Athletic Departments Jump at Football Exposure on National Signing Day
Over the years, National Signing Day has meant different things to athletic departments. Sure, schools like Alabama and UCLA can brag about their top-ranked talent, but, for many, Signing Day coverage is about a whole lot more than just the names of soon-to-be freshmen. With the advent of digital video production, Signing Day is another opportunity to capitalize on the juggernaut that is football. That’s why loads of collegiate programs across the country offered live National Signing Day shows on Wednesday.
“It’s great exposure for our football program, that’s for sure, and it keeps football fresh in everybody’s mind,” says Chad Lampman, executive director, Blue Devil Network, Duke University, which produced a block of Signing Day coverage distributed over ESPN’s digital platform, ESPN3. “It also serves as a recap and a celebration of the season. The college football season ends so abruptly, it feels like, and, for most universities, you’re on to the next thing. It’s just a great chance to look at the past, analyze the present, and look to the future and keep the excitement going.”
Signing Day coverage at the athletic-department level is growing in popularity. It was only three years ago that Lampman was a one-man band at Duke, producing a modest Signing Day show from head coach David Cutcliffe’s office with a Panasonic AG-HPX170 camera, a laptop, and a small mixer and running commercial breaks from a small P2 deck at his side. On Wednesday, though, he used the department’s new 24-ft, production trailer and a crew of 10 to produce a five-camera shoot featuring high-end, ESPN-built graphics and preproduced feature segments.
Even football programs outside the top schools have begun building video programming surrounding Signing Day. In fact, this year, West Long Branch, NJ-based Monmouth University became the first Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) school to air live Signing Day coverage on ESPN3.
The three-camera shoot used the department’s new 22-ft. custom-built trailer that the university just invested in to launch the school’s new relationship with ESPN3. Much like at Duke, Monmouth’s video team ran fiber from the trailer into the athletic department’s Hall of Fame, where a press conference was hosted for media, boosters, and other members of the university community.
Under the guidance of Greg Viscomi, assistant athletics director for communications and new media, Monmouth Athletics has been producing live events for its own Monmouth Digital Network, but it has been a growth process, and the ESPN3 relationship certainly kicks things up a notch. Admittedly an SID by trade, Viscomi has learned a lot of video production on the fly but relishes the opportunities that an event like this provides for the program.
“I’m the football SID, so I have an intrinsic motivation there,” laughs Viscomi. “It’s an opportunity to show that we can produce something that’s not just a live game, and it’s a great recruiting tool for the school. The kids are really excited, and it’s a good way to get Monmouth football out there. Sure, it’s not as big as what the SEC schools do, obviously, but we’re an FCS program, and, for us to have an hour-and-15-minute-long Signing Day show is a unique opportunity for us.”
Signing Day production is a challenge simply because it comes at such a crowded time in the year for athletic departments. For some, there’s a crossover between winter and spring sports. Video departments, however, have understood how to build a show that’s appropriate in scale while still capitalizing on the chance to showcase what is likely their biggest program.
“Know what you can handle and don’t bite off more than you can chew,” Lampman advises. “Our show has gotten bigger and bigger every year, but our personnel [roster] has also gotten bigger. Fans are starved for content, and they’ll take what you can give them, especially when it comes to football. Sure, you want to put together a nice production, but you can do a good production without overdoing it and killing yourself.”