CSMA Master Class: Southland Conference TV Aces Live Event Broadcasts

CSMA2013-wufooSince its inception, the College Sports Media Awards have recognized the best in the college-sports-production arena. As technology and production techniques improve, the ability to create high-quality video on any budget has proliferated significantly. At the SVG College Sports Summit in May, 16 productions were honored for their contribution to sports video. This summer, SVG is proud to offer an in-depth look at the personalities and programs that have raised the bar for what college sports video is capable of.

When the University of Central Arkansas Sugar Bears finished off Stephen F. Austin in the semifinals of the Southland Conference Women’s Volleyball Tournament, Chris Mycoskie knew he was on to something big.

VIDEO: Watch Southland Conferece Television Network's CSMA-winning entry of its Women's Volleyball Championship broadcast.

VIDEO: Watch Southland Conferece Television Network’s CSMA-winning entry of its Women’s Volleyball Championship broadcast.

The next day, on a brisk Sunday afternoon in November, the Southland TV Network would broadcast UCA’s championship match with Oral Roberts. A final that would take place in front of UCA’s home crown in the school’s basketball arena. It promised to be an electric atmosphere. Perfect for TV.

“UCA really gets the student athletes from all of their sports involved in cheering on their fellow student athletes,” says Mycoskie, Assistant Commissioner for Television and Electronic Media at Southland Conference. “The student section was packed. The entire baseball team was there, a ton of football players, a ton of soccer players. That, in addition to just the Conway community getting so behind them, it got really loud in there.”

That home court advantage and a smooth, solid production behind-the-camera helped Southland TV reign supreme at the College Sports Media Awards, taking home Best in Live Event and Game Production in Collegiate Athletics, proving that in the video world, even the supposed “smaller” conferences can compete with the big boys.

Rapid Growth
With limited opportunities to get their games broadcast by a regional sports network in the area, the Southland Conference took matters into their own hands, launching the Southland Conference Television Network in the fall of 2008. It began as an avenue through which to broadcast football games – the first season featured an eight-game broadcast schedule.

Southland's Chris Mycoskie (far right) produces the women's volleyball championship, which was called by Lincoln Rose (center) and analyst Brooke Bentley (left).

Southland’s Chris Mycoskie (far right) produces the women’s volleyball championship, which was called by Lincoln Rose (center) and analyst Brooke Bentley (left).

In it’s first year, Southland TV gained quick momentum, signing on 13 affiliates and adding 11 regular season and six postseason men’s and women’s basketball games to the schedule to go along with broadcasts of the conference’s volleyball and baseball championships.

Fast forward to the 2012-13 academic year and Southland TV has continued to grow by leaps and bounds. A total of 35 Southland TV live event productions aired on television affiliates and hundreds of more made their way online.

“I’m not surprised [at how quickly we’ve grown] because we have a ton of great people behind the scenes and that all starts with commissioner [Tom] Burnett and the vision he has for the television product,” says Mycoskie who started as a sideline reporter for Southland TV before becoming fulltime at the conference in the spring of 2011. “We’ve learned a lot over the course of time and have found different ways to really improve the product, from graphics, to the way we incorporate features, to the way we tell the student athletes’ stories. [We’re] not just going in there and doing a game. It’s about telling stories and really finding a way to connect with our fans and our alums.

“You can tell that as the quality has improved that everybody on these campuses are taking a real ownership in this network and they are able to point to it with pride.”

A Robust Production
For television productions like the Women’s Volleyball Championship, Southland TV goes full bore.

For the broadcast, Southland TV deployed six Grass Valley LDK 6000 cameras fitted with 55x to 760x sports lenses.

For the broadcast, Southland TV deployed six Grass Valley LDK 6000 cameras fitted with 55x to 760x sports lenses.

Since day one, they have worked with Jeff Watts Productions, a company out of Fort Worth, TX that provides a 50-foot expando truck. Southland TV than deploys its arsenal of gear that includes six Grass Valley LDK 6000 cameras fitted with 55x to 70x sports lenses. For graphics, a Chryon Duet Mozaic HD Graphics engine.

For tape, the network utilizes a Grass Valley Turbo HD, a Sony XD Cam HD, a 4-chanel EVS and NewTek 3 Play replay devices. On the all-important audio side, Southland uses a Yamaha MX 7 Digital Audio Console.

For its hundreds of web broadcasts, Southland TV turns to its talent on campus to produce their own regular season events. The ideal layout for the conference is to have a NewTek TriCaster on every campus that helps produce events for the school’s website, as well as the conference’s digital platform.

On The Horizon
The Southland Conference is going under a transformation this summer. On July 1, the conference officially welcomed in four new member institutions – Abilene Christian, Houston Baptist, University of the Incarnate Word, and University of New Orleans – boosting the conference to 14 schools.

For the new members, a critical responsibility is establishing a video professional in house, be that hiring someone new or training up someone currently on staff.

“The television network and all that we do video-wise is a huge positive for all four of these schools as they join,” says Mycoskie. “They are touting it as a major reason for joining the conference.”

As for the network as a whole going forward, Mycoskie has big plans for further growing its presence.

“In this next year we’re going to try and incorporate a lot of the ideas and the brainstorming that came throughout the offseason, especially what we gained at the [SVG] College Sports Summit,” he says. “I came home with a notebook full of ideas. I think the thing I have underlined the most and has the most stars next to it is ‘access.’

“We have done really well with getting behind the scenes, but we can do better. We have all of these student athletes and coaches at our disposal and they are more than happy to do whatever we would need for the broadcast. So we’re really going to utilize that and hopefully show fans more of what they are not able to see if they just go to the game.”

To watch more of the productions that we honored at the 2013 College Sports Media Award, visit the Winner’s Vimeo Channel.