College Football Kickoff 2023: In a First, ACC Network Takes Studio Show, ACC Huddle, On the Road Every Week
Pregame studio show visits three campuses on opening weekend alone
Entering its fifth season, the ACC Network will tackle the new season of college football in a way it never has before: by taking its flagship studio shows on the road.
ACCN’s Saturday studio show, ACC Huddle, and its weekday afternoon show, ACC PM, will both travel to campuses each week, with ACC Huddle accompanying the network’s Saturday Primetime game all season.
“When you look at the arc of the network, there’s a maturation that has to take place and this is the next step in the maturation,” says coordinating producer Mike Cambareri, a more than 30-year veteran of ESPN who just came over to ACC Network in August following a long run on NFL properties for the Worldwide Leader. “How do you better capture the energy of a college environment than being there on game day? “We’ve got a season where we have already a couple of top 10 teams to talk about so, to me, it just adds to the energy. We’re looking forward to being on campus and tapping into the traditions of the schools and just the overall energy of the place.”
To mark the occasion, both shows will actually visit four cities in just five days over this extended Week 1 weekend. On Thursday, both programs are in Winston-Salem for Elon at Wake Forest. On Friday, ACC PM stops in Blacksburg before ACC Huddle also arrives there on Saturday for Old Dominion at Virginia Teach. On Sunday, it’s off to Orlando to lead up to Week 1’s biggest matchup: No. 8 Florida State vs. No. 5 LSU (which will air on Primetime on ABC). The road trip concludes on Monday, as both shows stop in Durham, North Carolina for No. 9 Clemson at Duke.
ACC Huddle plans to visit Tallahassee, Florida in Week 2 and Clemson in Week 3, with future dates to be announced as the season progresses.
A crew of about 60 people (including talent, ESPN staff, and local technical freelancers) will put work into ACC Network’s traveling shows each week. It’s a GREMI-style effort that does travel a truck to site (Live Mobile Group’s Sophie) but utilizes some graphics and playback staff and solutions from ESPN’s Bristol campus. The set is captured by three cameras on set (two hard cameras and a jib), as well as a handheld on the field and a high/wide camera for bumps and atmosphere.
This Saturday’s ACC Huddle show at Blacksburg will be led by producer Dan Presser and director Laura Shaw. Other producers who will play a role in leading the show throughout the campaign include Claire Atkins, Cody Fuentes, Bryan Ives, and David Sobieraj.
Along with VP, Production at ACC Network Michael Shiffman, the ACCN crew behind the scenes working on campuses this season are Coordinating Director Howie Lutt, Production Coordinators Amanda Braunlich and Andrea White, and a rotating operations squad of Kevin Hendel, Doug Tutt, Matthew Pecarovich, Joalin Goff, and Madison Haynes.
Associate Producers supporting the GREMI workflow back in Bristol are Mike Knittle, Chris Tyndall, Liam Beatus, and John Zorzi, alongside an operations group of Steve Widuch and Paul Leonard.
The ESPN Family is, of course, no stranger to traveling studio shows on college football Saturdays. SEC Network has sent SEC Nation out to campuses for many years and there’s the G.O.A.T. of sports roadshows, College Gameday. So, there’s plenty of experience and intelligence to pull from inside the four walls, but what’s worth taking and what’s worth remaking all their own?
“We take so much from how [College Gameday and SEC Nation] orchestrate their shows,” says Cambareri. “Experience is our best teacher, but as far as taking the show on the road with this conference, we’re still in our infancy. From our standpoint, we want to really lean into the schools and the vibe that’s there, and really tell stories about the school traditions. It will be a mix of things and we’ll find our way. Trying to lean into fans is great, but it takes a while to draw a crowd. Even when [College Gameday] started, it wasn’t that the amount of people we see out there every single week. It takes time to develop that. But I think we have a crew that’s really passionate about the conference and about the sport that will tap into that. I also think we have fanbases at these ACC schools that are rabid and as interested in football as any other conference.”