24th Annual Jimmy V Classic Tests ESPN’s GameDay Workflow

Annual tournament highlights logistical flexibility, committed fight against cancer

College basketball returned to Madison Square Garden Tuesday night for the 2018 Jimmy V Classic. In this annual fixture of hardcore hoops, cancer awareness, and remembrance, ESPN shed light on all three facets of the night.

The 2018 Jimmy V Classic combined the passion for basketball and awareness of cancer research.

“The Jimmy V brand is extremely important to us,” said Erin Orr, manager, remote operations, ESPN, before Tuesday’s production. “We’re going to do everything we can to make it feel big, show the importance, and show how excited we are to be there.”

Orr and her team were well-prepped for production of the Notre Dame–Oklahoma and West Virginia–Florida matchups, but dealing with the jam-packed schedule at Madison Square Garden posed special challenges. With the New York Knicks playing host to the Washington Wizards at 7:30 p.m. on Monday night, the production and operations teams had less than 24 hours to make sure that everything was running smoothly before they hit the air.

“Because of the Knicks game, they’ll have to change out the court,” Orr said. “That won’t get done until 8 in the morning on the day of our games. We also can’t get into the venue to set anything up, so we’re having a half-set day in the truck [on the day before].”

In addition to two games in one night, the schedule got even busier with College GameDay starting 30 minutes before tip-off as well as halftime shows during intermission of each game. To expedite the preplanning process, the network hosted both crews inside Game Creek Video’s Spirit mobile production unit. It was a combined effort to supply help for each broadcast.

Game Creek Video’s Spirit mobile production unit housed the ESPN crew outside Madison Square Garden.

“There’s a lot of interaction going on within our truck,” said Orr. “We’ll have the game crew covering some of the GameDay coverage, and people will be swapping out. It’ll be a chaotic but fun time.”

The Onsite Tech
Despite the quick turnaround at MSG, one factor was working in ESPN’s favor: the network used the Knicks’ existing resources inside the arena, including Fletcher above-the-rim cameras remaining from the Knicks game the night before.

The rest of the equipment was similar to last year’s iteration. Four hard cameras, three handheld cameras, and a Steadicam were deployed for game coverage.

On Sunday night, the women’s-basketball version of the event took place in South Bend, IN, between Notre Dame and the UConn Huskies. “The Jimmy V Women’s Classic is a big game for us as well,” said Orr. “We don’t take that one lightly.”

The multicamera setup included a Steadicam system for on-court shots.

The equipment reflected that sentiment, with the addition of five cameras (three Marshall POVs and two standard cameras, one having super-slo-mo capability) to the normal camera complement of a women’s game. ESPN added two EVS replay servers as well.

Although the yearly gathering was an early-season test for the squads involved, the main purpose was to memorialize the event’s namesake, legendary coach and broadcaster Jim Valvano, and pay tribute to individuals fighting the disease.

“The goal is not only to honor Jim Valvano’s legacy but to take this opportunity to drive home his inspirational message to raise money for cancer research, all while balancing the proper documentation of two very good college basketball games,” said Eric Mosley, producer II, ESPN, who was at the head for both matchups. “Our main focus now is to showcase the continued growth of the V Foundation and how many lives have been changed and/or saved because our viewers have donated to the cause.”

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