Syracuse University Promotes Diversity With All-Female Production Team
The production highlights the school’s ‘open-door’ policy, strong ties with alumni
In the sports-video–production industry, Syracuse University ranks among other major collegiate institutions. The university is lauded for its stellar achievements, including once being the home of industry notables Bob Costas, Marv Albert, and Ian Eagle. Today, another feather will go in the school’s cap when an all-female broadcast team, led by on-air talent Beth Mowins (Class of 1990) and Isis Young (2019), produces a Syracuse –. Georgia Tech women’s basketball game on ACC Network Extra.
“[This game] continues to strengthen the reputation that [S.I.] Newhouse [School of Public Communications] has in terms of being strong in the sports-production industry, and that’s both in front of and behind the camera,” says Kristin Hennessey, producer, Syracuse. “It gives the next generation that’s going to go out into the workforce a chance to talk about the incredible experience they had as an undergraduate at the university.”
A No-Brainer: Women’s Basketball Schedule Generates an Idea
Prior circumstances and the right timing made this special event possible. The crew already houses a good number of female staffers at the front bench and in other behind-the-scenes roles, but Hennessey saw an opening in the women’s basketball schedule to pull this off.
“[Laura Bailey, director, Syracuse, and I] were sitting around in the office and talking about scheduling, and we identified that there would be one more non-linear game that I was producing and she was directing,” she says. “We talked about how great it would be to have a female play-by-play announcer and analyst since we already had [an all-female front bench.”
When names started swirling around in the ether, the pair found a mixture of old and new voices.
“I reached out to Isis and Beth, and they immediately responded and said, ‘We’d love to be a part of it,’” she says. “This seemed like an organic opportunity that presented itself, and we saw how we could maximize it.”
This isn’t a first-time occurrence for Syracuse, but adding a marquee name to the on-air talent turned the event into a collaborative experience showcasing the school’s strong ties to its alumni.
“When it comes to famous alumni, Syracuse University, and Newhouse, it doesn’t get much better than [ESPN and CBS sports journalist] Beth Mowins. She has really been a leader for women in sports,” says Hennessey. “For her to come to the university and do something where students are involved in the production, it’s something students can take with them in their professional careers and know this was a one-of-a-kind moment that’s going to define what they go on to do. If they have this experience as a student, who says where they can or can’t go in the future?”
A Steady Backing: Athletics, Academics Give the Green Light
The administration in both the athletic and academic sides at Syracuse have offered their support by promoting the game’s significance. Syracuse University Athletic Director John Wildhack has been an enthusiastic advocate of this and other monumental ideas that the production staff has had during his tenure, which began in July 2016. After a distinguished career at ESPN spanning more than 30 years, the industry veteran is accustomed to innovative projects like this.
“He completely understands the messaging, and we’ve received his fullest support for these kinds of projects that Kristin and I come up with,” says Scott Hecht, senior producer, Syracuse, who also worked at ESPN. “When we presented this to John, he didn’t blink an eye and said, ‘Let’s do this.’”
The university’s academic and marketing teams have joined in to help spread the word. “The university is very excited because they’re doing all sorts of PR work on their own as well to promote it,” Hecht adds. “It’s an initiative they’re very supportive about.”
— ‘Cuse Hoops (@CuseWBB) January 16, 2020
The Day’s Leadup: The Tasks of the 17-Person Staff
Although this is another pivotal moment in raising awareness for equal opportunities in the industry, the crew will have a relatively normal schedule leading up to tipoff. After arriving at the Carrier Dome at 3:30 p.m., the crew will memorialize the night with a group photo on the court. At 6:00 p.m., meetings and rehearsal with the on-air talent will commence, and the broadcast will go live at 7:10 p.m. from the pregame studio before the start of the game at 7:30 p.m.
Besides Mowins and Young on the call, commentators will include feature reporter Michelle Knezovic, host Nicole Weaving (Class of 2020), and analyst Jenna Fink (2021) will be in the studio. Their crew will comprise Newhouse Sports Media Center director Olivia Stomski (2001), producer Mackenzie Pearce (2021), director Maria Trivelpiece (2020), associate director Jenna Elique (2022), technical director Jillian O’Mitchell (2018), and engineer Roxanne Niezabytowski.
In the control room will be Hennessey, Bailey, technical director Ally Heath (2020), associate director Kara Hitt (2020), audio technician Summer Stubbmann (2023), Xpression operator Melissa Thorne, stage manager Samantha Rothman (2020), and Alyssa Lyons (2020).
The Strength of Syracuse: Lasting Memories, More Career Possibilities
Besides the history awaiting this group inside one of the university’s iconic venues, the broadcast will also represent an example for any university student interested in sports-video production.
“We’ve had a lot of success in regard to bringing in women and those who don’t look like the typical sports-broadcast professional,” says Hennessey. “It’s important to bring those people in because the diversity only helps our production. Having a game like this to shine a light on what we’re doing helps the next generation because it opens the door to them by saying, ‘Hey, I can do this, and [a job] like this is obtainable.’”
This show is not only a beacon for potential sports-production professionals but also a testament to the Syracuse staff’s mantra.
“One thing that we have at Syracuse University is an open-door policy,” Hennessey explains. “If you’re interested in participating in sports production, all you have to do is show up. You’ll be able to work alongside professionals, and we’ll train you. It’s all about developing the future.
Even though the game will be a benchmark in the Syracuse history, it’s just another day of showcasing the potential of bright and dedicated students.
“This isn’t a gimmick,” says Hecht. “We’re doing this because the talent on this show is really good, we’re very proud of what we do, and we want to show that off. This is what we do on a daily basis, but we think it’s a big message to get out. We want other broadcasters to see this and maybe start thinking about giving other people opportunities that they never did before.”