When it came to fan experience at a sporting event, no one was more of an innovator than Everett Case, the legendary N.C. State coach of long ago. Case brought the tradition of clipping the nets following championships to the ACC from his high school coaching days in Indiana. He instituted spotlights at Reynolds Coliseum to introduce Wolfpack players before games.
Case also played to fans’ insatiable appetite for college basketball by staging the Dixie Classic tournament from 1949 through 1960, rounding up a quartet of the top teams from around the country for three days of madness against Big Four teams at Reynolds Coliseum.
Yet perhaps no innovation captured the fancy of Wolfpack fans quite like the noise meter Case hung from the Reynolds rafters in the early 1950s. This was long before pumped-in noise and video boards that clamor for “MORE NOISE!” in today’s arenas. As late as the 1990s, N.C. State fans were still screaming to ear-splitting levels in an attempt to get all of the 13 white light bulbs to illuminate – one by one – as the noise increased, culminating with the lighting of the red bulb atop the meter.
Wolfpack fans of just about any age today can recall how the noise meter helped whip the crowd into a frenzy, particularly during early ACC tournament games, NCAA tournament games or those against rivals Duke or North Carolina.
“You couldn’t always see when the red light went on, but you sure could feel it,” said Rodney Monroe, the 1991 ACC Player of the Year for N.C. State.
The noise meter now hangs again at newly renovated Reynolds Coliseum, which officially reopens Friday. The arena is divided into the athletic competition area for women’s basketball, volleyball and wrestling and a museum area designed to recognize the highlights of N.C. State’s athletic history. The noise meter hangs in the museum.
“It was a priority from the beginning from the university to get (the noise meter) in, and have it functional,” said Emily Furman, an N.C. State graduate and museum exhibit designer for HealyKohler Design in Washington, D.C.
Visitors can hand-operate the noise meter, running the lights up the 10-foot tall board as crowd noise ascends through speakers throughout the museum and the voice of longtime public address announcer, C.A. Dillon, welcomes fans to Reynolds Coliseum. The mechanics to the renovated noise meter are high tech, in direct contrast to the original primitive operation.
Lucas McCallister, an interactive technician for 1220 Exhibits in Nashville, Tenn., helped with the design and operation of the new board. He said the original wood control panel used “a couple of lamp extension cords” to make it work.
Tim Peeler, a writer/editor in the N.C. State University Relations office, found the noise meter while unearthing artifacts in 2011 in the basement of Reynolds Coliseum. He then discovered the control panel under debris in one of the barges in the Reynolds Coliseum rafters.
“There were generations and generations and generations of N.C. State fans who had no idea how it worked,” Peeler said.
Now the secret is forever out. Never was the meter controlled by the actual noise of the fans or decibel levels in the arena. Instead, for most of its existence, an N.C. State facilities staff member sat high above the court in one of the barges, listened to the crowd and enticed it to get louder by slowly flicking switches that would illuminate the lights higher and higher on the noise meter.
Among those believed to have operated the control board over the years were facilities personnel Ray Brincefield, Richard Sykes and brothers David and Brad Bowles, according to Peeler. David Bowles told Peeler he remembered operating the control board once as a 10-year-old while sitting in one of the barges with his father.
In the early days of the arena, the control board was operated courtside, according to Bucky Waters, who played for the Wolfpack from 1956 to 1958. Waters believed a student manager ran the board, unbeknownst to fans in the stands.
“It was a con job from the word go,” Waters said. “We’d be warming up, and he’d have that thing one light down (from the top) and the building would be shaking. We’d tell him, ‘Give it to them, they’re going crazy out here.’ That was part of the gimmick.”
And, as far as Waters was concerned, the genius of Everett Case.
N.C. State Hall of Fame Inductions
When: 5:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Reynolds Coliseum, Raleigh
Tickets: Sold out
▪ Dick Christy, football
▪ Stan Cockerton, men’s lacrosse
▪ Don Easterling, swimming and diving coach
▪ 1974 men’s basketball team
▪ Linda Page, women’s basketball
▪ Dave Robertson, baseball, football, men’s basketball, men’s track & field