SVG, BEA Meet To Bring More Students into the Production Fold

The next generation of great sports-production personnel is already sitting in classrooms across the country, being taught by members of the Broadcast Education Association. At the BEA’s annual NAB meeting this week, SVG sponsored a session on building successful partnerships between sports faculty and industry professionals. The SVG members in attendance offered plenty of advice for the professors and started a valuable dialogue that opens the door for future SVG initiatives. Rick Sykes, professor at Central Michigan University and chair of the BEA sports division, moderated the discussion.

Mike Davies, VP of field operations for Fox Sports, has hosted several delegations of students at NASCAR and college football events over the past few years and has found those tours to be as valuable in helping students to learn what they don’t know as to investigate what they do.

“We try to ascertain group interests, so we go through and introduce these students to what we do in the business,” he said. “It’s nice to get a broadcast-themed group because you don’t have to start at ground zero. You try to make that connection between what they’re learning and what we do out in the field.”

The most successful tours, Davies said, were those in which the students and technicians took the conversation beyond the tour, but finding ways to continue the relationship beyond that one day was difficult.

Steve Helmuth, EVP of technology for the NBA, has done similar outreach, providing student tours at All-Star Games and other marquee events. He offered some key advice to professors looking to prepare their students for the real world of sports production.

“The best thing you can do is give your students a chance to fail,” he said. “With the TriCaster and other products that are out there, make it their responsibility, make them do the budget, hire the people, run the schedule. From that, people will take the lead and move forward.”

Helmuth also suggested beginning a relationship with the theater department on campus, because live sports is closer to theater than it is to film production. “I did a lot of theater in college, and, when I got to NBC Sports, the producer saw that I knew how to handle things.”

Walter Raps, CTO of CBS College Sports Network, who also has a theater background, suggested not only forging that cross-campus relationship but reaching out to local and national sports networks as well.

“All of us are willing to take somebody who you think is worthwhile and have him stand around to see if they really do like it,” he said. “And later on, when they’re looking for work, they’ve already made some contacts.”

Tom Sahara, senior director of IT and remote operations for Turner Sports, added that students cannot be afraid to get in on the ground level and work their way up.

“We start people from the bottom,” he said. “Because of the investment that we make in our productions, we have to have people that know exactly what needs to be done. The process of bringing them in at the bottom and working their way up is an important one.”

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