On Dec. 4th Whittier College’s sports broadcasting network, the Whittier College Sports Network (WCSN), took a trip off the field and onto one of sport’s journalism’s biggest stages: the NFL Network studios. The studio, which is located in Culver City, boasts a three building complex of sets, editing bays, control rooms, and green screen rooms. The tour was organized by Associate Athletic Director for Communications, Lance Franey and was guided by Vicky Coleman who is the Head Graphics Producer at the network.
Vicky Coleman has been working at NFL Network for 10 years and has had stints at other sports organizations such as ESPN and the Olympics. Coleman began the tour on her home turf in the graphics department where WCSN members were able ask questions about the software used to create the various graphics that the station uses. These include: cuts to before and after commercials, those that announce a new segment on shows, and tickers. All of these are areas which WCSN hopes to expand in their broadcasts down the line. Franey attested to the value of this experience. “Being able to see a professional atmosphere and how it’s run definitely sheds some light where we want to go as a broadcasting group,” said Franey. “We’re making big strides as a group, and now we know where we want to go.”
The main event, however; had yet to kickoff. In the next building, the tour continued down a long hallway that opened up to the green room and make up and wardrobe rooms. In the green room WCSN members were lucky enough to chat with analyst Heath Evans, a former Saints fullback and Super Bowl champion XLIV with a personality as big as his large build.
From here our tour of a football fan’s Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory continued to the control rooms that feel as intense as those at NASA’s mission control. In this room video feeds from games and sideline reporters across the country are fed onto a wall of monitors. One member of this team continuously calls out countdowns until they punt the programing away to a commercial break. After observing this process Senior Nathan Landau reflects on how much of a team effort broadcasting is. “It really gives you a perspective on what you should strive to be,” Landau said, “It gives you an idea of their work ethic, their attitude, and the teamwork that goes into this job.” For these teams that create NFL Network, Sunday is just as much game day as it is for those one the field. WCSN members spoke to one editor whose day began at 2:30 a.m. and was just wrapping up her shift at 10 a.m. and many members of these control rooms and some on air talent, such as Red Zone host Scott Hanson, run non stop seven hour shifts.
Freshman David Edward Moreno II had the opportunity to chat with Scott Hanson before he had to rush into one of these long program blocks. On a show that jumps from game to game and leaves him constantly on his toes Hanson compared his role to that of a quarterback. “Like a quarterback I’ve got the coach feeding plays in my ear, but the quarterback has to step up to the line of scrimmage, check the defense, and then he’s the one who has to make the call,” said Hanson.
Reaching the fourth quarter of the tour, WCSN members were invited to watch part of the taping of the program Game Day. “My favorite part was going in the staging area and seeing them broadcast their shows because with my own broadcast group it’s cool to see how the professionals do it,” said Landau. “Being able to see their attitudes and their approach to doing a professional broadcast is cool to see first hand and I think that is pretty rewarding.”
After filming wrapped, members were allowed on stage to briefly meet with two former players and analysts on the show: Marshall Faulk and Michael Irvin. This experience was enough to bring one WCSN member close to tears.
Looking back at the highlight reel this trip gave these lucky nine Whittier students a valuable glimpse into the workings of one of the biggest networks in all of professional sports. The opportunity left WCSN with tools to improve their broadcasting on campus and a playbook to break into a career in sports journalism. Coleman talked to everyone in the group about internship opportunities, and how to get involved,” Franey said, “I feel she shed some light for the students on how to make it into this big professional world of sports broadcasting and how to get started.”
Before they left the studios a producer of the Red Zone offered the aspiring sports broadcasters a bit of coaching. “You can learn from anybody,” said the producer, “It doesn’t matter if what you’re doing is stupid or bad, you’re learning.” With the hands on training offered by WCSN these students are given that chance to do this type of learning and, though there may be some false starts or hard sacks, with opportunities like this trip they are all the more closer to reaching their own personal endzones.