Students go behind the scenes

Darren D'Altorio

It started with Provost Robert Frank’s question, “Why aren’t we doing more with live sports?”

Now, Kent State is one of the only universities in the country offering students the opportunity to work in sports production and broadcasting via the Kent State Sports Network.

Right now, the Kent State Sports Network is an affiliate with TeleProductions, Kent State’s full-service video production facility. But Frank’s goal, which he expressed during halftime at the Kent State men’s basketball game versus Ohio University, is to have a full-blown, nationally recognized major that will attract students statewide and nationally.

Tracy Baughman, senior media specialist for TeleProductions and coordinating producer for the Kent State Sports Network, said sports production, the tentative title for the major, will be a part of the electronic media production sequence housed in the school of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“The goal is to attract students to Kent State who are interested in sports production and sports broadcasting,” Baughman said.

The academic potential of the program is its driving force, creating value and opportunity for the university and its students.

Jeff Fruit, interim dean of the College of Communication and Information, said it’s looking like there will be a lot of jobs available in the field of live sports broadcast in the future. With this initiative, Kent State graduates will be positioned to take advantage of that job market.

Director of Athletics Laing Kennedy shares Fruit’s belief.

“Our society is sports driven,” Kennedy said.”To have Kent at the leading edge of this project is a jewel for the university.”

The practice

Jeff Bentley, video production supervisor for TeleProductions and executive producer of the Kent State Sports Network, sets the stage for live broadcasts.

From his production chair, cramped in a mobile production truck with more than 20 glowing television monitors and buttons glaring on, Bentley counts down to live air. “three, two, one, go . “

The director begins orchestrating his symphony. The production truck explodes into a cacophony of shouts. At that instant, everybody goes to work.

The Kent State Sports Network is the sole producer of Mid-American Conference basketball events, contracted by Fox Sports Ohio.

When Bentley is on location producing live games for Fox Sports Ohio, five to six students are with him, working side by side with his crew, shadowing them, learning to work at the same professional level.

Abby Carter, senior electronic media production major, is one of those students. During a basketball game between Bowling Green and Akron Sunday at Akron University’s James A. Rhodes arena, Bentley was there with his professional and student crew. Carter was working as timeout coordinator, the direct link from the court to the production truck. She determines when the broadcast goes to and from commercial brakes. She sits courtside, in the row of announcers and stat keepers, between both teams’ benches.

She is like a principal violinist in the symphony.

But she really shines when sporting events are broadcast live from the M.A.C. Center. When TV2 broadcasts Kent’s games live from the M.A.C. Center, the crew is all students, and the practice they get from shadowing professionals is put to the test.

For TV2, Carter is the live sports director, the conductor, of the event. The show is hers. She is there hours before the game, setting up cameras, dialing in the shots, preparing to orchestrate her symphony.

“You wouldn’t know it was an all student crew,” Carter said.

In the past it’s been small-scale, she said. But the level of professionalism is much higher now.

Nick Kane, senior applied communication major, is a member of the Kent State Sports Network crew. He said shadowing the professional crew at Fox Sports Ohio events is an awesome learning experience.

“We get to do stuff at the M.A.C.C. that people in the field wait three to four years to do,” Kane said. “By shadowing professionals then doing M.A.C.C. games, I’m on board, comfortable.”

Andrew Paulsen, freshman electronic media production major, said he is excited to be a part of the Kent State Sports Network from its beginnings.

“Eventually, this will all be done by students,” Paulsen said.

The game winner

Kennedy said the next step is to “put this thing on wheels,” making the Kent State Sports Network capable of developing broader sports packages for the Mid-American Conference.

As of now, coverage is confined to the M.A.C. Center. But as the program snowballs and more students become involved and trained, the plan is to broadcast as many sporting events as possible, creating visibility and value for Kent State, Kennedy said.

“The success of athletics and how it is communicated is the key to enrollment,” he said.

For the students, Kennedy said this is their opportunity to have hands on experience in sports journalism and production.

“This will be a hiring ground for sports networks,” he said.

Today and tomorrow the Kent State Sports Network student crew will be broadcasting the Women’s and Men’s basketball games against Buffalo live from the M.A.C. Center.

The broadcast of the Men’s game will re-air Saturday at 4:30 p.m. on Sports Time Ohio.

Baughman said getting student-produced games aired statewide is a huge step, giving the Kent State Sports Network, the College of Communication and Information and the university the kind of exposure that will attract and retain students.

Contact College of Communication and Information reporter Darren D’Altorio at [email protected].