Ball State Students Power the Social Heartbeat of March Madness Live

Ball State University is creating its own NCAA Tournament dynasty; this one, though, is off the court.

For the fourth straight year, students from the school’s Ball State Sports Link — an immersive learning experience for digital sports production — will play a major role in the operations of the NCAA’s, Turner Sports’, and CBS’s social-media strategy surrounding the tournament, primarily through the event’s digital platform March Madness Live.

BallStateSportsLinkThe Coke Zero NCAA March Madness Social Arena is a key feature in the March Madness Live app, encouraging social engagement around the live games. Fans can follow game tweets, view Instagram photos and, for the first time, Vine videos through the app, which is available for free on most Android, Apple, and Windows devices.

As many as 25 students will work under Ball State Director of Digital Sports Production Chris Taylor and Assistant Director Alex Kartman, using SnappyTV technology to edit and produce real-time video highlights for all 67 games of the tournament.

“The opportunity to work with Turner Sports and March Madness Live is very rewarding,” says Zach Hughes, a Ball State senior from Carmel, IN. “It is unlike anything any other college student gets to experience. I believe this validates what we do in Sports Link. We get a lot of professional experience, but getting to put ‘worked directly with Turner Sports coverage of the NCAA March Madness Live app’ on your résumé is awesome. I feel very fortunate to be a part of their operations, and it makes me realize how special an opportunity Ball State Sports Link truly is.”

Earlier this year, Ball State opened its Digital Sports Production Center in the Ball Communications building and introduced a new major to the curriculum: digital sports production. Taylor says the March Madness Live project has been paramount in helping bolster the program’s development.

“The relationship has been amazingly rewarding,” he says. “I told my kids the other night, our role in the entire March Madness is a small role but a very important role. This is an opportunity that we respect. It’s a relationship and an association that has honestly helped us evolve and create a digital sports major at Ball State. I’m 100% confident that, if we hadn’t had that association over the last three years, we would probably still be a year or two away from creating a major. This has advanced that process so quickly.”

The new 1,500-sq.-ft. facility was modeled after the Turner Sports Digital Event Operations Center, which Taylor, Kartman, and a small contingent of students visited this month in preparation for the tournament. The Ball State center allows students to get experience using the same workflows and tools for social monitoring and digital programming as those used at the Turner Studios facility in Atlanta. Now, instead of having to travel to Atlanta, Sports Link students are able to do all their work on March Madness Live from the comfort of their own facility in Muncie, IN.

“Having this opportunity is huge for us,” says Aaron Van Auken, a senior from Kokomo, IN. “Not only do we get to be a part of something we can brag to our friends about, but we play an important role in a nationally recognized event. On top of that, it’s an incredible résumé booster; it’s something that sets us apart from every other college student by giving us professional experience in front of a national audience.”

Fans can participate in the social commentary in the Coke Zero NCAA March Madness Social Arena by using #marchmadness.

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