SEC Nation Promises Fresh Take in the College GameDay Mold

It’s easy to do, but don’t go calling SEC Network’s traveling roadshow, SEC Nation, the little brother to College GameDay.

Sure, there are similarities; in fact, those who work on the show fully acknowledge that they plan to take some pages from the book of the award-winning ESPN staple. But SEC Nation promises a style and a flavor all its own, one true to the 14 campuses of the SEC.

The SEC Nation brain trusts: (from left) Coordinating Producer Brett Austin, producer Joe Disney, and VP, Production, Bob Rauscher

The SEC Nation brain trusts: (from left) Coordinating Producer Brett Austin, producer Joe Disney, and VP, Production, Bob Rauscher

“We’re looking to capture the pageantry and the flavor of the SEC and all of the schools and states within it,” says Brett Austin, coordinating producer, SEC Nation, who will work alongside the show’s producer, Joe Disney.

So, yes, the similarities to College GameDay are there: a Saturday-morning pregame show on-site before a football game, a traveling bus, fans waving No. 1 fingers into a camera. The key differences lie in SEC Nation’s set design and its choice of locations to broadcast from.

Where College GameDay is known for its high, elevated set with loads of open space for fans to congregate behind, SEC Nation is going right into the heart of tailgating country. Each week, the set will be built low to the ground in a campus location where fan traffic is commonly found.

“The conceit of the show is that we’re giving the viewer at home a sense of what it’s like to be at an SEC game site,” says Bob Rauscher, VP, production, ESPN and SEC Network. “The way we build the set and locations we are choosing are an attempt to be more intimate among what’s happening. So, as opposed to going out and finding a spot and having the crowd come to us, we’re trying to go in among the crowd.”

The operations behind SEC Nation will have a big-time ESPN feel: each week, the show will roll into town with its 53-ft. expando unit, Lyon Video’s LYON-9, and a tour bus. Four hard cameras (Grass Valley LDK 8000s), a jib, and a Steadicam will capture the action in and around the set.

Austin shows a digital rendering of the SEC Nation set. The show is going for an intimate feel with a crowd at each campus.

Austin shows a digital rendering of the SEC Nation set. The show is going for an intimate feel with the pregame crowd at each campus.

Inside the truck, ESPN production personnel will be working off a Grass Valley Kalypso 4M/E production switcher, an EVS XT2 recording and playback infrastructure, a ChyronHego Duet HyperX3 for graphics, a Calrec Omega digital audio console, an 88×88 RTS Cronus matrix intercom system, and a 256×448 Grass Valley Trinix HD-SDI router. On the stage, the audio techs will deploy a collection of headset, lavaliere, and shotgun mics from Sennheiser, Sony, and Shure.

As for the tour bus, it will be integrated into the show’s regular programming blocks, serving as a social-media hub, providing a chance to get up-close and personal with fans, and housing stand-up reports for segments on such topics as local tailgating fare.

“We’re going to consider that an extension of our set,” says Austin. “Each week, it’s going to be used in a way that is unique to that site and serve as a second set area for us.”

SEC Nation also does not share the same goal of College GameDay, which makes every attempt to have a presence at the biggest game in college football in a given week. The SEC Nation schedule will cover visits to all 14 SEC campuses throughout the season.

The first four show sites have already been announced: Thursday Aug. 28 at South Carolina (4-6 p.m. ET), Saturday Aug. 30 at Auburn (all Saturday shows will air from 10 a.m. to noon), Saturday Sept. 6 at Vanderbilt, and Saturday Sept. 13 at Florida.

The crew — which will number well over 50 — will largely be made up of operations and production personnel, who will travel with the program from week to week.