Game On

March 1, 2016

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BUFFALO, NY - It’s game on for students in the college’s new sports broadcast and journalism concentration. The team streamed its inaugural broadcast (women’s volleyball) on ESPN3 from the recently opened Golden Griffin Sports Broadcast Center.

Just hours before the first serve, however, the wife of the full-time color commentator went into labor. Communication studies major Andrew Helwig ’19 stepped up to fill in.

“My heart skipped a beat,” Helwig says about the phone call from Assistant Athletic Director of Communications Matt Reitnour asking him to substitute. “Matt asked ‘Are you willing and able to call the game tonight?’ I immediately said ‘Yes!’”  

The Golden Griffin Sports Broadcast Center is the result of a collaboration involving Canisius’ athletic program, the Communication Studies Department and ESPN3. The partnership gives students the opportunity to produce live athletic events for the online streaming service owned by ESPN. The four, five and six camera high-definition (HD) game productions feature full network-branded graphics, replay and two- or three-person broadcast crews.

“Students are involved in the production from start to finish, and work and train alongside professionals, in the classroom and in the studio,” says John S. Dahlberg, PhD, chair and professor of communication studies.

Located in Science Hall, the Golden Griffin Sports Broadcast Center essentially serves as a classroom.

“It’s set up to ESPN3 standards and the equipment students use is the same found in any other ESPN3 control room,” says Sam Hallett, director of digital media communications for athletics.

Hallett also teaches Sports Broadcast Production I and II. Students in level I learn to work the cameras, manage the audio board and do replay, graphics and technical directing. Level II students direct and produce the games.

“They’re taught to perform the same jobs that they’ll find when they graduate and start work in the field,” Hallett adds.

“Before, I thought maybe I could pursue a career in sports broadcasting but now it’s a reality,” says Helwig who chose Canisius because of its new ESPN3 partnership. “I take classes that teach me specific skills and then I’m able to put those skills to work in the studio.”

“Working on a live broadcast, you learn to think on your feet and come up with solutions to whatever problems may arise,” adds C.J. Gates ’16, a journalism major and editor of The Griffin.

The Golden Griffin broadcast schedule includes men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, and men’s and women’s lacrosse. Coming soon will be the live-streaming of baseball, softball and hockey games. The addition will further increase practical learning opportunities for students and broaden the reach of the Canisius brand. ESPN3 is currently available to 99 million homes at no additional cost to fans who receive high-speed internet connections or video subscriptions from affiliated service providers.

“Parents, athletes and alumni are very excited about the ability to watch games both live and on replay,” says Athletics Director Bill Maher, who notes that Canisius is only the third member of the MAAC to offer a full slate of home sporting events on ESPN3.

“By making this move to deliver games on ESPN3, Canisius has shown that it has a serious understanding of how sports fans, including alumni and prospective student-athletes, consume media in this day and age,” MAAC Commissioner Richard J. Ensor states. “The fact that the college took steps to include its Communication Studies Program in production efforts further proves that Canisius’ vision will make this effort successful for years to come.”

In addition to live-event production, Canisius students produce pregame, halftime and postgame content, as well as feature packages, commercials and coaches shows.

“It’s a wonderful learning experience to have the opportunity to try many different roles during games,” Gates adds. “It will definitely help in my job search that I have all this experience with ESPN-level equipment.”

In fact, it’s the exact kind of real-world training students need to break into the hot market of broadcast journalism.

“Students will leave here job ready, with an extensive portfolio and a resume that says they worked for ESPN,” Dahlberg says.

Stay tuned.