Last month, War Eagle Productions, Auburn Athletics’ video production program, won its second-straight best live game production award, given annually by the Sports Video Group.
Three years ago, however, War Eagle Productions had yet to be created.
With the launch of the SEC Network and the hiring of assistant athletic director and video services Andy Young, War Eagle Productions has quickly risen up the ranks of the best in the country.
“When the SEC Network launched in July 2014, Auburn didn’t have an internal video department,” Young said. “There were several video groups that were working with Auburn to create video content. Luckily, they were doing an outstanding job with IMG and AUHD that worked with Daktronics. Basically, we brought all those groups together under one umbrella here with Auburn Athletics.”
Young, who previously worked at the University of Illinois and with the Big Ten Network, said his production team treats every event and every project with a very high set of standards.
“There are fan expectations, coach expectations and our own expectations,” Young said. “We view (our purpose) for training students, helping out the teams, helping out parents who want to watch and fans who want to watch. We approach every production, whether its SEC Network+ or ESPN, we treat them all the same way. We hope the production quality is at the highest standards and gives those watching an enjoyable experience of Auburn Athletics.”
A program that came into existence just three years ago quickly became one of the most productive and efficient video programs in the country.
“When we started the program, we had expectations to make our digital broadcasts the best they could be,” Young said. “It quickly evolved into trust from ESPN to handle a greater workload.”
Within the first year, ESPN and SEC Network were utilizing War Eagle Productions for their linear work on basketball broadcasts and softball postseason.
“ESPN hardly had to bring a production truck to Auburn anymore because we were able to produce these events at such a high level,” Young said.
What was 10 linear events in 2014-15 has grown to nearly 30 in 2016-17.
“ESPN trusted us and we trusted them. It grew very quickly, faster than any of us anticipated. We thought we would get there eventually. We just didn’t realize how quickly it would happen.”
One of the goals of the project was to build a student staff, who would gain on-the-job training in the growing field of live sports broadcasting. Within the first 12 months, Auburn Athletics had a roster of 60 students.
The teaching and training is a huge component to the educational process at Auburn. The School of Journalism and Communications quickly embraced the opportunities with ESPN and the SEC Network and began offering classes. The first was an Introduction to Sports Productions, and quickly a second class, Advanced Sports Productions, was added. This fall, two additional will be added to the curriculum – Cinematography and Storytelling, and Control Room Operation. All four classes are taught by War Eagle Productions staff.
The natural progression of the student program is advancing to full-time positions upon graduation. War Eagle Productions has had four students hired by ESPN in the past two years.
“It’s invaluable the experience that (students) get,” Young said. They get to work with directors and producers that are employed directly by ESPN. They get to come in and see their work in that pressured situation. That is an amazing opportunity for all of our students.
“They get to see how the professionals work, and in turn they become those professionals. We’ve had several students hired, some up in Bristol (ESPN), some in Charlotte (SEC Network). We’ve been very fortunate. Students recognized the opportunity that they were given and took full advantage of it.”
As War Eagle Productions continues to improve, the demand for video is quickly rising. With the constant demand, Young believes that the sky is the limit for War Eagle Productions.
“People expect to see highlights as soon as the game is over,” Young said. “They expect to watch every game live. I always try to think of it as a fan. If I am a fan, I want to be able to see the replays and know what’s going on. If I’m not able to go to the game, I want to be able to watch it on my phone. It’s really changed the way people view sports in a positive way.”