If KCPR 91.3 FM listeners tried to find some underground, indie rock to appease an insatiable hunger for music Oct. 4, they would have been disappointed.
In fact, they probably would have taken a second glance at the radio when play-by-play announcers described Cal Poly wide receiver Ramses Barden stretching over a defender, trying to score a touchdown after a 67-yard reception during the Mustangs’ 49-22 win over South Dakota.
But even though ESPN Radio 1280 AM has reunited Cal Poly athletics with KCPR, it seems that drastic change between Cal Poly athletics and student broadcasting is still far away.
Cal Poly’s commercial radio station has carried the 1280 broadcast of each Mustangs football game to extend radio coverage to North San Luis Obispo County, journalism department chair Bill Loving said.
Until recently, there has been a limited relationship between Cal Poly athletics and student broadcasting since the mid-1980s, the school’s athletics media relations director Brian Thurmond said.
“KCPR and Cal Poly have a long history going back to the early ’70s,” Thurmond said. “They would do a lot of sports live and do tape-delay broadcasts, but in the mid-’80s that drifted apart. With the help of Loving, we were able to make that happen again and help out 1280 with their North County coverage.”
John Soares, CPTV advisor and journalism professor, went as far as saying that a relationship between Cal Poly athletics and CPTV is “virtually non-existent.”
ESPN began talking to Loving in August and initially agreed to cover away football games, Loving said, before they agreed to carry home and away games.
“We will start with football, but we will talk more after the season,” said Mike Chellsen, 1280’s general manager. “I think it’s a win-win relationship, and we look forward to working together more in the future.”
Acquiring the 1280 feed would have seemed to spark new ideas and opportunities for the journalism department.
“Our goal is to give the opportunity for students to produce video, announce and broadcast games as part of a journalism class,” Thurmond said.
Yet there are some tangible obstacles the department faces to translate a live broadcast production into a classroom setting due to budget cuts, sustaining personnel needs and a consistent student effort.
“There is a big waiting list for lots of departments for classes that aren’t being offered because we don’t have the money to pay for the faculty,” Loving said. “The priorities of the university happen to be teaching so that students can graduate. It would be difficult to go up and say we would like the money we could use on lecturers for this technology.”
Department fundraising could be an effective way to address financial issues.
“(I could) go out and get the Bushes for money and if they don’t have any money I might try the Cheneys,” Loving joked. “If anyone gives us money, I will write them a nice letter. If they give us $100 I will give them a Cal Poly hat.”
Cal Poly hopes to pursue the technology that would facilitate more student involvement with live broadcasting, such as a new video scoreboard, Thurmond said.
“Eventually, I would like to see opportunities for students to do live sports coverage, but that will have to wait until we can have consensus and develop a plan that the department can support,” Loving said. “We will need three things: money, money and more money. That’s pretty much it.”
Although a focus of sports broadcasting could be integrated into the current broadcasting courses, a more expansive effort may be needed to teach broadcasting production.
“We have built-in content to form a class around it,” Soares said. “But then you need the sustained effort from the athletic and journalism departments to say, ‘We have to continually do this every quarter; it won’t be a one-shot thing.’ The other thing is managing it. You need to have people in place to sustain this.”
Cal Poly was one of the first universities to do Internet broadcasts, when students did play-by-play for postseason volleyball in 2000, Thurmond said.
In recent years, the athletics department itself has been doing Internet broadcasts of a variety of sports that can be heard at the school’s official athletics Web site, GoPoly.com.
Cal Poly has also recently begun broadcasting its weekly athletics news conferences via Big West TV.
An experienced staff is available to train and mentor students, but student desire wavers, Thurmond said.
“We have had a huge student involvement at times, but it has also been low,” he explained. “We are trying to communicate more with the students. This is a perfect time for KCPR and CPTV to get more involved.”
Students could work on-field with cameras, learn how to manage sound and how to shoot different angles to understand what goes into a live broadcast, which would be imperative going into the job market, Cal Poly graduate Nick Emmons said. Emmons was a Cal Poly football player from 2006 to 2007 and is now a sports anchor for ABC affiliate KRCR-TV in Northern California.
“The experience gained from working in a live atmosphere would be very valuable,” Emmons said. “I wish we had it when I was there.”
“The fact that we are all thinking about this and know that it’s a good idea is a step forward,” Soares said. “So let’s see where we can go with it.”