In technical terms, Mississippi State’s video department had its landmark first linear broadcast on Wednesday.
In every-man speak, MSU’s video department made history through the magic of fiber and expensive equipment on Wednesday night when the MSU-Ole Miss volleyball game was broadcast nationwide on the SEC Network using only the resources on campus already.
To break that down a bit further, ESPN showed up with nothing but the on-air play-by-play announcers for the game and some of their own personnel to supervise this first national broadcast coming straight out of Starkville. There was no TV truck – previously the only way such a broadcast could be done – no extra equipment, no anything. And any cable or satellite subscriber across America could turn on their television and see a thrilling come-from-behind win for MSU’s volleyball team over its in-state rival.
Broadcasts like this were one of the long-term dreams when the SEC Network was conceived a few years ago, though the realistic expectation was that few schools would have the resources necessary to accomplish these goals. The advantages for ESPN are obvious – they save money by not having to send a truck, not having to send teams of cameramen, producers and the like. Their talent can just show up while MSU takes care of the rest
The boost for MSU – beyond the national exposure for its various programs – is the opportunity to make money as ESPN pays the school for some of the savings they get in the deal. Additionally, it gives students the opportunity to work on big-time broadcasts and get incredible experience without leaving their campus.
Plus, it’s really cool.
Nights like Wednesday were possible for MSU because of the deep investment the athletic department made in its video and broadcast capabilities when planning for the SEC Network. This eventuality was one that those in charge, like Senior Associate A.D. Scott Wetherbee, knew was a possibility early on. In the preliminary stages, MSU’s staff decided to make it a goal.
When that decision was made, MSU’s control room for such broadcasts was still a slightly upgraded version of the room they built to run the Sony Jumbotron at the football stadium when it was installed decades ago. When that initial control room was built, it wasn’t even HD, though it of course got the HD upgrade when the new video boards were built at Davis Wade Stadium.
Now, in the bowels of the expanded north endzone of the stadium, MSU has fleshed out an immensely impressive broadcast hub complete with control room, engineering room and even a replay room, with a second control room on the way soon.
Bennie Ashford is the Assistant A.D. for Video Operations, and this new facility is very much his baby. An expensive, high definition and technologically advanced baby, sure, but a baby nonetheless. His smile Wednesday night was evidence of not only the work put in, but the quality of the product going through fiber from MSU’s volleyball court to Davis Wade Stadium to SEC Network headquarters in Charlotte and then out into the world, with not even a second of visible delay.
“I’m a Mississippi State guy, and I know that we don’t always have the financial resources that some do,” Ashford said. “But this is on par with the absolute best.”
Excitement for the night in the control room, while much quieter than the crowd for the game they were broadcasting, was still palpable. MSU staff and ESPN staff shared in the anticipation, running myriad machines and screens and cameras as the countdown began. ESPN sent one of their best producers down to run the show as a means of marking the occasion. With seconds left on the clock before the show began, she happily offered encouragement to the entire team of students and professionals about to make quiet history in a dark room in MSU’s football stadium.
“Have a good show everybody – have fun!”