveiz battling back from his knee injury, the making of the Gen. Robert Neyland statue, and coach Dooley’s orange pants being made.
Rice said the accompanying music – about which people often inquire – is from a song called “Ten Million Slaves” by Chicago blues player Otis Taylor. An avid music listener, Rice said he is always looking for good music and cannot remember exactly how he came across the song.
However, it and the various video images apparently stick in the minds of stadium goers along with the key plays of each game.
“It’s neat to communicate a message,” he said. “You hope everybody appreciates it.”