Working construction during my college summers I learned two important lessons from the jobsite foreman who asked a colleague if he had 20 years of experience or one year of experience 20 times: you’re never as good as you’d like to be, and no matter what your experience level, no job is beneath you as an opening to learn something new. I joined ESPN in January 2000 and continue to be amazed by the constant evolution of the company and the things I get to do in this job. Depending on the day, I can work with high-ranking executives or entry-level employees, and I embrace all of it as an opportunity. A majority of my time is spent on our college sports properties, but I also oversee how ESPN branding appears in external movies and television shows (think ESPN “The Ocho” in Dodgeball). I grew up in a town just a tick north of Pittsburgh where I spent my childhood playing sports with the neighborhood kids (whatever happened to the pick-up game?), spent way too much time trying to master Atari and Nintendo, and expended an immense amount of energy – and blood – on BMX bikes and skateboards. Luckily, I didn’t break any major bones. I graduated from Pitt (Hail to Pitt) and remain a fan of all things Pittsburgh: Panthers, Penguins, Steelers, Pirates and Primanti Bros. And, on occasion, when I’m not paying attention, you can even hear my Pittsburghese rear its head.
Opening ceremony of the 2011 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. (Phil Ellsworth /ESPN)
ESPN continues to expand on its commitment to college baseball, increasing its regular-season schedule to a record 272 games and covering all 16 Regionals sites of the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship for the first time this spring. The potential 112 first-round matchups from May 31 to June 3 is an increase over the six sites in 2012, four in 2011 and two the previous six years ESPN offered.
ESPN also will launch the Bases Loaded platform — similar to ESPN Goal Line and Buzzer Beater for college football and basketball — to provide unlimited live cut-ins and highlights from numerous games and up-to-the-minute commentary from ESPN experts over the four days (Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1, from 2 p.m. ET to midnight; Sunday, June 2, from 2 p.m. to 1 a.m.; and Monday, June 3, from 6 p.m. to midnight). continue reading…
ESPN’s Andy Katz with President Barack Obama. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Who says you never get a second chance to make a first impression? A year ago, ESPN features unit manager Denny Wolfe was scheduled to be a producer for President Barack Obama’s now-annual bracket completion exercise with ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz. But a 2012 Selection Sunday hockey game left Wolfe with a concussion and strict orders from his wife and his coordinating producer not to travel. continue reading…
Greg Shaheen was a familiar face on ESPN this past weekend.
Former NCAA Senior Vice President Greg Shaheen, who was the organizer of the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship for 12 years, spent this past weekend in Bristol, Conn. serving as a “selection committee expert.”
Shaheen’s unique perspective was widely praised across social media, as these Tweets confirm: continue reading…
Greg Shaheen, the organizer of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship for 12 years until 2012, will join ESPN for this weekend’s coverage of Championship Week and Selection Sunday.
Shaheen will provide insight from his experiences of being “in the room” with past selection committees for ESPN’s Bracketology, SportsCenter, halftime studio segments, ESPN Radio and ESPN.com. Shaheen spoke with Front Row about what he will offer, who he is most looking forward to working with and more.
How will your experience enhance ESPN’s coverage?
I view this as an opportunity to bring perspective on what hasn’t been widely understood about selection weekend. There is a lot more to the process than most people know and the experience in the room is unlike anything I suspect I’ll experience for the rest of my life.
Understanding where the committee likely is in the process, the impact of games just completed, in-progress and on-deck (oops, wrong sport) should allow the on-air discussion to take on a different fee — that’s the perspective I hope to contribute toward this weekend.
How much college basketball have you watched this season? Any particular moments or performances stand out?continue reading…
ESPN basketball analyst Malcolm Huckaby and play-by-play commentator Jim Barbar called Horizon League men’s basketball tournament action this weekend. (ESPN)
Former college and professional basketball standout Malcolm Huckaby was no stranger to ESPN prior to joining the company as a college hoops analyst this season.
One could say he literally grew up with it.
Huckaby — a guard at Boston College who helped lead the Eagles to the Elite Eight in 1994 — was raised in Bristol, Conn., less than a quarter mile from ESPN’s headquarters.
