Schools Turn to Streaming for National Signing Day

While college football’s National Signing Day generated programming like ESPNU’s all-day live coverage, a number of colleges and universities used the Web to keep fans apprised of who would be joining their team next season.

The University of Central Florida (UCF) did “a ‘news-wheel’ type package,” says John Kvatek, director of video services for the UCF Athletic Association. A looping animation with a crawl was streamed on the UCF Knights Website, with a crawl listing players’ names as they made their commitments.

“We didn’t feel that a lot of people would sit and watch for three, four, or five hours straight,” Kvatek says. “It was a workday.”

As letters of intent arrived, the Website ran a pre-taped package featuring an assistant coach analyzing the individual players.

Throughout the day, the site promoted a Signing Day party held that evening at the school’s arena. Kvatek says he didn’t want to “poach from the party” with highlight clips of players, but he believes that the online promotion was one factor in a 40%-50% increase in event attendance over last year.

Kvatek and the UCF team put the program together in less than a week. “We didn’t have final approvals until the Thursday before [Signing Day].” he says.

This year was the first time the school used the Web for live coverage of the signings. “We said, let’s get some quality content,” Kvatek says. “Let’s be unique as opposed to the Signing Day party and not steal content from the head coach’s press conference, which was also carried live on the Website. It was pretty cool to see this all come together.”

The site had more than 61,000 hits on the day, the second-largest non–game-day response event. All the material remains accessible, as archived events on the site. He calculates that, across Twitter tweets and Website hits, “we probably had 40,000-50,000 exposures that day. Which is great!”

At Notre Dame, Director of Digital Media Alan Wasielewski says his school’s efforts were “the most successful thing we’ve ever done.”

Although Notre Dame has used the Web for Signing Day coverage in the past, this year’s programming ran live from 7 a.m. until after Coach Brian Kelly’s press conference at 5 p.m.

Hosted by Notre Dame announcer Jack Nolan, the program was produced from a live set in the athletic facilities, “probably five steps outside of the coaches’ offices,” Wasielewski says.  “As the faxes came in, we had the official announcements once they were approved by compliance.”  Each announcement was followed by player highlights and analysis.

“We had no set plan,” Wasielewski says. “We had a few things taped already, and we had five early enrollees. We sat down and did interviews with them.”

By noon, 23 players had committed to the school. At that time, former Notre Dame players Reggie Brooks and Mirko Jurkovic provided in-depth analysis of the class on-set with Nolan. That show, which ran about 90 minutes, was rerun through the afternoon until Coach Brian Kelly’s 5 p.m. press conference.

Kelly participated in the streaming program throughout the day, appearing at 8 and 10 in the morning and returning to the set for a wrap-up following his press conference.

“The new coaching staff was very open to us and helped us out,” says Wasielewski.

A camera crew followed Kelly throughout the day.

While this was not Notre Dame’s first on-line coverage of Signing Day, it was the school’s most ambitious to date. Two years ago, Notre Dame offered a 90-minute program, and last year’s coverage ran about four hours but only because of a delay in the commitment of Hawaiian player Manti Te’o.

“We killed time and sat there,” says Wasielewski.

He was quite pleased by the traffic generated during the 2010 coverage, reporting more than 200,000 views and 300,000 visits for the day. All the material was turned around for on-demand viewing, which garnered another 350,000-400,000 views in the week after Signing Day.