Posted: 11:38 pm Saturday, February 1st, 2014

Tech hustled for Tech-UNC online broacast 

By Ken Sugiura

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, college basketball, ACC, North Carolina Tar Heels

As Atlanta recovered from a snowstorm that wreaked havoc across the region, North Carolina thrashed Georgia Tech 78-65 at McCammish Pavilion in Atlanta. (John Amis / AP)

Due to the game being canceled for cable telecast, the online broadcast of Wednesday’s Georgia Tech-North Carolina set a viewership record for a school-produced event on ESPN3, ESPN’s online outlet.

But the more remarkable part was that, on that icy day, the game was witnessed at all by anyone outside of McCamish Pavilion.

Like the rest of metro Atlanta, several Tech athletic department staff members were trapped by the ice. Most of the basketball staff slept overnight at the school Tuesday night, which is why everyone but coach Brian Gregory was dressed for the game in sweats. Sports information director Dean Buchan got stuck on I-285 and didn’t get home until late Wednesday morning, a 12-mile trip that took 19 hours.

The travel difficulties led to a day-long scramble to assemble enough game operations staff. When the day began,  video operations director Andy Blanton was simply trying to make sure some sort of graphic could be run on the center-court video board. By game time, he was coordinating the in-house video and audio while sending the camera and audio feed to ESPN, running the show with the aid of three computers from his home in Paulding County, 26 miles away from Tech.

“I think probably what was most surreal was to be in constant contact with ESPN throughout the whole ordeal and the broadcast and to continuously receive just overwhelmingly positive feedback from their executives from their college basketball department,” Blanton said.

Wednesday was a day-long scramble for Blanton, as he was in constant contact with ESPN and Tech staff to see what could be done to put together some sort of broadcast. He first hoped he might have one camera operator for the center-court angle, just to have video for Brian Gregory coach’s show. He found one cameraman when he called a crew member who was first planning to shoot the Hawks game but became free after it was cancelled. He reached another who was shopping at Publix. Blanton’s appeal caused him to put his groceries back and head to McCamish Pavilion.

Sports medicine staffers volunteered to run the LED ribbon board. A colleague with Fellowship of Christian Athletes was recruited to run the public-address system and arena music. A member of Tech’s compliance department offered to operate one of the cameras.

“It was fun,” Blanton said. “The adrenaline kept us going through it.”

ESPN canceled the ESPN2 broadcast but was eager to take Tech’s in-house production for ESPN3. (Tech produces ESPN3 broadcasts for several of its nonconference basketball home games.) Tech voice Brandon Gaudin, who himself was without analyst Randy Waters and producer Miller Pope, provided the play-by-play.

At 5 p.m., two hours before tipoff, Blanton gave his volunteers a quick primer on their tasks via videophone. For an ESPN game, Blanton would normally have about 20 crew members for the network and also for in-house production. Wednesday, he had six. They pulled it off.

“It thrills me to see my folks that I work with go the extra mile,” Blanton said. “I work with a lot of really good people who care about Georgia Tech.”

11 comments
tripleoption3
tripleoption3

congrats for pulling that off, job well done even though GT did not win.  To add further, I normally do not have time or at home  to watch the local tv news at 6 which is not in either GA or NC but because the Atlanta weather was the big story they also added that efforts were being made to broadcast the GT-UNC game on ESPN3.  Amazing how the word got out that fast considering you guys were scrambling to pull it off.

FBYJ
FBYJ

Congratulations to the crew for pulling off a great job.  I had heard the broadcast of the game was cancelled, but my son called from South Carolina to tell me he was watching in there on ESPN3.  Since he's a Tar Heel fan, he was obviously pleased with the outcome of the game.  While I was disappointed by the outcome, I totally appreciate the effort of the production "mini-crew" to get this game on the air.  Just goes to show what a little Tech ingenuity can do!

crackbaby
crackbaby

Great Story, Ken.  Amazing that Blanton could pull it off remotely from Paulding Co.


ACC was very clear on its rules for holding games.  If the teams and officials could get there safely, they would play.  Listening to the stream, it sounded like plenty of UNC fans were able to get to McCamish.


Tech just wasn't ready to play.  Maybe more to do with the coaches than the players.

KenAJC
KenAJC moderator

Super - i don't know, but if I had to guess, ESPN couldn't be sure the broadcast would be up to the standards that it holds for cable broadcasts, even in terms of things like graphics.

SupersizeThatOrder-mutt
SupersizeThatOrder-mutt

I too think the game should have been rescheduled.  I realize that was out of Tech's hands, so that makes what they did even more remarkable.....other than, of course, not winning the game....LOL  Since they were able to do this, and since ESPN2 was originally scheduled to carry it, I have to wonder why ESPN2 didn't just pick up the feed and transmit it, rather than it having to go on ESPN3.  Does anybody have an explanation for this?

Oakland
Oakland

I appreciate the effort, but the game should have been postponed. I realize the North Carolina team was already in Atlanta, but the ACC needs to be flexible with their rules. The Georgia governor (who might be further up the food chain than a college AD) had declared a state of emergency. That should mean something to the Tech AD and the ACC. Good for Tech for making some amends by offering credit toward other tickets. However, a lot of fans missed out due to the ACC rule. Tech missed out by losing a large crowd, something the program needs. Again thanks for the effort and getting the job done.

TechFanSince1950
TechFanSince1950

"TechVideo" was created in the 1980's during a time when Tech did not own a broadcast camera, etc. to promote the institute, athletics, research, etc. Obviously the original concept and organization has changed and mushroomed for the better.  Congratulations to Andy Blanton and the paid/volunteering crew. As some folks once said on the Flats, "The Legend Lives."

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

The folks at Tech are problem solvers and dedicated! Good job! Watched the second half. Did a great job. Maybe the broadcast was better than the usual " the announcers over state "  and pat themselves on their back one. At least the worship on NC was kept in control. Too bad the NC biased refs could have been stranded before hand!

YellowJacketFan
YellowJacketFan

I really appreciate all the hard work so those of us stuck at home could watch. Thank you.

BearCasey
BearCasey

Great story.  Gaudin was excellent.  Didn't like the outcome of the game but I sure appreciate the effort. "This is Georgia Tech, you can do that!"  LOL

SupersizeThatOrder-mutt
SupersizeThatOrder-mutt

@KenAJC  

You are probably right about that, but in hindsight, since they had another one as a backup, maybe they should have at least tried to go with the game on ESPN2 and then break away if it didn't turn out good.  Interesting that it set a viewership record for a  school-produced event.  That makes Tech look pretty good in spite of the loss