CBS and CBS College Sports Team Up for NCAA Track and Field Championships

By John Rice

CBS College Sports and CBS are bringing the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships to television this week, marking the second year of full HD coverage. Coverage of the championships has evolved over recent years to become a major broadcasting event for the sport.

“This is a fairly big setup,” explains producer Craig Silver. Fielding a crew of about 75 people, he likens the coverage to that of an SEC football game, which he also produces for CBS.

Prior to 2006, the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships were taped and turned around — either overnight or with a one-week delay — and broadcast as a two-hour special “compressing four days of coverage,” says Silver. In 2006, live coverage began. “Because of our marriage with [what was then] CSTV [now CBS College], we have taken that event and now do five hours of coverage across two networks.” The third day of the competition airs as a three-hour broadcast on CBS College with the final two hours broadcast on CBS on Saturday.

Silver says the NCAA Championships are unique from other track and field events because “this one incorporates a team-championship element. As a result, when we are covering any individual race — of course, they’re covering and telling the stories of the battle for the victor in the race — but the guy coming across, fighting for fifth place is also a big part of the story if he’s contributing to the team competition. It makes it a much bigger challenge for the announcers as well as for the production because your focus isn’t always on the front end of the race.”

To cover the event, F&F Productions’ GTX-15 truck is deployed. The truck’s inventory includes Ikegami 970E CMOS cameras, a Grass Valley Kalypso switcher, Calrec audio console, two Sony SRW-5500 tape machines, and EVS XT[2]s. This year, the production will also use Ikegami HDL-20 POV cameras. And the production brings one Avid system to the venue for on-site production of feature packages.

Silver cites some of the compelling stories to follow in the year’s championships. “On the men’s side, the focus is on the University of Oregon,” he says. The school is trying to become only the third team in NCAA history to complete what he calls “the Track and Field Triple Crown.” Oregon has already won the 2009 Cross Country and Indoor Track and Field Championships. The other two schools to accomplish the feat have been UTEP and Arkansas, the host school for this year’s competition.

In the women’s competition, Silver says, four teams are vying for the team title. “It could come down to the 4×4 relay [on Saturday],” he says.

He also points to two individual competitors to watch this year. Oregon’s Galen Rupp “is a huge storyline,” he says. Rupp, a member of the 2008 Olympic team, is potentially one of the big stars to be competing in next year’s world championships and the 2012 Olympics.

“The other is middle-distance/distance runner Jenny Barringer from Colorado,” says Silver. She has “literally put herself on the radar to become perhaps the greatest middle-distance/distance runner that America has produced since Mary Slaney.”

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