By Dani Palmer
The Herald Bulletin
MUNCIE, Ind. —
In a space the size of a hotel room, filled with multiple computer monitors, TV screens and mobile devices, students from Ball State University sit and watch all of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament games.
But they’re not watching idly.
Ball State’s Sports Link, an immersive digital sports production team, has partnered with Turner Sports for the third consecutive year to help produce content for March Madness Live.
“Having the opportunity to be involved for the last three years is credit to the students and reputation here,” said Chris Taylor, telecommunications instructor. “It’s confirmation of what we’re doing.”
Before March Madness comes to an end, around 25 Sports Link telecommunication students will have participated in the project.
Luke Magsamen, a senior from Fishers, is a huge sports fan who’s not just having fun, but feels he’s contributing to something big.
The NCAA Division I tournament is viewed by millions across the country.
“It’s been a great experience,” Magsamen said. “Something like this, you can’t really get at any other university.”
The students produce video highlights, photos and tweets for the Coke Zero NCAA March Madness Social Arena.
As they monitor tweets — which included the creation of filters — they’re continuously making adjustments to keep out obscenities and any conversation that is off topic from a game, such as NCAA allegations and player arrests, Taylor said.
If there’s a huge spike in the conversation, such as after a big play, they’ll include a video or some sort of content to go with it on the Twitter game pulse.
If you go to the March Madness Live page, look for the Coke Zero Key Moments at the bottom. That’s the work of BSU students.
“They’re doing it all in real-time,” Taylor said, “and the thing that’s important is that it’s a real experience.”
What they’re doing for Turner, he added, is what entities like CBS Sports and ESPN do.
And while Taylor and Alex Kartman, a graduate assistant, provide support and keep in touch with Turner, it’s all student run — and they “run it like a job.”
It’s definitely a great experience to put on a resume.
Josh Blessing, a senior from Wakarusa, said it’s crazy how the technology utilized in the Social Arena has evolved even over the three years he’s participated. “Online is key this day and age,” he noted.
While it can be overwhelming at times with classes and homework, along with producing content that’s seen by millions, he added it’s definitely worth it. Especially since BSU students are getting an experience others around the country aren’t.
“I tell myself to never take this for granted,” he said. “No one else is doing this.”
After going to Orlando with Taylor and another student last year to work with the Turner staff, he said he truly saw how complex it all is.
The students, who work in four-hour shifts but may work multiple shifts, started preparation for the tournament in February — researching teams and social media trends along with creating feeds.
March Madness Live offers streaming to subscribers throughout the tournament across a variety of screens, including online, mobile and tablet.
“It’s not just about the big screen anymore,” Taylor said.
Fans can participate in the social commentary with Sports Link by using the hashtag #marchmadness.
Find Dani Palmer on Facebook and @DaniPalmer_THB on Twitter, or call 640-4847.