“I could see ESPN from my front porch,” said Huckaby, who has worked more than two dozen contests in his first year with ESPN including tonight’s Iona versus Manhattan Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference men’s basketball title game (9 p.m. ET on ESPN2).
“I walked by it a million times in my childhood, but actually never stepped foot on the campus until this year, so of course I thought it would be cool to work there,” he said. “But I always wondered if it was something I could do.”
In addition to broadcasting, the Bristol Central High School graduate (Class of 1990) works in the financial services field in the greater Boston area. He credits his mother with an assist in getting his broadcasting career started.
“My mom, Elouise, was on me for a few years about getting a job at ESPN,” Huckaby said. continue reading…
During Tuesday’s upset win by Minnesota over Indiana, ESPN analyst Dan Dakich did something not normally seen on telecasts – he took to the floor during a media timeout to explain “Help Side Defense.”
“I challenged Dan this season to come up with something unique and memorable that he could own as an analyst,” explained Senior Coordinating Producer, Jay Levy. “And this is what he has come up with.”
Said Dakich: “It was evident early in the game that help side defense was going to be huge in the IU-Minn game as both teams were throwing the ball inside to players that were capable of dominating the game.”
ESPN is StormReady
Some of the advance planning that’s been undertaken:
• Several nearby hotel rooms reserved for essential personnel
• In-bound satellite traffic migrated to land lines to avoid signal loss in bad weather
• 25 parabolic dishes and 1 TORUS dish all equipped with electric and hot air de-icers to counter signal degradation. Dishes were “preheated” as storm approached.
• “Dish Farm” monitored by employees and snow brushes/rakes used for slush removal (see intrepid sole in undated picture below).
As “Winter Storm Nemo” bears down on the Northeast, people from Bangor to Brooklyn are preparing for what could be an historic weather event. (See right margin for Front Row’s “Nemo Cam”).
In Bristol, Conn., at ESPN’s headquarters, that preparation focuses on ensuring the network’s 24/7/365 operation — including television, radio and Internet — serves sports fans unimpeded. For the hundreds of employees responsible for making sure those platforms are churning, working from home is not an option.
A group of ESPN employees, headed by Jodi Markley, senior vice president, operations, is responsible for making the preemptory plans that will keep ESPN’s operations humming.
“There are many variables we have to consider when planning for a major storm, but safety of our employees is of the utmost importance,” said Markley on Thursday afternoon. “Our preparations are pretty much set, so now it’s a matter of waiting to see what comes. Fortunately, we have a Los Angeles-based facility we can lean on for assistance on our SportsCenter programs, allowing us to keep as many Bristol-based employees at home as possible.”
In fact, some employees already have been granted a “snow day,” as Friday’s 11 p.m., midnight and 1 a.m. ET SportsCenters will originate from Los Angeles and other duties on Friday and Saturday will also be shifted to the left coast. continue reading…
On that day, longtime ESPN basketball analyst Dick Vitale and ESPN NBA analyst, Magic Johnson, will share the color analyst role for ESPN’s coverage of No. 1 Indiana at No. 12 Michigan State at 7 p.m. ET. Versatile commentator Mike Tirico will take the role of play-by-play alongside the two basketball fanatics.
“From the time I was a high school basketball player in Michigan I was captivated by Coach Vitale’s spirit and passion,” said Johnson. “I’ve been fortunate to have developed a wonderful relationship with him — one which is bonded by our common love of basketball.”
For Vitale, who will call the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament Final Four for ESPN International in April, working with Johnson for a telecast is another milestone. continue reading…
As the face of ESPN’s college basketball for 34 years, legendary analyst Dick Vitale has had a front row seat to more than 2,000 college basketball telecasts, including many of the best and most memorable matchups.
The one event missing from his Hall of Fame resume is calling an NCAA Men’s Final Four game. That will all change this year. ESPN announced today that Vitale will work two Final Four games for ESPN International in 2013 — a semifinal and the National Championship.
ESPN hoops analyst Jay Bilas will work the other semifinal (not called by Vitale) while Brad Nessler will call play-by-play on all three telecasts. Front Row put together a video retrospective of highlights from Vitale’s career at ESPN.