Athletics, Academics Team Up on University of Dayton’s Live Video Streaming

Like any great program, a live–video-production project is a team effort. In many cases at the college and university level, that means a strong bond between the athletic and academic departments.

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Students from Dayton’s School of Communication make up the production crew for all live webcasts of Flyers athletics.(Photo Courtesy of Erik Schelkun)

At the University of Dayton in Ohio, the growth and nurturing of that relationship has helped build a top-notch program that produces more than 60 live video events per year and is churning out students who are scooping up sports-television jobs at Big Ten Network, Cox Media Group, and local CBS affiliate WHIO.

“We’ve really enhanced our video-streaming capabilities, and it’s thanks to the hard work of our staff and the students,” says Michael LaPlaca, assistant athletics director-multimedia at the University of Dayton. “[Our students] are going out well-trained and well-armed because of the experience in our program.”

The program was born about five years ago when LaPlaca reached out to the Electronic Media division of the university’s Department of Communication after attending an SVG College Sports Video Summit. The two sides hammered out a plan to develop a for-credit class that would give students unique, hands-on experience to accompany their academic major and LaPlaca and the athletic department the production personnel they needed to make live shows a reality.

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After some training, students “graduate” to the Advanced Media Class, where they begin operating the production switcher and work as producers and directors.

“Like any partnership, there’s a learning curve, especially with students,” says LaPlaca. “Trying to mesh academics with athletics can be a challenge. So I would say to anyone looking to do this, preach patience. Be as helpful as possible, because it’s a teaching component. Plus, this is something that is relatively new. This isn’t history we’re teaching here. The Declaration of Independence has been signed for many, many years, and it’s not going anywhere. This is constantly new and constantly evolving, so we maintain communication with the Comm. Department almost daily. That’s just the nature of the business.“

Students are run through two phases when they choose to take part in the class and the program. The first phase begins from scratch with video basics, such as properly using a camera, zooming and panning techniques, etc. In that phase, LaPlaca rotates the students among camera positions and other roles, giving them the opportunity to gain different experiences and perspectives.

From there, they “graduate” into the Advanced Media Class, where they begin to take more of a leadership role, operating the production switcher and taking on the tasks of producer, director, and even on-air talent.

For producing live events — football, volleyball, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball, softball — Dayton’s portable video-production setup is typically a four-camera show using Canon cameras. After starting the program with one of the first NewTek TriCasters on the market, Dayton has since upgraded to the NewTek TriCaster 455 complete with LiveText for graphics and 3Play for replay.

Dayton Athletics also has a strong social-media presence, one that it ties closely to its live-video offerings. All Dayton video productions are free to online viewers on the Flyer Extra Media Player via the Atlantic 10’s new digital-platform deal with NeuLion, and the Dayton production staff keeps fans at the venue and in their homes in mind when shooting and cutting the shows.

Dayton’s Flyer Extra media player brings more than 60 live events to online viewers for free each year.

Dayton’s Flyer Extra media player brings more than 60 live events to online viewers for free each year.

“Fans love access, and they love feeling like they are part of the event and a part of the team,” says LaPlaca. “We try to push that as much as possible, whether it’s crowd shots during time-outs in the action or showing fans coming in from the parking lot. That’s how we make people feel part of the event and start the conversation on social media.”

Having successfully pulled off the athletics-academics marriage, LaPlaca says the best way to spark the conversation is to keep the focus where it should be: on the students and the student-athletes.

“We’re all pulling the same rope; we’re all pulling for the best student experience,” says LaPlaca. “So, for us, it’s not just about getting kids out to sporting events and working on a telecast. On our side, we’re helping with the education process, and we’re giving kids the opportunity to utilize this equipment. We can go to the university provost or the president of the university and show that this program is graduating students on time and they are going out, getting jobs, and are engaged community members. That’s really why we’re all here.”