black video camera screen

Butler offers new sports broadcasting course

Nestled among the science classrooms and biology labs of Gallahue Hall, one class does not belong.

Live event production sports is a new digital media seminar that offers hands-on experience broadcasting Butler athletic events. The class is not the only thing that’s new. Professor Ryan Rodgers enters his first year of teaching at Butler.

Rodgers worked with the Indianapolis Colts in the media department where he operated in game programming and broadcasting, which turned into a job with Fox Sports in Los Angeles. He also did some freelance work with the NFL Network and ESPN.

Sophomore Sam Weiderhaft is a sports media major in the course. He said he tries to gain as much knowledge as possible from Rogers.

“It’s awesome having him,” Weiderhaft said. “I love to pick his brain about everything. He’s very knowledgeable, and he’s worked for a lot of different companies.”

Weiderhaft said he hopes the class will help prepare him as a play-by-play broadcaster. He often announces high school football games to gain experience in front of the camera.

The course includes a total of 10 students with majors ranging from sports media, digital media production and journalism. The course’s broadcasting schedule features volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer games and a women’s basketball game.

“I want them to feel ownership of it, to feel like it’s their vision,” Rodgers said. “I don’t consider myself a producer of the event by any stretch. The students are the producers. I may help them along or offer suggestions here and there, but I’m not going to tell them what they can and can’t do.”

Students take on different roles every event. A play-by-play announcer and a color analyst take on-camera roles. Behind the scenes, there are two producers, three camera operators, one technical director, a halftime and pregame content producer and someone to oversee audio.

The events can be seen through Facebook Live. Joe Gentry, director of sports marketing and corporate sponsorships, helps coordinate the broadcasts.

“This is the first year we’ve gone away from streaming at [Butlersports.com] just because we were limiting ourselves to the hometown parents, family and friends,” Gentry said. “The numbers aren’t even close to where we are now with Facebook Live.”

The Butler women’s soccer shutout over Indiana State on Sept. 17 recorded around 3,400 viewers, Gentry said.

Broadcasting live events comes with challenges that require thinking on the fly.

“I’ll try to funnel them a direction to try and make it as good as they can, but a big part of the show is letting the students assume that leadership role and make the mistakes themselves,” Rogers said.

The students experienced multiple technological issues in their first two broadcasts. During the Western Michigan men’s soccer game, the audio malfunctioned, and the broadcast was silent during the pregame show and the first several minutes of the game.

Sophomore sports media major Jacob Marcheschi was a producer that day.

“Everybody kept their composure fairly well considering the situation,” Marcheschi said. “It could’ve been a lot worse.”

Live broadcasting is no easy task, but Weiderhaft said he believes the experience will prepare him for his future career.

“This class is a lot different because it’s an all around class and I’m really just looking to get real world experience out of it because that’s what it’s going to be like when I enter my field,” he said.

Christine Taylor, department chair of creative media entertainment, brought forth this course to see if it could potentially become a class. The last time the school offered a similar class was more than 10 years ago.

“We have done live events in our department on and off for the two decades I have been here,” Taylor said. “This a renewal of the sports media major of the idea that it could be a class, so we are running it as a seminar to see if the live sports pedagogy fits into classroom situation.”

The students’ next broadcast can be seen on the Butler Athletics’ Facebook Live stream on Oct. 18 at 7 p.m when the men’s soccer team faces Indiana University.