Complex task takes about two hours
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 the field at Death Valley.
This includes painting the iconic Tiger Eye, which Fasbender says is “one of the coolest midfield logos in sports.” It’s a job he handles personally.
Preparing the field for game day is not an easy job.
The process begins on Wednesdays, painting the end zones and logos. On Thursdays, 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 a complex task, accomplished in layers of colors starting with white, then purple, and finally gold. 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. He controls the nozzle while an assistant keeps the hose from touching the wet paint.
Even on the weeks when LSU plays out of town, Fasbender is still on the field outlining the eye to make sure it remains sharp after the grass on the field grows.
The Tiger Eye is not the only symbol to grace the center of the Tiger Stadium field. There have been the letters “LSU” and an outline of the state of Louisiana. It wasn’t until the early ’90s that the Tiger Eye was suggested, Fasbender said. 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 back the iconic Eye.
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 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.
Fasbender, who majored in turf management at the University of Tennessee, is concerned not only with what the field looks like but also how it performs.
For games when 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. 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.
On Wednesdays and Fridays, Fasbender walks the field in his socks, to get a feel for how it will perform on Saturdays.
Fasbender 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 he loves about being at LSU.
“We always look for feedback from the players,” he said.