Industry Honors John Kvatek, Jeff Schmahl With 2015 SVG College Sports Summit Pioneer Award
The SVG College Sports Summit Pioneer Award honors innovators in the fields of video production and technology at the university level. At the SVG College Sports Summit in Atlanta this week, the award was presented to two individuals who have advanced college-video production: John Kvatek and Jeff Schmahl.
A 27-year veteran in the business, Kvatek currently serves as assistant athletics director for video and creative at the University of Central Florida. He has established himself as one of the foremost leaders in college sports-video production, evolving with the industry as it has grown from coaches video to in-venue videoboard entertainment to live event streaming.
“Awards like this are very humbling, and it’s made me reflect on my career. The conclusion I’ve come to is, I’m the product of so many influences, teachers, and opportunities,” said Kvatek, as he accepted the Pioneer Award. “This recognition is an unbelievable thing to me, and to be able to share it with a legend like Jeff is a huge honor.”
Kvatek has turned the UCF video-production team into one of the top departments in the country and is an active member of the college-sports-video–production industry, sharing his expertise with colleagues across the country through such organizations as Sports Video Group and the College Sports Video Association (CSVA).
In his 12 years at UCF, Kvatek has overseen unprecedented growth in the university’s Video Services Department. Along with producing all coaches video, his team has assumed responsibility for producing all videoboard content, coaches shows, television ads, and live event Web-streaming. The department has grown from one full-time employee (Kvatek) to seven full-time team members, along with more than a dozen students serving in various capacities. UCFAA Video Services produces three regular TV shows that air locally and regionally.
“This is a great business that we’re a part of,” said Kvatek. “It’s one where vendors are truly partners, and they’re involved in everything we do.
“Great peers become great friends,” he added,“and they’ve kept me in the game. They’ve helped me raise my game, they’ve helped me prepare for the game, and they’ve helped me keep a sense of humor the whole time.”
Kvatek has received numerous accolades throughout his career. He was named the 2006-07 Bob Matey National Video Coordinator of the Year at the CSVA annual convention. He was also named C-USA Video Coordinator of the Year in 2007, 2009, and 2010. Previously, he was the Big Ten Video Coordinator of the Year in 1998. Kvatek is a member of the Sports Video Group Advisory Board and serves on the SVG College Advisory Committee.
As he accepted the award, Kvatek thanked his family: his mother, Joan; his brother, Jim; his sons Connor, Liam, and Declan; and especially his wife, Michelle, who “has tolerated so much. She’s packed and moved our household so many times, and she’s supported me the whole time I was on that submarine called college athletics.”
Bryan Bray introduced Kvatek at the Pioneer Award presentation and, after calling his friend “a man of opinions,” said to Kvatek, “This is a greatly deserved honor. That Mount Rushmore of guys who have won the Pioneer Award — Rick Church, Mark Rodin, Ken Norris, and Jeff Schmahl — you belong up there, buddy.”
Schmahl also was honored with the SVG College Sports Summit Pioneer Award for his work — over more than two decades — with Texas A&M and the University of Nebraska. Schmahl, who retired in 2014, was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and is currently living with and battling the disease. Because he was unable to accept the Pioneer Award in person, SVG was honored to accept the award on his behalf.
A graduate of the University of Nebraska and a former sports anchor in the Lincoln, NE, area, Schmahl has made an indelible mark on college sports-video production. He began his career as a sports anchor before returning to his alma mater, where he founded HuskerVision, which redefined the in-venue video experience.
“I am proud to have been at the forefront of this industry and even prouder to see how far it has come in a short amount of time,” said Schmahl through prepared remarks. “The thing I am most proud of is the dedication to hire students for our productions. Our HuskerVision students have brought energy and creativity to our productions and make everything we do better.”
The first of its kind in the industry, HuskerVision paved the way for similar college-video programs across the country, creating unrivaled hype videos and the football team’s now-iconic “Tunnel Walk.”
After a decade at Nebraska, Schmahl moved to Texas A&M, where he directed the award-winning 12th Man Productions, game operations, ticket operations, the Letterman’s Association, media relations, and Texas A&M Sports Properties, which grew out of an agreement with Learfield Sports.
He made a tremendous impact of the Aggie community, introducing videboards in multiple venues, the Aggie Fan Zone, the Spirit Walk, the football-team entrance, the 12th Man Rewards Program, and the Lone Star Showdown.
“One thing that you learned about Jeff is the attention to detail,” said Andy Richardson, senior director of big screens, 12th Man Productions, in paying tribute to his friend and former colleague. “Jeff is one of those guys that leaves no stone unturned when it comes to a live event. His big message was, always make it interesting to the fans and give them a reason to applaud.
“Texas A&M is better because of Jeff Schmahl,” he continued. “He elevated all of us. We all applaud his work, and we pray for his continued fight against pancreatic cancer.”
The SVG College Sports Summit Pioneer Award is selected by a panel of past Pioneer Award honorees, former SVG College Sports Summit chairmen, SVG staff, and senior members of the SVG College Advisory Committee. The previous SVG College Sports Summit Pioneer Award Honorees are Michigan State University’s Rick Church (2014), Florida State University’s Mark Rodin (2013), and the award’s inaugural recipient, UCLA’s Ken Norris (2012).
Brandon Costa contributed to this report.