University of Miami Airs Coach’s Pregame Speech Live Online
Last Saturday, the University of Miami took advantage of a date with the North Carolina Tar Heels on ESPN to give its fans the unique opportunity to watch live — on the school’s digital platform U TV Live — the speech that basketball head coach Jim Larranaga gave his team inside the team locker room prior to tipoff.
“I’ve done thousands of shows, but I don’t think I’ve ever done anything like this,” says Mitch Rubenstein, president/co-founder at Mobile Content Providers (MCP), the production company that executed the broadcast. “This is what you dream of: having this type of access to something live. Anything you can have where you can take the fans somewhere they wouldn’t normally get. That’s a credit to Coach Larranaga and the University of Miami for wanting to grant that type of access to their fans.”
Few teams in NCAA men’s-basketball history have enjoyed such a meteoric rise to prominence as this year’s Miami Hurricanes. Ranked No. 3 in the latest AP Poll — the highest ranking in program history — Miami is just the sixth school to ascend from unranked to the top five in four weeks or less since the AP Top 25 began in 1989.
For a school known primarily as a “football school,” the staff within the Hurricanes Athletics Department is looking to capitalize on the basketball program’s sudden burst of popularity among the school’s student and alumni base.
“We’re a unique brand,” says Chris Freet, assistant athletics director for communications and marketing. “We’re a small private school, and the perception is that we’re a large, public school. Our students come from all over the country so, when they graduate, they spread out all over. For us to reach our alums, a lot of it is through the TV. With our hoops team [nationally ranked], I think this [was] a chance for us to show Coach Larranaga and his team in a really transparent fashion and bring our fans closer into that program. The goal is to have alums in, say, California locked in and watching for a few hours.”
The idea to broadcast a pregame speech live had been running through Freet’s head for some time. The combination of unprecedented success and a coach willing to grant the access finally made it possible. After approval from both Larranaga and Miami Athletics Director Blake James, the project was a go.
With ESPN owning the rights to the broadcast window of the game, the crew at hurricanesports.com streamed the 30-minute pregame show live on U TV Live’s native NeuLion player. At 2 p.m. ET, the video code was changed to the embedded ESPN3 player, which streamed live coverage of the game from ESPN. Following the Hurricanes’ win over the Tar Heels, the coding was switched back, and U TV Live broadcast a live postgame show, including press conferences and player interviews.
Miami entrusted MCP to handle the show. The company already runs the in-venue video-board productions during games, and its Mercedes-Benz 2500 Sprinter Van has been used on numerous broadcasts for ESPNU, ESPN3, and local Fox Sports affiliates.
A crew of eight, including camera operators, executed the broadcast through the use of 750-ft. fiber runs from the truck into the BankUnited Center to set up six drops: outside the Miami locker-room area; inside the Miami locker room; on the court by the student section (where the pregame show hosts were positioned); the press-conference room; and two up top with the primary game cameras to shoot plays for the postgame show.
To capture Larranaga’s pregame speech, MCP ran a boom mic from the locker room back into the truck through its Beringer 32-channel audio board. The entire show was captured on Panasonic APX-500 cameras with stick microphones hooked directly into the cameras.
“It’s not overly complicated on the technical setup of it; you just have to know the building very well,” says Rubenstein. “We have a lot of guys who know it and can get a lot done in a small period of time.”
MCP’s sprinter van is built around Ross Video’s Carbonite switcher and also uses the Ross Video Xpression graphics engine, which allows Miami to download ESPN3’s graphics package to more closely align the broadcast with ESPN.
Larranaga has been a proponent of granting inside access to his teams for recruiting purposes, even dating back to his time at George Mason, when he took the Patriots on a historical Final Four run in 2006. In a time when behind-the-scenes access is becoming more prominent in sports television, Miami has pushed the bar even higher.
“I think that other teams and coaches in all of sports, professional and college, can learn from this,” says Rubenstein. “Providing this type of access doesn’t affect how you come out and perform in your games. All it does is engage the fans even more and helps you build your brand more. It’s a great experience for the fans, and, at the end of the day, that’s what you do this for.”