While the COVID-19 pandemic has limited the amount of fans at numerous sporting events, fans can still catch the action on ESPN and they have Valparaiso students to thank for it.
The ESPN broadcasting crew is headed by communication professor, Ron Blatz, and is composed primarily of students along with alumni and current high school seniors who work together to broadcast Valpo home sports games.
Junior and Crew Manager, Chris Gere has been working on the ESPN team since his freshman year.
“It started my first day at Valpo actually. So I’m a Comm major and the first day they had us all meet the Comm professors. So we did our typical ice breakers like, what's your name, where you from and then a dream job,” Gere said. “So for me, I said working in sports or for ESPN and then immediately after that meeting Ron pulled me aside.”
Valpo is unique in that it allows underclassmen to participate in the program. According to Gere, larger schools limit participation to upperclassmen only.
“If you're in my situation, like some of the younger students are, I'm going to have four years of experience...when I graduate,” Gere said.
In addition to the lack of year restrictions, the program also accepts students of all levels. Freshman Noah Godsell was able to join the broadcasting team with little to no experience.
“It was a really great opportunity, it wasn't like you had to have experience to do it. You can just jump in and do it and learn everything you need to,” Godsell said.
Gere emphasizes the amount of experience students are able to gain by working in control rooms and learning from others.
“You're working with great people, super knowledgeable people. You're learning everyday and you're using top end equipment. You're getting an extreme amount of experience that not a lot of students get,” Gere said. “There's so much you don't know about live sports until you're sitting in a control room, it's such an amazing experience.”
According to Godsell, there are many roles and steps that go into producing a live game.
“There's a lot more than you think. Everyone has a part, everyone's role is important and if you don't have everyone there, it's going to be hard to run a successful production,” Godsell said.
For the ESPN team, production days can be six to seven hours long, sometimes longer depending on the sport and the length of the game.
“We’ll typically show up three hours beforehand at the ARC and the first two hours are setting up equipment...building graphics, doing all sorts of setup and maintenance stuff. Once we hit about an hour before the broadcast we contact ESPN and make sure they're getting all our stuff...the last hour is like final touches, pre game prep,” Gere said, “Then about another hour of teardown and post game meetings just talking about what went right, what went wrong.”
However, according to Gere the experience gained in these six to seven hours is invaluable.
“Long days for the games but the whole time you're just working and getting experience, asking questions,” Gere said.
Gere is also grateful for the connections that the program has brought him, particularly the connection to Blatz.
“He’s [Blatz] a wealth of information and he's got connections all over the place and he's been in this industry for decades,” Gere said, “So he knows so much and he is so willing to help you out with anything and everything.”
The ESPN program not only allows students to gain experience and knowledge, it provides students with an avenue to achieve their goals and do what they love.
“Growing up as a kid every morning, I would watch SportsCenter with my dad and it's always been the one thing I've always wanted to do was to work for ESPN,” Godsell said. “I love watching sports, playing sports...if you're doing it on television it's something that you can bring to everyone in the world.”