When football returns, Autzen Stadium will be louder than ever.
Oregon plans to install college football’s largest scoreboard in the east end-zone terrace of the stadium before the defending Pac-12 champion Ducks open the 2020 season.
Athletic director Rob Mullens made the pitch for the privately funded $12 million capital project to UO’s finance and facilities committee on March 14.
The Board of Trustees must give final approval for the state-of-the-art scoreboard, which includes a 186-by-66-foot video board and a new sound system, for a target completion date of this August.
Mullens anticipates the economic impact of COVID-19, which forced the cancellation of the NCAA’s lucrative men’s basketball tournament and the spring sports championships, to be "significant."
With football generating over 70% of athletics revenues at Oregon, Mullens’ department is consistently looking for ways to improve the fan experience.
"Autzen is the best atmosphere in all of college football," Mullens said during a recent interview with The Register-Guard. "We’ve been so fortunate to have a passionate fan base contribute to one of the best home-field advantages in all of college football. And as we've solicited their feedback over the last several years, the sound was their number one concern.
"We've been at this for a number of years, trying to raise the money and get to a point where we could modernize the video presentation, as well as get the sound to where you could actually hear the officials when they call a penalty."
The project includes removing the existing sound system, installed in 2002, and the small video board located in the northeast end of the stadium.
The larger video board on the west end of the stadium, last upgraded in 2008, will remain operational.
The giant new scoreboard on the east end will also include a 47-by-26-foot exterior-facing video board to communicate with and entertain parking lot patrons.
Oregon’s attractive home slate is scheduled to begin Sept. 5 against defending FCS national champion North Dakota State (Sept. 5), followed by a Sept. 12 game against projected College Football Playoff contender Ohio State at Autzen.
The Ducks also host North Division rivals Washington and Stanford, as well as USC, in 2020.
"We're pleased that our fans were patient and we appreciate their patience," Mullens said. "Obviously when you can add the latest in video technology and get a functional sound system, it'll be something that will certainly enhance the fan experience, which is one of our highest priorities."
The Ducks went 7-0 at home last season and are 13-1 at Autzen during the Mario Cristobal era.
After last season’s 12-2 finish, which included a 37-15 victory over then-No. 5 Utah in the Pac-12 championship game and a 28-27 thriller over then-No. 8 Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, Cristobal was in line for another pay bump.
But the renegotiation of contracts is among the items on the back burner as Mullens and his staff deal with the uncertainties created by a global pandemic.
The university’s spring term will be done reportedly with in-person commencement ceremonies and the spring game having been canceled.
"Right now everything's on hold. Our days are filled managing the coronavirus issues," Mullens said. "When when we get that under control, when we can see the end of it and make sure that everybody is settled and cared for and safe, then we’ll get back to some of the other little business things."
Contact reporter Ryan Thorburn at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-338-2330, and follow him on Twitter @RGDuckFootball and Instagram @rg_ducksports. Want more stories like this? Subscribe to get unlimited access and support local journalism.