By Lauren Myers | LSU Student
If Eric Fasbender is doing his job, fans will never notice. Yet thousands of LSU Tiger fans admire his handiwork every Saturday at Tiger Stadium.
Fasbender is assistant director of Athletic Facilities and Grounds at LSU and a certified sports field manager. His department makes certain all Tiger athletic fields are pristine, from tending to the grass to painting on the field.
This includes the iconic tiger eye in Death Valley. He handles that job personally.
It almost seems destined that Fasbender is the one to paint what he calls, "one of the coolest midfield logos in sports." As an undergraduate student at the University of Tennessee majoring in turf management, he was asked by a fellow student what he would paint if he could paint any sports logo. His answer: the LSU Tiger Eye. Now, he gets to do just that in the week before each game.
Painting the field in Tiger Stadium is not an easy job. The process begins on Wednesday, painting the end zones and logos. On Thursday it's the field markings. Within those three days, the Tiger Eye is laid down with the quality and care of a Rembrandt.
Painting the Tiger Eye is complex. It is accomplished in layers, starting with the white, then the purple, and finally the gold. They paint the colors in order of what shows up best on the field. Including drying time, the process takes about two hours.
To do the job, Fasbender uses an airless painter, which compresses the paint in a pump and forces it from a nozzle under high pressure. Fasbender controls the nozzle while an assistant keeps the hose to from touching the wet paint.
Even on the weeks when LSU football plays out of town, Fasbender is still out there outlining the eye to make sure it doesn't grow out as the grass on the field grows.
The Tiger Eye is not the only symbol to ever grace the center of the Tiger Stadium field. There have been the letters "LSU," the state of Louisiana, and once the 50-yardline was bare, Fasbender said, noting that it wasn't until the early 90's that the Tiger Eye was suggested. It was a big hit with LSU fans.
When Gerry DiNardo was named head coach in 1995, he scrapped the Tiger Eye in favor of an "LSU" in the middle of the field. When Nick Saban took over in 1999, he brought the iconic Eye back.
Fasbender was hired prior to the 2009 season after spending five years in the same position at the University of Oregon. When it came to painting the Eye, there was little for him to work with. He said he only had photographs to guide him. Although he's gotten more confident in painting it since then, he doesn't expect it to be perfect because "that's what makes it unique."
"It's not a logo, it's a symbol," says Fasbender, noting that it is different from the official LSU tiger-eye logo. He confided that the Eye is not necessarily the same every game, since it is painted by hand and not with a stencil.
"That's how it's always been done," he says, adding that he tries to keep the Eye as traditional as possible.
The importance of the Tiger Eye is not lost on Fasbender. "If there's something that's on your field…that can brand it, then that can translate into dollars. That's something we take very seriously."
He understands that the field represents more than just football for LSU. He calls it "an advertisement [for the school] seven Saturdays a year." He notes that part of the allure for him in attending the University of Tennessee was seeing the football games on television. He recognizes the same opportunity to attract students and fans is there for LSU.
Fasbender also knows he has some tough critics in Tiger fans. "I can't tell you how many people we run into…that actually legitimately care about how Tiger Stadium performs," he says, adding that he doesn't usually tell people what he does because that's all they want to talk about. Still, the fanaticism is something that he loves about being at LSU.
Fasbender is not only concerned with what the field looks like, but how it performs as well. "We always look for feedback from the players," he states. On Wednesdays and Fridays, Fasbender walks the field in his socks, to get a feel for how it will perform on Saturdays.
For games where it's expected to rain, Fasbender and his team aerate the field, poking holes in it to allow water to soak into a greater surface area of the field, instead of sitting on the top. They also spread a thin layer of sand throughout the field to help create traction for the players.
In preparing for game day, Fasbender and his team have considerable work to do, such as painting the shadows behind the numbers and putting out sideline fabrics for the teams and cheerleaders. But after letting head coach Les Miles know that the field is ready for play, Fasbender and the rest of the Tiger fans can enjoy the fruits of his hard work in Death Valley.