The nation will soon get to see what Dunk City has in store for its encore.
After making history in its first NCAA tournament appearance by making it all the way to the Sweet 16, Florida Gulf Coast University in partnership with the Atlantic Sun conference will have all home basketball games televised nationally on ESPN3.com.
“The A-Sun started this a couple years ago and now they wanted to expand and this year they expanded to FGCU for obvious reasons,” said Jason MacBain, director of athletics communication.
According to Rick Johnson, general manager of WGCU, the A-Sun reached out to FGCU about six months ago, during the NCAA tournament, about the idea of building a production center inside Alico Arena.
“As we thought about it, we thought it’d be more practical instead of building a control room inside of Alico to buy a trailer or a mobile production unit of some kind that they could use at Alico… baseball, softball field, the swim facilities and other non-athletic events,” Johnson said. “We got a new director of engineering who, for the last two decades, has been in charge of mobile production units. He picked out a truck that was previously used for arena football and had the level of equipment in it that was necessary.”
The next step was to decide who would operate the truck on game day.
“When I got here in early August, the athletics department asked me how we should handle this and I said let’s get the students involved, let’s get the communication school involved,” MacBain said. “That’s how we handled it at St. Bonaventure. I had some past experience with that there. What we did there is very similar to what we’re doing here.”
MacBain spent the previous three years at St. Bonaventure in Olean, N.Y., where he helped create SBU-TV as the first school to own its own production truck.
“We had a professor as a director who had some previous directing experience and then it was a class,” MacBain said. “There’s no set broadcast class here, so I said let’s just let students know about it. I know there are students who want to be involved in TV production one day.”
MacBain hopes that what FGCU is doing will become as successful as it was at St. Bonaventure.
“It was extremely successful at St. Bonaventure,” MacBain said. “The class capped within minutes of opening. There were always people clamoring to get into it. I believe they capped it at 20. It filled up quickly and it’s one of the most popular classes there. It started about three years ago and it’s really gotten some legs behind it.”
FGCU is now the fourth school in the A-Sun to have games broadcast on ESPN3, but will be the first to have its own truck and have the students run it.
But this production will not just be for basketball games. In the near future, MacBain hopes to broadcast soccer, baseball and softball games and even commencement ceremonies.
“It’s phenomenal. It’s not just for basketball. It showcases the entire university through athletics,” MacBain said. “I don’t think there’s a better way to demonstrate that by some of the financial backing for the equipment and the trailer and what we needed came out of the foundation university account through the office of the president. That shows you right there that this is an athletic-based venture but it’s good for the whole university. It’s not going to be just for basketball, soccer and baseball. It will be for a myriad of different sports and commencement ceremonies. It’s an opportunity to showcase FGCU outside the circle of athletics to not only the area but the nation as well.”
As for the journalism program, Johnson sees this as an opportunity for growth and opportunity.
“I think this will help create a higher profile for the journalism program. I think this will help the program grow,” Johnson said.