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Behind the Mic at Lees-McRae With the Bobcat Sports Network

A new $2,200 MacBook was purchased, along with a $1,800 prosumer digital video camera, a new $350 digital media card for getting the video stream from the camera to the computer, and a new tripod. In total, the department invested about $4,500 this year, on top of the $900 investment from the sport management program grant last year.

There are plenty of aspiring sports broadcasters out there in the world. How many of those people actually get the opportunity to pursue their passion? Thanks to a partnership between Lees-McRae College’s athletic department and the campus’s sport management program, a group of dedicated students gets to showcase their passion on the Bobcat Sports Network.  

Introducing the Lees-McRae College athletics broadcast team – led by Dr. Lonni Wilson, Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of the Sport Management academic program and also the Faculty Athletic Representative (FAR). Wilson is in his second year at Lees-McRae, and has since taken the reigns of the Bobcat Sports Network.  Wilson holds a Master’s of Fine Arts from the University of Miami, a Master’s in sport management from the University of San Francisco and a PhD in sport management from Ohio State. Wilson has had the opportunity on numerous occasions at different institutions to start a broadcasting unit in order to expand the capability of the athletic department and the sport management program. At Lees-McRae, all home contests for men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s lacrosse and softball are streamed on the Bobcat Sports Network.

“It not only gives students a chance to experience broadcasting sports, it helps expand their communication competencies- something almost all academic programs are after,” said Wilson. “It also helps athletics by undertaking a task that typically needs 2-3 people to staff it, promotes our student athletes, and gives exposure to our athletics program.”

Wilson opens up this opportunity for his students, a dedicated group of sport management majors who enjoy putting on the headset and telling the stories that each athletic contest brings forth. Junior Jasmine Turpin, senior Elizabeth Pittman and senior Brea Forbes are those who bring the game to those who are not in attendance. Turpin and Forbes are teammates on the women’s basketball team here at Lees-McRae, while Pittman just enjoys being around sports, basketball in particular.

“I fell in love with broadcasting the minute I put the microphone in my hand,” said Pittman. “I realized that sitting behind that table watching, analyzing, and sharing my knowledge of basketball was the reason I chose Sport Management as my major in the first place.”

Turpin stated that she just was looking to try something different when she got involved with the broadcast of Lees-McRae athletics thanks to Dr. Wilson.

“It was kind of nerve-racking when we first started, just being on the microphone and knowing that everyone who watches Lees-McRae athletics online is going to hear you,” said Turpin. “However, they can’t see me so that is a little more alleviating.”

Forbes explained that she was just kind of going along with the class when she got involved with the broadcast, and wondered how hard broadcasting a game could be.

“I was definitely wrong, it’s not as easy as it looks or sounds,” said Forbes.  “It is really fun and exciting to share the knowledge that you’ve gained playing the sport over the years to help someone else that’s watching online understand what’s going on.”

Wilson noted that even through the work he does enjoy seeing his students take advantage of this great opportunity.

“The fun for me is in watching my students enjoy it,” said Wilson. “Some of them really come to shine in the process, finding they actually like being behind the mic.”

This group of students has continued to be a huge part of the Bobcat Sports Network, and they all have certainly enjoyed it.

This has by far been one of the best experiences here at Lees-McRae College,” said Pittman. “Being involved in the broadcasts as part of my program is an amazing advantage. I love being the voice behind those big plays, especially since the beginning of this season has consisted of so many close contests. I love watching basketball, and taking part in the broadcast of it is an unbelievable opportunity for me.”

Forbes went on to show appreciation for the broadcast team as a whole and the experience itself.

“The team that I work with is phenomenal and they make my job much more exciting and enjoyable, said Forbes. “I love the idea of what broadcasting brings to the game and it is a very enjoyable experience for me.” 

Turpin stated that she has had a lot of fun being a part of the men’s basketball broadcasts that come live from Dunk Mountain.

“It is a lot of fun, we get to show the viewers online what is really going on in the game,” said Turpin. “With the new technology this year, we’ve added a scoreboard, the ability to display starting lineups on the screen, and I really enjoy that end of things.”

Last year, Dr. Wilson received a $900 internal grant as a part of the Lees-McRae BB&T Leadership Grant Program to purchase some basic equipment to make this possible.

“This allowed me to purchase two complete sets for potentially streaming multiple events at once,” said Wilson. “Last spring was our first run at it, and we used an old laptop and video camera, some free scoreboard software, and did not really have a true digital platform.”

Prior to this year, Lees-McRae athletics used YouTube and also a platform called UStream to broadcast events. This year, Conference Carolinas mandated the use of a new platform called BlueFrame.

“The switch brought with it new software and the potential for better production quality and features, but it also demanded some initial investment,” said Wilson.

Wilson went on to discuss more of the advancements of this year’s broadcast based on some technological enhancements.

“The athletic department saw the possibilities for web-streaming via sport management’s students’ involvement in the spring and their effort to broadcast games, and it agreed to purchase the new equipment needed to really upgrade the production,” said Wilson.

While Dr. Wilson and those involved have enjoyed the opportunity and what it brings to Lees-McRae athletics, Wilson hopes to continue to expand the capabilities in order to improve the overall production.

“So far, it’s all worked out great,” said Wilson. “What’s nice is there are still a few opportunities to expand on this going forward, for example, a second camera would allow better video coverage as our new software allows switching between multiple cameras.”

The Bobcat Sports Network has captured many special moments in Lees-McRae athletics, and will only continue to do so thanks to these dedicated individuals being a part of the team.