After 25 Years, ESPN Stays True to Jimmy V’s Mission With Classic at MSG
Doubleheader with No. 12 Texas Tech-No. 2 Louisville and Indiana-UConn takes place tonight
One year after Jim Valvano’s inspirational speech and untimely death, ESPN launched an annual basketball showcase in 1994 to honor his life, legacy, and constant support for those suffering from cancer. The network’s commitment to the late coach is still strong and continues with tonight’s 25th Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden. The coverage will feature two C360 cameras (with a standalone camera feed on ESPN3), an onsite edition of College GameDay, and extracurricular content that will tug at the heartstrings.
“It’s a special project at ESPN, and it truly takes a dedicated team,” says Erin Orr, remote operations manager, ESPN. “We have numerous people throughout different departments that make the overall project successful.”
The Technological Push: C360 Gets Top Billing
Heading the list of technology deployed is the C360, a camera system that allows up to 180 degrees of coverage. As a new addition to the game, one of the robotic cameras will be located beneath each basket, providing both live and enhanced replay shots.
“All action in view will be available for documentation,” notes Doug Holmes, director, ESPN. “Recordings can be manipulated immediately after the fact to show what needs to be shown with full control of framing throughout.”
These angles will be incorporated into the main telecast on ESPN, but, for those who have come accustomed to ESPN’s alternative viewing options, ESPN3 will host a dedicated game feed derived from the two C360 cameras.
Inside Game Creek’s Madison truck, Eric Mosley, producer, ESPN, and approximately 75 other crew members will control two above-the-rim cameras, six Marshall POVs, and a mid-court handheld, along with the typical camera complement.
The Appetizer: College GameDay Sprinkles Final Touches Before Tipoff
As in 2018, College GameDay is making the trip to the Big Apple for the special night. The on-air team of host Rece Davis and analysts Jay Bilas, LaPhonso Ellis, and Seth Greenberg will set the table 30 minutes before tipoff and provide news and analysis between games.
Orr and the crew working the games are hosting the College GameDay crew within the Game Creek Madison truck.
“It was a combined effort to supply help for each broadcast,” she says. “The truck will be busy, but communicating in advance and throughout the day will make transitions seamless. Our relationship with GameDay is important to us. Therefore, we work hard together to ensure each group’s needs are met and executed to the best of our abilities.”
A Survivor Story: Special Wrap-Around Content
The Jimmy V Classic is sometimes known for the intriguing matchups on the floor, but it’s known mostly for the heart-wrenching segments produced by ESPN’s features team.
This year’s docket will offer a monologue about pediatric-cancer awareness from ESPN pioneer and Valvano’s friend Dick Vitale (a Jimmy V Classic staple) and messages from the players and coaches of all four participating teams.
On a more personal level, fans will learn about the journey of two current college basketball players who have dealt with cancer firsthand. University of Texas Men’s Basketball redshirt sophomore Andrew Jones, a recent survivor of leukemia, and Syracuse University Women’s Basketball senior Tiana Mangakahi, a recent survivor of breast cancer, will tell their stories of hardship and eventual recovery.
Out in Storrs: No. 4 UConn Hosts No. 15 Notre Dame for Women’s Game
Following last year’s showdown in South Bend, IN, the Fighting Irish traveled to the Northeast last Sunday to face the Huskies at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, CT. The 81-57 UConn victory was showered with notable bits and pieces as well. With Game Creek’s 94 production truck parked in front of Gampel, nearly 40 onsite staffers (led by Kerry Callahan, producer, ESPN) operated the standard five-hard-camera setup. Six Marshall POVs were distributed around the arena.
As is planned for tonight’s doubleheader, the game also included a good amount of off-the-court material. Also promoting cancer research, the women’s game featured a vignette of former ESPN anchor and current Good Morning America personality Robin Roberts and her courageous defeat over her illness.
On the floor, legendary Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw joined a long list of familiar names (Magic Johnson, Damian Lillard, Victor Cruz, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Anna Wintour, Kim Kardashian West, Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Carli Lloyd, and Alex Morgan) in the Kicks To Beat Cancer campaign. Drawing on the love of sneakers, authentic merchandise, and, more important, the search for a cure for cancer, the game-worn and autographed shoes are being auctioned on eBay with proceeds benefiting the V Foundation for Cancer Research.
A Network-Wide Affair: Other Properties Promote Cancer Research
In addition to the coverage of tonight’s Classic, ESPN has involved other members of its family during V Week leading up to this year’s contests.
On Wednesday, Dec. 4, “Stuart Scott Day” was declared to pay homage to a network stalwart and a dear friend who fought valiantly against cancer. ESPN’s family of channels offered Scott’s colleagues recalling his character, love for life, and courageous attitude during the toughest fight of his life.
On the same night, ESPN followed its yearly tradition of airing Valvano’s famous ESPY speech in its entirety over its airwaves. At 7 p.m. ET, the 15 minutes of airtime was played simultaneously on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, ESPN Classic, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes, ACC Network, SEC Network, Longhorn Network, ESPN Radio, the ESPN App, and ESPN.com. A captioned version ran on the ABC SuperSign in Times Square, HearstLive, and the New York City Disney Store and within Disney Resorts. The speech will be shown once again during tonight’s doubleheader.
On Saturday, Dec. 7, the UFC played its part in remembering Scott and his ties to mixed martial arts by promoting the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund and showing Scott-related content.
On Saturday, Dec. 14, another ESPN fighting property, Top Rank, has titled its card “Ring the Bell to Knock Out Cancer” Night. Sounded at the end of each round, the bell has become symbolic as the joyful end to a cancer survivor’s fight.
Laugh, Think, Cry: Keeping Jimmy V at the Heart of the Message
Last year, V Week raised $8.3 million, an 83% increase from 2017. With tonight’s festivities and another four days to go, ESPN has room to improve on that. And, despite the advent of new technologies and the ever-changing landscape of college basketball, the core statement has remained the same over the event’s 25-year history.
“We laugh, we think, and we take pride in what we do,” says Orr, referencing Valvano’s speech. “The work of each person enables us to turn on our TVs and realize we are bringing awareness to an important cause, through the love of college basketball, for Jim Valvano and for those whose lives have been changed and/or saved with the help of The V Foundation.”