Spring Is Football Season on ESPNU

By Carolyn Braff

Spring football games have none of the do-or-die atmosphere of regular-season college football games, and ESPN’s approach to this weekend’s Orange vs. White game at the University of Texas is similarly non-traditional. The Longhorns’ glorified scrimmage, which will air live on ESPN360.com and time-delayed on ESPNU, will feature in-game sideline interviews, extra handheld cameras, and an on-field announcers booth, all designed to bring the fan into the Texas football family.

“Spring football games are a lot of fun to do because they’re different for the fan to experience and to watch on TV,” says Chuck Scatterday, coordinating producer for college football on ESPNU. “It’s not what you’d expect on a typical football game. It’s effectively a pickup game that’s organized and we happen to be along to see it.”

What makes events like the annual Orange vs. White game entertaining to viewers at home is the accessibility that networks are granted in the off-season. For this game, Texas Head Coach Mack Brown has agreed to give in-game sideline interviews throughout the contest, and two handheld cameras working the sidelines will give viewers the opportunity to hear directly from players during the game.

“With college football coaches, you usually get the pre-game interview, a halftime comment, and a post-game interview, but this week, they granted us real-time access,” Scatterday says. “We hope to actually talk to Coach in flight, in the course of the scrimmage, and get comments from student-athletes on the sideline, which in the body of a regular game you could never do.”

Including the two handheld cameras, ESPNU will use five cameras to cover the game, with an additional unmanned camera to shoot the on-field set. TL Mobile’s Hollywood Truck will provide mobile production support.

“To make it all about the accessibility, we came to an agreement with the University of Texas to let us put four director’s chairs for our booth in the northeast end zone,” Scatterday says. “We’re going to be on the field, so any famous alumni, any alumni that are about to be drafted into the NFL, any celebrities or former NFL players that are going to be there, we’ll have the opportunity for them to come visit with us and chat.”

The game-day environment during the regular season is far too intense to insert a casual conversation about Texas recruiting, but this weekend’s matchup is the perfect setting to invite prominent alumni to walk through the announce booth and offer their impromptu two cents.

ESPNU was already booked with a previous television commitment for Sunday’s 3:30 p.m. kickoff time, so the game will air live on ESPN360.com, ESPN’s broadband service.

“The event fits uniquely with ESPN360.com’s mission to deliver for underserved and displaced fans,” explains John Lasker, senior director of digital programming and acquisition for ESPN. “This is an event that may not have been able to be seen live, but ESPN360.com allows us to deliver live coverage of an event when we have other programming commitments on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU. Additionally, ESPN360.com allows a unique opportunity to reach fans that may not be able to be in front of a TV during the day.”

For the television-only crowd, ESPNU will re-air the game at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 5.