ORANGE OR WHITE?If you have tickets to Saturday's Vols-Florida game, here's how to determine whether you should wear orange or white:• Go to checkerneyland.com• Enter the section, row and seat numbers for your tickets• Find your color
KNOXVILLE -- It all began with a Google search and some photoshopping.
It will culminate Saturday afternoon with what should be an impressive visual display that came about through a grass-roots movement largely driven by social media.
When Cleveland native Spencer Barnett found an image of Tennessee's Neyland Stadium, edited an orange and white checkerboard pattern into the crowd and shared the new photo on his Twitter account a couple of weeks ago, he had no expectation it would go anywhere.
Instead, he'll see it come to life on Saturday when the Volunteers host Florida.
"It grew legs and ran away," Barnett told the Times Free Press by phone Monday night. "It's been crazy. I really didn't envision anybody doing anything with it, much less watching the fan support and backing and push for it, and then starting [Sunday] when the university got involved to see them give their stamp of approval to it."
The "Checker Neyland" movement came to life late last week, when Knoxville-based web developers Tim McLeod and Jonathan Briehl launched the website checkerneyland.com. They built on the idea started by Barnett, a Cleveland High School alum who's a graphic designer and layout artist for a professional photographic lab.
McLeod reached out to Barnett last Wednesday about taking his idea and launching the site, where fans can enter the section, row and seat numbers for their tickets and see if they need to wear orange or white on Saturday.
"I was like, '[Heck] yeah, go ahead and do it,'" Barnett said. "Next thing I knew 24 hours later they had that thing up and running."
It got Tennessee's official endorsement when second-year coach Butch Jones tweeted out a message on Sunday following the Vols' loss at Georgia.
Chris Fuller, Tennessee's associate athletic director for external operations, said Jimmy Delaney, the athletic department's marketing and promotions director, spoke with the two developers last Thursday night after the site had launched.
"We got word that two fans had created this checkerneyland.com site, and I reached out to Jimmy and said, 'Hey, man, touch base with these guys and see what you can find out,'" Fuller said Monday evening.
"The first instinct is, 'Boy, it's a really short turnaround,' but what we found out is these two guys are Web developers by trade. They had built a robust site that could handle the traffic. They were really passionate about Tennessee, and our initial thought was let's grab enthusiasm and let's try to make it happen.
"Jimmy talked to those guys directly, and they worked everything out. They double-checked everything in terms of sections, and we decided to jump on board. I think now our process is trying to educate as many of our fans as possible to go check out the site."
Though Tennessee pulled off a similar checkerboard pattern for a basketball game against Kentucky at Thompson-Boling Arena back in 2006, the idea never came to fruition. Then the Vols played at Oklahoma, which striped its stadium in a crimson and white pattern. It wasn't the first time the Sooners had coordinated that visual.
"They did a great job," Fuller said. "They've got the advantage there that their sections from lower to upper are completely contiguous, so all they have to do is say odd and even. If you're an odd section, you go crimson, and if you're in an even section you go white. Then they get the visual effect. Our stadium's a little bit more challenging.
"I know internally we've been talking about trying it for a long time."
Barnett has been impressed and inspired.
"I saw pictures from the Oklahoma game and liked what they did," he said, "and I thought, 'Well, we could do that, but do it better.' Having also seen the picture from TBA from 2006 when we did it there, I was like, 'Let's just do that four times bigger.'"
For the basketball game, Tennessee provided the shirts for all the sections in the lower bowl, but that simply wasn't feasible at the much larger Neyland Stadium.
"We knew from a cost standpoint, we probably couldn't really afford to do that on the scale of Neyland, so it was always sort of how to get there," Fuller said.
"Our fans have been so supportive of this team and so supportive of this coaching staff that I've said this before: I can't think of a time when our fans have been challenged that they haven't responded, so this seems like something everybody would be able to get behind."
The Vols seemed excited about playing with the checkerboard pattern as the backdrop, too.
"It's gonna be tight," linebacker Curt Maggitt said. "It's gonna be real cool. I think it's going to be epic."
The hope, too, is that it helps generate more energy for a noon kickoff, which typically is much less electric than later start times.
"I know the environment's gonna be crazy," linebacker A.J. Johnson said. "Just seeing the pictures on Instagram and everything, just looking at the pictures want to make you play in the stadium. I know our fans are gonna have the emotions high and the environment real turned up."
Little did Barnett know it would come to this.
"It's been kind of a wild ride," he said, "to watch it grow over the past few weeks."
Contact Patrick Brown at email@example.com.