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Sports

Student-Run Terrier Game Broadcasts Provide Valuable Experience

Live streaming on Patriot League Network benefits COM, Athletics

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Tucked away in a small cinder block room behind a pair of narrow metal doors underneath the Case Gym bleachers, a dozen crew members are furiously finishing preparations for a live broadcast of a Terrier men’s basketball game.

The camera operators, audio engineers, and producers, BU students all, take their cues from director Caroline Rickert (COM’18). After a quick preshow meeting, they scatter to their assigned posts.

Under the watchful eyes of Chris Cavalieri (COM’81), a College of Communication assistant professor of film and television, and Leo Paré (COM’13), BU Athletics marketing and digital media director, the students are set to begin live coverage of the matchup with LIU Brooklyn.

After a brief technical difficulty the crew navigates on the spot, the four-camera operation moves along at a frenzied pace, delivering Terrier fans live professional coverage.

The production is the result of a partnership begun in 2010 between Athletics and COM that intensified after BU joined the Patriot League in 2013. The league, which had just launched its own network and teamed up with Campus Insiders, an all-digital platform that covers college sports nationwide, provided each of its 10 member schools with the equipment necessary to provide high-definition streaming of home games for a number of sports.

Games air live on the Patriot League Network. BU men’s and women’s home basketball games can also be viewed on BUTV10. And this fall, BU and Campus Insiders launched a partnership to live-stream 32 men’s and women’s ice hockey home contests free of charge through BU Athletics’ Terrier TV.

“Given the competitive nature of athletics, we made it our goal to become a leader among the other schools on the PLN,” Paré says. “In partnering with COM, BU Athletics experienced tremendous growth in the overall production quality across the board, which set us apart from the pack.”

Patriot League executive director Jennifer Heppel says the league also provides enhanced broadcasts, sending professional crews from Campus Insiders to partner campuses to assist with student productions, which contribute to the larger mission of the Patriot League Network, benefiting students league-wide.

“An important mission of the PLN—and certainly an added benefit for our students—is its role in providing real-world production experience for Patriot League students,” she says. “There are about 1,000 events shown live on the Patriot League Network each year, so the opportunities to gain that experience across a multitude of sports are basically endless.”

Athletics director Drew Marrochello, who credits Cavalieri and Paré with jump-starting the collaboration, says the program’s partnership with COM has been mutually beneficial. “It’s a traditional athletics production that has resulted in a wonderful partnership that others have pointed to as the way it ought to be done. I’m really proud of that,” he says. “The COM program is tremendous. We’re using the resources of a world-class program. It’s a win-win for everybody.” The program has close ties to COM, but is open to all students, regardless of major.

Marrochello says one of the reasons for the program’s success is the broadcasters’ commitment to excellence. “One of the things I’ve been most impressed with is the fact that Chris and Leo have such high expectations for the way something is going to look,” he says. “There’s a real expectation of quality.”

Thomas Fiedler, dean of COM, says the collaboration is an unmatched way for students to learn by doing. They are “expected to operate as professionals in the fullest sense of that word,” he says.

“I don’t know of another program available to COM students that offers so much and that expects so much. And for those who do it well—and who enjoy doing it well—it provides a terrific career opportunity,” says Fiedler (COM’71). “I am delighted to be able to collaborate with BU Athletics on this program.”

Photo of Chris Cavalieri

COM’s Chris Cavalieri, who oversees students’ live broadcasts for the Patriot League Network, at a meeting with the BUTV10 crew prior to the men’s basketball game against LIU Brooklyn.

The program has already helped vault a number of participants to careers after graduation. Cavalieri reels off a list of alums who have moved on to work for the NBA, Fox Sports 1, the NHL Network, the Boston Red Sox, and the Pac 12 Network, among them Justin Akiva (COM’16), NBA Entertainment, Andrew Fewsmith (COM’15), Red Sox Productions, David Shorr (COM’15), NHL Network, Chris Roewe (COM’14), Fox Sports, and Courtney Sonn (COM’16), ABC affiliate KAOT.

“The students are eager to develop the requisite technical, aesthetic, and interpersonal skills to succeed. This type of learning can only be achieved in an experiential environment,” Cavalieri says. “They’re all interested in being members of a team that requires a similar commitment, dedication to craft, and trust in others as the athletic teams they cover.”

Rickert, who began directing games as a freshman and has developed a passion for live production, says that working on the basketball broadcasts is for her “the most important part of education at BU so far.”

Donning her headset and sitting in front of a monitor that shows her feeds from each of her crew’s cameras, Rickert transforms from an easygoing, friendly presence to a measured strategist. Calling out commands, she guides her crew through the turbulence of live production.

“When game time comes, that’s when I really get focused. I put a lot of pressure on myself and expect the best from everyone,” she says. “In order for this to work properly, we all have to rely on one another.”

That penchant for leading isn’t the only thing Rickert has gotten from her experience broadcasting Terrier games. “I’m learning so much about how to direct and how to tell a story that’s unfolding in the moment. It has helped me in my internships and helped me determine what I want to do after school,” she says. “Live production is what I’ve been doing the longest at BU, and I will continue to do so after graduation.”

The COM-Athletics partnership also resulted in the successful launch of the college’s daylong Play it Forward summit last April, described on COM’s website as “featuring an eclectic group of industry leaders, athletes, and experts imagining what’s next during panels on sports safety, law, tech, and journalism.”

The successful program is returning in the spring. The 2017 summit will explore race and gender in sports at Agganis Arena on April 14.

While both partners are pleased with the collaboration, which has resulted in over 400 broadcasts since 2013, neither is content to rest on its laurels. BUTV10 is beginning to implement pregame and halftime shows during basketball games. Marrochello says the broadcasts have been viewed in 169 countries to date and have energized alumni across the globe. He looks forward to their continuing to grow in sophistication and global reach.

“We’re intent on getting better. We’re not content with where it is right now,” he says. “We think we have a lot more room for growth, and both parties are still excited about it, too.”

The Terrier women’s ice hockey team hosts UConn on Saturday, December 3, at 3 p.m., at Walter Brown Arena, and the men’s ice hockey team hosts Providence the same day, at 7 p.m., at Agganis Arena. The games will be streamed live on Terrier TV.

Taylor Raglin can be reached at traglin@bu.edu.

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