WCU-TUBE

A new student-run scoreboard will broadcast Catamount football highlights

By SUZANNE RAETHER

Catamount football fans will have more to look forward to than the Battle for the Old Mountain Jug this fall, as a new student-operated video scoreboard is scheduled to take the field in 2010. A 48-strand fiber-optic cable connects the scoreboard, towering above Bob Waters Field beside the Ramsey Regional Activity Center, to a television studio in the Center for Applied Technology. With images captured by cameras on the field, people in the stadium will be able to see the action come to life on the big screen.

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Faculty members Gabe Nucci (left) and Mark Mattheis check out
control room equipment connected by a fiber-optic network
to a new video scoreboard in E.J. Whitmire Stadium.

Western Carolina supporters had previously committed $103,000 toward the purchase of a $500,000 scoreboard, which prompted a lead gift from the Pepsi Co. as part of negotiations to become the university’s soft drink provider last year. Those funds, combined with other private commitments, made purchase of the new scoreboard possible during the off-season. “We are excited about the project and think this will be a very positive experience for the players and students,” said Chip Smith, director of intercollegiate athletics.

Installed over the spring and summer, the scoreboard boasts a video display measuring 17 feet by 32 feet and displays video for live shots, instant replay, messaging and graphics. Keeping up with information-based culture is what fans and players want, said Steve White ’67, former sports information director. “Having the scoreboard says that Western Carolina is first-class in operation. It’s going to please fans and players alike,” White said.

Head Football Coach Dennis Wagner agreed. “The new video scoreboard is very impressive,” Wagner said. “Our players are excited about having it as a part of our facility, and it will help create a better atmosphere on game day.”

The new scoreboard will not only be a treat for the football team and fans, but it also is a chance for students to get real-world television production experience. Students registered for “TV Production II,” a course taught by Mark Mattheis, assistant professor of broadcasting, will be the work crew for the five home games this season. “It will take 10 to 12 students to run each game,” Mattheis said. “Their jobs will include directing, technical directing, graphic creation, audio, slow-motion playback, editing and camera operation.”

For communication majors, the class is an ideal hands-on learning experience. “The students involved in the production of the game will get live feedback on their abilities as broadcasters,” Mattheis said. Utilizing the new scoreboard as a teaching tool is in keeping with the university’s Quality Enhancement Plan, which helps students create connections between what they learn inside and outside the classroom.

The scoreboard also is a major step in a larger campus television production effort, and WCU plans to grow the fiber-optic network to encompass the Fine and Performing Arts Center and the Ramsey Center. “This is truly a unique relationship and partnership between athletics and academics, and the fiber-optic interconnectivity opens the door to many other possibilities in the future,” said Mattheis.

Students involved with a Society of Broadcast Engineers certification class, taught by new faculty member Gabe Nucci, will assist with signal processing and quality control. Nucci joins the teaching faculty fresh from working soccer’s World Cup this summer. Nominated for several Emmy Awards and winner of one for his work in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Nucci has worked as a production engineer for the Athens, Torino and Vancouver Olympics, the Super Bowl, World Series and Indianapolis 500, among other major sporting events.

The Catamount Club accepts donations to sustain and improve the scoreboard. For more information, contact Gorham Bradley ’04 at 828.227.3794 or bradley@wcu.edu.

Suzanne Raether is a professional writing graduate student from New Orleans.