Auburn University becomes first SEC school to offer degree in sports production

Published: September 18, 2020
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This fall, the School of Communication and Journalism in Auburn University’s College of Liberal Arts launched a sports production track within the journalism major, the first of its kind in the Southeastern Conference.

The school originally began offering sports production elective courses in 2014, when it created a partnership with Auburn Athletics’ War Eagle Productions as the SEC Network began broadcasting. Since then, War Eagle Productions has delivered more than 350 live events per year, ranging from in-venue video boards, such as the Jumbotron in Jordan-Hare Stadium, to ESPN and SEC Network productions.

A degree in sports production is geared toward students who love collegiate and professional sports and want to be part of the production teams who deliver live sporting events to the world’s homes and mobile devices.

“The school collaborates with War Eagle Productions in order for our students to apply the knowledge gained through their coursework in a real-world live sports production setting,” said Jennifer Adams, director of the School of Communication and Journalism. “A wonderful benefit of this partnership is that our students are able to network with broadcast industry professionals from the major television networks, who are on campus for athletic events.”

The school created the major with the goal of diversifying the sports production industry in terms of race and gender.

“There is a real need in the sports industry, which has historically been a white, male-dominated field, for minorities and women to be represented, particularly in leadership positions,” Adams said.

Some of the courses offered include Sports Video Production, Control Room Operations, News and Sports Announcing, Sports Media Management, Live Sports Producing and Sports Storytelling. Students learn how to shoot and edit content, such as soundbite packages, game highlights, teases and features.

Students who work in the War Eagle Productions’ control room learn the various equipment and positions associated with a live broadcast. Through their applied coursework, students are given the opportunity to learn the producer and director positions for studio and remote sports shows.

In the News and Sports Announcing course, students practice announcing in Jordan-Hare Stadium, as well as working in pairs to serve as play-by-play announcers and color analysts for a live sports event. The News and Sports Announcing class is taught by Ric Smith, who is a senior lecturer in the School of Communication and Journalism and the voice of Jordan-Hare Stadium. 

Smith is also the stadium announcer for the SEC Football Championship and the SEC Baseball Tournament. Smith has a long history in television and radio broadcasting. In addition, he worked at the 1996 Olympic Summer Games in Atlanta, the 2000 Olympic Summer Games in Sydney, Australia, the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City and the 2004 Olympic Summer Games in Athens, Greece.

“The work we do in classroom and lab settings is essential,” Smith said. “So is the practical, hands-on work we do in the field. Our students have the opportunity to develop and apply their skills in pressure-packed, live-event situations. They work side by side with industry professionals producing sports content that is viewed by a national audience.”

The sports production field has grown in recent years with the launch of new networks, such as the SEC and ACC Networks, and the many regional sports networks that hold the local rights to various NBA, WNBA, NHL and MLB games. Professional sports teams and university athletic departments likewise seek experienced production employees to staff their in-house production departments, such as Atlanta Braves’ “BravesVision” or the Atlanta Hawks’ “Hawks Studios.”

Andrew Young is a lecturer in the school and teaches the sports production and producing classes. In 2004, Young established the video department at the University of Illinois Athletics where he helped launch the Big Ten Network. In 2014, Young came to Auburn and began War Eagle Productions, subsequently helping to launch the SEC Network. His previous work experiences include ESPN, the New York Mets, ABC News, ABC Sports, and HuskerVision at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Auburn’s reputation for training high-quality students in live sports production has only increased as students graduate with professional-level skill sets.

“Our students have gone on to internships and full-time jobs at networks such as ESPN, the SEC Network and Turner Sports,” Young said. “The demand for live sports is only continuing to grow, and Auburn students are graduating with the knowledge and experience that make them uniquely qualified to succeed in this field.”

For more information on the sports production major, visit aub.ie/JRSP.

 

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.