by PETE JANNY, Asst. Sports Editor
Come this November, communication majors who are currently taking, or have taken, one of the sports media production classes will get to put their production skills to use as part of the college’s commitment to produce live telecasts for all 27 home basketball games this season between the men and women’s teams.
This past spring the Metro Atlantic Conference issued a mandate to all of its member schools to make clear that the 2019-2020 basketball season will be the first year in which every school must individually produce broadcasts for every home basketball game. In need of more publicity and excitement, this was going to be the best way possible for the conference to make the most of an eight-year contract that was signed with a ESPN back in 2017.
With that contract between the MAAC and ESPN now in its third year, Manhattan College made the smart decision of starting its own relationship with ESPN this past spring in anticipation for what will be a busy 2019-2020 behind-the-scenes for the school and the rest of their MAAC counterparts. Manhattan took their relationship with ESPN to the next level by bringing an ESPN mobile unit to campus this past March that has remained in Riverdale since.
What separates Manhattan College from other MAAC schools in terms of production potential is that the school has gone so far as implementing a sports media production concentration. Having this concentration in place is so valuable for the school and its production aspirations as it will now be easier to cater to the needs of students who are specifically interested in sports media production. Furthermore, students who are intrigued by this concentration get to pick from a trove of classes pertinent to sports media production.
At the intersection of Manhattan athletics and the sports media production concentration is a man named Joe Ruggiero. A 2017 Monmouth University graduate and former Director of New Media for the MAAC, Ruggiero was hired in July to serve as both producer and director for the school’s production crew. In short, Ruggiero has come to Manhattan to help usher in this new era of Manhattan athletics that is rooted in sports media production.
In his new position, Ruggiero has been working closely with students taking Sports Media Production and Advanced Sports Media because of their burgeoning familiarity with what it takes to produce a live broadcast. Although there are only six students between both classes that meet the requirements to help out, Ruggiero is excited to get the chance to work with students who share with him a passion for sports media production.
“I think they are very excited because they get to be part of the production live in the trenches,” Ruggiero said. “Not only will they be able to put this on their resume, but they now will know a skill so that if someone needs a freelancer in the area who knows a specific equipment then they’ll know how to do it.”
With the basketball season quickly approaching, Ruggiero knows he and his team will have their hands full as they prepare for an experience that is unprecedented at Manhattan College. As a way to familiarize students with specific tasks while not overwhelming them, Ruggiero says that the time spent preparing on game days come basketball season will replace formal class sessions.
“It’s like a lab,” Ruggiero said. “Their class time is to work different positions and shadow different positions. If they take three sports media classes then they can eventually work themselves into these positions instead of just watching every week.”
Students involved with this program can work a number of different roles such as camera operating, audio engineering and controlling the replay system. While Ruggiero is confident in his students’ abilities, he is also prepared to exercise patience in that event that mistakes are made.
“There’s a chance for them to mess up which is fine,” Ruggiero said. “Yes, we’re on ESPN but we’re still student run. What’s important is that they learn from their mistakes.”
Sophomore Thomas Courtney is one of two students taking Advanced Sports Media Production this semester after taking Sports Media Production as a freshman. Having already declared as a sports media production major, Courtney is trying to make the most of this experience because of how closely it aligns with his career goals.
“This experience is really beneficial because it’s an ESPN truck and all of the equipment comes from them,” Courtney said. “Being able to work with ESPN in a live environment is special”
While the Sports Media Production class focuses more on the history of sports media, Advanced Sports Media Production is different in that it is designed to give students hands-on experience working with the different production equipment. With Ruggiero now in the equation, Courtney believes students are set up for a bright future.
“Joe’s a great teacher,” Courtney said. “Having a young presence like him around helps us grow in to our own roles.”
Like Courtney, junior Aedan Roney is also a member of the production crew and is excited for the challenges that lie ahead. As someone who entered the program more familiar with television production than sports media production, Roney admitted how cool it’s been to learn about production from a whole new perspective.
“The thing that attracted me to the class was the fact that it’s a live broadcast just like the way we do it in television studio production,” Roney said. “But there’s more movement in sports as you can imagine so being forced to shoot and operate on my toes was really enticing.”
Due to the dearth of students associated with the program, there will be freelancers at the games working in collaboration with the students as a way to produce the best broadcasts possible. The prospect of working with these professionals is something that makes Roney even more excited for the games.
“Because the program is still in its infancy, we don’t have enough students required to shoot these games by ourselves,” Roney explained. “That is why Joe has spoken to us a lot about working alongside freelancers which will give us the chance to operate with professionals in the field.”
Roney is also using this unique opportunity to try to make himself more attractive in the eyes of employees regardless of what he ends up doing for a career after college. One thing that seems clear is that Roney will try to parlay his skills into landing some type of job in the field of production.
“I wanted to diversify my knowledge set of production so that I can separate myself from other candidates when I’m applying for production jobs in the future.”
In terms of his relationship working with Ruggiero, Roney has nothing but respect for the man in charge. Roney cited Ruggiero’s youthful enthusiasm for why it’s easy to get along with him.
“It’s been really great working with Joe,” Roney said. “He’s a young guy fresh out of college who’s just got a drive and passion for sports production.”
Much of the excitement surrounding this initiative stems from the likelihood that prospective recruits will begin to think more highly of Manhattan College.
“I think it’s a great recruiting tool because now we can tell prospective recruits that all of their home games will be viewable on an ESPN platform,” Assistant Director of Sports Communication for Digital and Emerging Media Kelly Carroll said.
Besides impressing high school athletes, Carroll is also looking forward to the increased attention that current student-athletes will receive as a result of this initiative.
“We are really excited to tell the stories about our students-athletes’ academic accolades and the internships they take,” Carroll said. “This platform reaches further than we’ve been able to in the past which should boost everything exponentially.”
As for Ruggiero, he is hopeful that this program will not only recruit athletes to the school, but that it will also convince students that Manhattan College is the best place to hone their sports media production skills.
“I think this is a great recruiting tool for coaches to use in the future because Manhattan is not necessarily a name that jumps out to you,” said Ruggiero. “My other big goal is for my students to enjoy it and spread the word about it incoming freshmen and other students.”
Ruggiero and his crew will produce live broadcasts for seven non-conference basketball games this semester. Those games can be viewed on ESPN Plus.