Jeff Schmahl, Video Pioneer, HuskerVision Founder, Dead at 58
Jeff Schmahl, a former video production guru who spent more than two decades at the University of Nebraska and Texas A&M University, passed away on Tuesday following a 15-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 58.
Jeff’s family officially announced his passing on his blog, “The Last Train.” On that blog, Jeff’s wife Maria and son Zach wrote: “We are grieving the loss of this incredible man, but have peace in knowing he is no longer in pain or suffering. Today, God gains one of the greats. We hope he enjoys him up there as much as we did down here.
A graduate of the University of Nebraska and a former sports anchor in the Lincon, NE area, Schmahl made an indelible mark on the college sports video production industry when he went full time at his alma mater and, in 1994, founded HuskerVision, an organization that was the first of its type in the industry and is now commonly seen on campuses across the country.
Under Schmahl, Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium became the first college-only venue to install big screens in a football stadium and pioneered the now famous “Tunnel Walk” prior to each Huskers football game.
He was also a major proponent of providing students with production employment opportunities, hiring talented undergraduates from Nebraska’s Journalism school and other related departments to help with big screen and TV productions.
“I believe seeing all of his former student employees become successful was among his proudest accomplishments,” says Shot Kleen, Assistant Athletic Director for HuskerVision, who, along with Schmahl was one of just three founding members of HuskerVision back in 1994. “I still get messages from graduates that say their years at HuskerVision were among the best of their lives. [Jeff] worked hard and was serious about doing quality work, but he also made it a lot of fun. We are ever grateful for his contributions. He will be missed by all.”
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.
Upon retirement in 2014, Schmahl and his wife moved to New York City to help their son Zach with his cookie business, Schmackary’s.
In May, the Sports Video Group honored Schmahl with the prestigious SVG College Sports Summit Pioneer Award, though he was unable to be in attendance.
“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.”
At the ceremony, one of Jeff’s former colleagues at Texas A&M, Andy Richardson, shared his thoughts regarding Jeff’s honor.
“One thing that you learned about Jeff is the attention to detail,” said Richardson, who is now senior director of big screens, 12th Man Productions. “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.”
Schmahl is survived by his wife, Maria, and his son, Zach. A memorial service in Lincoln is planned.