The Wizard of Ahhhs!

December 9, 2003

Five stories above the football field and the fans, in a control room the size of a 10-foot-long hallway, director of Baylor Vision Bryan Bray hangs out the window, inspects the plays and shouts commands to the small team that helps operate the video board. Far below him, all eyes turn to the computerized, animated graphics that seem to pop and explode on the huge screen at the south end of the field -- the super-sized easel upon which Bray splays his creativity.
Although the fans enjoy seeing the players' stats flash, watching replays and cheering when the screen flashes "DEFENSE," most don't even think about the inspiration behind the displays.
Under Bray's direction are four vision boards -- at Floyd Casey Stadium, the Ferrell Center, Getterman Stadium and the Baylor Ballpark, which collectively are called Baylor Vision. "I like being the guy behind the curtain," he said. "I get a lot of satisfaction watching the crowd when they like something I created."
Before the 2002-03 athletic year, Baylor installed four ProStar videoplus display systems by Daktronics -- a six-month, multimillion-dollar project to "make the game day experience more interactive," said Darryl Lehnus, associate athletic director for marketing. Baylor was the first university to install four screens simultaneously, he added.
"Having four video boards gives me something to do year-round," said Bray, a high-energy guy who thrives on multitasking. "There are screens for football, volleyball, men's and women's basketball, softball and baseball, so I really only get a break in July. It keeps me busy, which keeps me from going nuts."
Before each season, he assembles equipment, finds graphics, hires an animation company and develops the content for the screens. His goal is to fulfill the University's marketing responsibilities while creating graphics that will keep fans involved and entertained. "I have to keep in mind our sponsors, the players and the fans," he said. "My job is to get all of them excited."
After years of watching video screens at different athletic events, Bray said he has picked up ideas and modified them for use at Baylor. "I try to outdo the guy who originally thought of the idea," he said.
The control rooms are small, crowded and chaotic, but Bray said he has to stay calm. "When things go wrong and everyone else is screaming, I've got to keep my head clear."
Before coming to Baylor in fall 2002, Bray worked for 15 years at the University of Houston, where he started its football video program. He began at Baylor one month before the football season began in fall 2002. 
"I love my job," he said. "At 11 p.m., I'm running around looking for a janitor to show him the new graphic I'm excited about. I'm a 12-year-old in a 36-year-old body."