Fans get all-access in unusual Seton Hall-St John's telecast

AP News
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Posted: Dec 31, 2016 12:23 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — Seton Hall coach Tony Bozzella joked just before tipoff that he was going to apologize ahead of time for any colorful language viewers heard during Fox Sports' innovative broadcast of the Pirates' game against St. John's on Friday night.

With a five-second delay in place, Bozzella had nothing to worry about. He and Red Storm coach Joe Tartamella wore microphones throughout the commercial-free telecast, giving viewers an unprecedented all-access look at both teams during the game. This was believed to be the first time there was so much unfiltered access for a live sports event.

"It was everything we hoped it would be for the viewers," Big East commissioner Val Ackerman said after the game, which Seton Hall won 64-59. "It was a riveting behind-the-scenes look at what goes on in a game. It brought the passion and the range of emotions of the coaches to the viewers."

Fox Sports set up a dedicated feed for both coaches, allowing viewers to watch and listen to them for the entire game, including inside the locker rooms at the half. Those feeds also were used during the normal broadcast of the game.

"Overall, the game made for an amazing television experience," said Fox Sports President, Production and Executive Producer John Entz. "Hearing the halftime speeches live and being in the middle of Seton Hall's winning locker room after the game were as close as most of us will ever come to being Division I athletes. Looking live into team huddles during breaks, rather than going to commercial, was a new and extremely compelling way for us to take a deeper look at the teams, coaches and players."

Some of the nuances that viewers were able to see and hear included timeout huddles, banter between the coaches and their players and, yes, interaction with officials.

After a no-call, Bozzella was heard yelling at official Tom Danaher.

"Tom, how did you miss that illegal screen there? Were you not watching?" he said.

That came shortly after tipoff when Bozzella had joked with Danaher that "since I'm mic'd Tom, I think you're the greatest in the whole world going back to our MAAC days."

Bozzella also seemed to be clairvoyant. In a timeout, with the game tied at 34, the veteran coach told his team, "you guys are going to win the game. Have fun, support each other."

He was right. They did just that.

"I have no voice left from yelling so much on the sideline," Bozzella joked after the game. "I liked the all-access, although I think we have to find a little bit of a way to temper it. I definitely was myself out there and I absolutely would do it again, but there were a few times where maybe you want to say something to a player, but know that everyone will hear it."

Tartamella was a bit more reserved on the sidelines. Still, he had his quips to his players. At halftime, he told them that "it's conference time, there are no easy games. We got to do a better job in the second half."

The announcing team of Lisa Byington and LaChina Robinson called the game while also allowing the viewers to hear the coaches on the Fox Sports broadcast.

"I loved it," Robinson said. "I've done games before where we left the coach's mics open, but never to the extent like tonight where I thought Joe and Tony were our play-by-play and color analysts."

With no commercial breaks during timeouts, Robinson said that she and Byington, who normally would chat during those stoppages, had to pass notes back and forth to communicate.

"Our producer Steve Scheer was very detailed and had a vision that made it easy for us to understand our roles," Robinson said.

Ackerman, who watched the game on site in the production truck, said the conference and Fox Sports would analyze Friday's broadcast before deciding whether they'd pursue it again. She was definitely positive on the experience.

"I would declare victory on this," she said. "It's everything we hoped it would be. I think it adds new meaning to sports being the ultimate reality television."

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