The SportsTurf Interview: Dr. Lou Marciani

In this “The SportsTurf Interview,” we meet Dr. Lou Marciani, National Director, National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4), at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. His work at the Center focuses on the development and implementation of FEMA sport risk management, incident and evacuation training and exercise courses. He has been involved in the development of a computer-based modeling, simulation and visualization tool to aid sport managers, policy makers as well as emergency managers in their “what-if” scenario training to enhance their critical decision making capabilities of preparedness, response and assessment of their overall sport event security.

Under his leadership, the center has grown into a National Center, the addition of a National Sport Security National Laboratory, establishment of the Institute for the Study of Sport Incidents and the Annual Sport Safety and Security Conference & Exhibition.

SportsTurf: What prompted the university to open the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security?

Marciani: The idea for the National Center emerged from a 2006 doctoral dissertation about the standards required for effective security management at university sport venues. Building upon this fundamental research, the NCS4 is now an international research and education center for sports safety and security. The NCS4 collaborates with professional sport leagues and venues, intercollegiate and interscholastic athletics, marathon and endurance events, and international sporting events along with professional associations, private sector firms, and government agencies. Its partnerships bring together subject matter experts from government, industry, public safety, private enterprise, and academia to explore lessons learned and share ideas about best practices, strategies, training and certifications, and technology solutions for sport safety and security challenges.

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) identified sport venues as potential soft targets for terrorism. In 2006, The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) established the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security in response to the nation’s emerging security needs. Today, NCS4 is the nation’s leading research center devoted to the study and practice of spectator sports safety and security. It is a cornerstone in the scholarship arena as it represents USM’s innovative approach to research, training, and development.

Since its inception in 2006, the NCS4 has played a critical role in helping the ever-growing US sports industry through thought leadership, professional development, and hosting of industry and academic forums. The Center promotes research, scholarship, and sports safety and security solutions through annual forums, professional certification programs, academic research, training, assessments, laboratory evaluations, and partnerships.

Through its standard setting research, scholarship, thought-leader summits and annual forum, the NCS4 employs research-based methodologies to develop industry best practices, quality training programs, capstone exercises, technology assessments, workforce competencies, and professional development offerings.

The NCS4 team has extensive experience in sports management, homeland security, emergency management, incident response, professional development, research, and education and training. Combining operational perspectives with collaborative research and education, the NCS4 at Southern Mississippi contributes expertise in translating lessons learned into best practices, professional competencies, cutting-edge research, and tested and validated technology solutions in safety and security.

SportsTurf: What is NCS4’s mission?

Marciani: Our vision is to become the world’s leading academic research institution in addressing sport safety and security risks and threats. Our mission is to conduct innovative research, deliver quality training, and enhance professional development thus contributing to the standards and core competencies of the profession.

SportsTurf: What role does the Department of Homeland Security play at NCS4?

Marciani: DHS plays a major role at the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security. NCS4 is part of the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium through a cooperative effort between The University of Southern Mississippi and The Texas A&M University System. Through funding from the Department of Homeland Security, our combined efforts and unique partnership provides the capability to deliver the most comprehensive set of sport security trainings to emergency responders, senior officials, and medical personnel conducting sporting events.

SportsTurf: What other entities are involved in putting together your programs?

Marciani: We offer a Master of Business Administration Degree with an emphasis in Sport Security Management, the only program of its kind in the US. The program is designed for those who currently work (or aspire to work) in management/leadership positions in the sport safety and security industry, and offers students flexibility with a face-to-face or online format.

Today, it is essential for individuals seeking top management positions in the sport security industry to possess the business knowledge needed to manage operations, including the ability to present a business case for return on investment for security and management solutions. By supplementing the MBA with an emphasis in Sport Security Management, graduates will be able to differentiate themselves by gaining the standard principles of business in conjunction with real-world experience necessary for security practitioners.

Our National Sport Security Laboratory (NSSL) exposes practitioners and students to a fully outfitted research, training, and operation center with integrated safety and security technologies. The NSSL derives its unique position through its connectivity to each of the university’s three main sports facilities. The M.M. Roberts Stadium (football), Reed Green Coliseum (basketball), and Pete Taylor Baseball Park (baseball) serve as extensions of the laboratory. The university applies sport safety and security best practices in an environment uniquely designed to integrate people, processes and technology. Students, practitioners, and solution providers can engage in exploring the problems of today in an effort to solve the problems of tomorrow.

NCS4 hosts the following events annually: National Marathon and Running Events Safety and Security Summit, National Intercollegiate Athletics Safety and Security Summit, Commercial Sport and Entertainment Facilities Safety and Security Summit, Interscholastic Athletics and After-School Activities Safety and Security Summit, and the National Sports Safety and Security Conference and Exhibition.

Our target audience includes a wide range of security directors and operators, facility and stadium managers, event planners/operators, law enforcement personnel, emergency managers, fire/hazmat, emergency medical/health services, athletic administrators, and governmental representatives. These are individuals representing or supporting professional sport venues, intercollegiate athletics, interscholastic athletics, marathon/endurance events, and commercial sport and entertainment facilities (concerts, festivals, motocross, wrestling, etc.).

SportsTurf: What security issues should managers at K-12, municipal and small college levels be focusing on now?

Marciani: Each public school should have a School Resource Officer assigned to the school. If no School Resource Officer is assigned, than local law enforcement coverage should be provided. Develop assessment teams for mental health evaluations, services or treatment when appropriate. Each local school system should designate a school safety coordinator and conduct an annual safety evaluation. This includes: (1) identify and, if necessary develop solutions for physical safety concerns. (2) Identify and evaluate any patterns of safety concerns on school property or school-sponsored events. Each local school system should update their Emergency Planning Guidelines (EOP’s). The EOP should address after-school activities and events.

SportsTurf: What are other trends in the facility security industry that you’re addressing?

Marciani: We are addressing the following trends:

  • Changing domestic and international terrorist threats
  • Increase in cyber risks
  • Increase use of social media
  • Emerging threats for use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)
  • Growing size and frequency of mass protests
  • Armed attackers
  • Pandemic
  • Explosive devices
  • Chemical, biological, radiological attacks