Van Wagner Drives CIAA Tourney Production for ESPN; Double Finals Tomorrow

Last October ESPN and the Central Intercollegiate Athletics Association (CIAA), a conference comprised of Division II Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) inked a multi-year, multi-platform deal to carry the CIAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. ESPNU will carry both championships tomorrow but ESPN+ has carried all 22 games of the tournament, a first for the conference.

Doug Bell at the CIAA Tournament.

Doug Bell, who is producing and also directing some of the action leada small production team for Van Wagner which is producing all of the games for ESPN.

“It started off as a weekend thing where we would just do the semi-finals and finals but the agreement with ESPN and ESPN+ is for the whole thing and it grew to a week,” says Bell. “It’s a new city for us which is challenging as we had been in Charlotte for so long.”

The team had to come out last Monday to lay in fiber for the six camera show which is being produced out of MPS Mobile Unit 8 “Grizz”, a 45-foot straight truck that has a Grass Valley Kayenne HD switcher with FlexiKey and Double Take, Ross Expression XST2 and Chyron Hyper X3 for graphics, Grass Valley LDK 3000+ cameras, Fujinon lenses, Vinten POV cameras, and two six-channel EVS XT Nano replay servers. A Utah Scientific router is at the core.

Eric Riley, MPS, president and CEO, at the CIAA Tournament in Baltimore.

“Grizz is well equipped for what we need to do as our production is eight cameras when you count the booth cameras,” says Bell. “So, we’re not hurting for cameras or lenses or things like that. We also do football games out of this truck.”

The most unique thing about the event is that it is home to both the men’s and women’s tournaments during the same week.

“When the tournament was in Winston Salem it was in two venues but this year it’s in one and is just wall-to-wall basketball,” says Bell. “It gives the teams and schools more exposure and its easier for fans as they can stay in one place. That was a nice move.”

Bell says the venue provides an intimate feel versus when the tournament was played in the home of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.

“That venue was 19,000 seats and it was basically a lower bowl seating situation whereas this place has a little less than 7,000 seats so it sounds really full and loud, like an HBCU gym,” he says. “This arena has a lot going for it as far as the conference is concerned.”

The busy week began with setup on Monday and then six games on Tuesday and Wednesday. Today will be the four semi-final games and then tomorrow will be the two finals.

“The energy tomorrow could be really good depending on how well the fans of the teams in the final travel,” says Bell. “We’re hoping for a good crowd but it’s gonna be electric either way because it always is. The thing about this tournament is that there is good basketball but it’s a really a chance for people to get together and reunite. This weekend there will be parties, reunions, sororities, frats, and all of them getting together and doing their thing. We noticed a change last night in the arena with a lot more bands, a lot more noise, a lot more dancing and stepping and all that kind of good stuff. It’s just great.

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