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Drake men’s basketball spotlights behind-the-scenes scoreboard crew

photo of Chris Hansen shooting game footage
First-year journalism student Chris Hansen shoots game footage from floor.

Drake University’s student-run scoreboard crew is on a winning streak this season providing fans with exciting game footage, up-to-date graphics and online video streaming of the nation’s 15th ranked men’s basketball team.

“We feel like we are part of the team,” said David Wright, associate dean and associate professor of journalism. “We bleed blue in the crew.”

The collaborative effort between Athletics and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication was born at the beginning of the 2006 football season. Since then the project has grown immensely with the installation of new video scoreboards in the Drake Knapp Center in January 2006.

“Our workload has increased dramatically. It’s pretty extensive,” Wright added. ” Our crew has grown from three to six students for every game.”

The crew has worked all men’s and women’s home basketball games this season, as well as football, soccer, volleyball and track events.

Students execute the plans, produce game footage, replays and crowd shots for the scoreboards and concession stand screens, as well as video streaming for the Drake Athletics Web site.

photo of Eric Michel directing scoreboard crew at men's basketball game
Student director Eric Michel manages video feed from four cameras, video playbacks, steaming video and communicates with members of the scoreboard crew.

“We are having record numbers of people watching us on the Internet this year as well,” said the crew’s student director Eric Michel, a senior from Chicago. “You definitely approach the games differently knowing that several thousand are watching you here, and hundreds more all over the country, but that makes it all the more exciting.”

Wright said the biggest surprise is how many people, including professional production crews, come up and say, “You look as good as anything out there we see in sports production.”

As the overall producer, Wright trains students as if they were working for a network, drawing from his background as a live sports director for the San Antonio Spurs and telecast director at the University of Iowa.

He works the games alongside the crew, and is there to trouble shoot if there are problems. “I am there to help, but I want the students doing the work to let them get this incredible experience.”

“It is very unusual that we are able to do this,” Wright said. “When Athletic Director Sandy Hatfield Clubb and Athletics said they wanted to use students as much as possible, the stars really aligned for us.”

“The sports video product that has been created by the students involved in this collaboration is outstanding and of the highest professional quality,” Clubb said. “The talent and creativity of the scoreboard crew has significantly contributed to the revived environment in the Knapp Center.”

The crew works closely with Athletics before and during each game to organize the event.

“There is a lot of behind-the-scenes planning and preparation that goes into this to make sure everything is in place,” Wright said.

The crew begins four hours before each game, setting up the equipment and checking cameras. Students start shooting streaming video about a half hour before the game.

During the game the students are in constant communication through headsets. Wright said the sellout games have presented a challenge for the crew with increased new noise levels. “This year, we’re having trouble hearing each other, so we just have to trust each other.”

Michel said one of the biggest challenges for the crew is staying focused amidst the excitement of the game. “The better the teams perform and the more raucous the Knapp Center gets, it becomes very easy to get caught up in the commotion and lose focus.”

“We try to have a lot of our work planned out,” Wright said, “but sometimes we have to make adjustments, but that is half the fun.”