Communication Department Offers Sports Media Production Concentration

by Shannon Gleba & Nicole Rodriguez, Copy Editor & Staff Writer

This semester, the communication department at Manhattan College began offering a new sports media production concentration after the college committed to an initiative through ESPN.

In 2016, Disney ESPN started developing an app called ESPN Plus that would provide access to sports programming for those who subscribe for a fee each month. ESPN contacted Division 1 colleges and asked them to provide content for the app, including schools in the Metro Atlantic Academic Conference (MAAC).

“Here at the MAAC, the MAAC said sure and went to the 11 [college] presidents and all the presidents said sure. Once the deal was set, all the 11 colleges had to figure out how they are going to meet the terms of this initiative. The Provost contacted our department about it and we had a meeting back in November 2016. He asked [the communication department] if we wanted to get involved and that’s where it started,” said Thom Gencarelli, Ph.D., founding chair of the communication department.

As a result, the communication department began offering a concentration in sports media production for communication students to study during their time at MC. This new concentration is one of five that students may pick. Students who choose to concentrate in sports media production will participate in the production of basketball games at the college.

“What the concentration entails is that the students in the concentration will be serving as crew to produce all this programming, all these games. They have to be able to do that starting in November of 2019,” said Gencarelli.

Last year, MC produced five games for ESPN Plus, and that number is expected to grow over the upcoming years.

“This year we’re doing more. As of next year, we’re supposed to be doing all men’s and women’s home basketball games,” said Gencarelli.

As the program grows, Gencarelli hopes MC will expand coverage into other sports besides basketball, and into other programming at the college, including producing the recording of the annual commencement ceremony.

“From what I understand, the provision of all men’s and women’s home basketball games next year is just really the beginning for what is expected by Disney ESPN that we are going to expand into other sports and different kinds of programming beyond just streaming the games,” said Gencarelli.

The sports media production concentration, like the four other offered, will require enrolled students to take five applicable classes. Gencarelli was able to fully describe the courses required by the department for students in the concentration.

“The introductory class is about understanding the sports media entertainment complex, sports media as a business, what the opportunities will be to the extent that we can look forward and see them. The second class is again in the truck learning the ropes of what is really the studio and a trailer, a remote  production studio and then learning the components of what it really takes to produce a basketball game first.”

He continued.

“We’re offering a sports media performance class that they can take at the same time that they’re taking that class or they can take it later, but we know that some people will want to try to call the games and do play by play and color analysis,” said Gencarelli.

Assistant Professor Michael Plugh, Ph.D. is teaching the introductory course to sports media this semester.

“It’s important to us as members of the School of Liberal Arts to offer a background in theory and history and ways of thinking of things from a sociological point of view for example. I’ve undertaken that as part of the early introduction for students even though these students may not be in that pipeline. In theory the students who enter the pipeline will begin with a strong foundation in what role sports play in society and how we filter other aspects of society through the experience of sports,” said Plugh.

In addition to the students enrolled in courses that lead to the concentration, other communication students will also be able to get involved.

“We’re going to allow some of the 60+ students taking Intro to Mass Comm this semester to take the sports media production class that will be taught in the mobile production unit in the spring. That is the preliminary course where they learn what they have to do to produce the games. In this following fall semester under a producer director, who we have not yet hired, will be in charge of the production. In the advanced class, they’ll actually be producing the games,” said Gencarelli.

While both Plugh and Gencarelli understand that sports media production is a hard field to enter, they believe MC students will be well prepared after graduation.

“It’s a very challenging concentration for the school to have in some respects because the job market is really uncertain so students are taking a bit of a gamble if you enter into the concentration as to what kind of work they’ll be guaranteed to see for them. That said, if we do things right, sports media will not go away and it’ll always be increasing, growing and changing and so as long as we’re keeping our eye on the trends in the job industry, we can probably offer something pretty cutting edge to students,” said Plugh.

Likewise, Gencarelli is confident in the department’s new program. Gencarelli described the research that he and Katilin Scheie, administrative assistant in the communication department, did during the summer of 2017 in order to prepare for the sports media production concentration.

“Today there is no one doing what we’re doing so it’s pretty innovative in that regard. Just like we built this whole program back in 2007 because we’re one of the first to try this we hope we can grow it into a vital, certainly viable program,” said Gencarelli.

When asked if she thought the sports media production concentration was important for MC to offer, junior communication major Ariela Vega had a very positive opinion.

“I think it’s really important to get into sports. I think it’s super fun when people talk about sports here at Manhattan College because it’s super relatable and it’s a good place for people to start out,” said Vega. “I don’t know why they really waited so long for it.”