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Information Technology Services

Technology Behind the Scenes: Athletics

12/01/10

Although ITS is responsible for much of the technology at Boston College, other areas use many different forms of technology to aid in their success. This Feature explores just some of the way that Athletic Technology Services supports BC’s sports teams. Thank you to Will Gartner and the department for being very generous with their time in support of this Feature.

Many things may come to mind when thinking about BC Athletics. A packed Alumni Stadium cheering on the Eagles against Notre Dame. The 2010 women’s soccer team advancing to the Final Four. The men’s hockey team raising a National Championship banner.  Basketball fans storming the court after the men’s team upset Duke in 2009.

Chances are, the first thing that comes to mind when you think of one of BC’s 27 varsity teams doesn’t have to do with technology, but Director Will Gartner and the Athletic Technology Services department at BC have an integral role in supporting the teams and the fan experience at games, on TV or radio, online, and in print.

Pre-Game

John Hegarty (hockey), Dan McDermott (basketball), and Bill Toof (football) view and edit all the video for their sports. The process is basically the same across the different sports. Game tapes are edited and made available to the coaches. The coaches review the video and decide what to focus on. Then, the coaches spend time with the players, focusing on what went well and what could have been done better.

Video is shared and exchanged with teams at other universities. In fact, this year, Hockey East teams are using an online video exchange system.  Coaches can use this video to study other teams and review with BC athletes. Additionally, players have access to video online, enabling them to view it during their spare time. According to Will Gartner, over the years, coaching has become more and more about teaching, and the environment in Athletics reflects that – the Yawkey Center includes several classroom and class auditorium-style rooms.

More than just games are taped. The weight room also has video equipment to assure the players are using the proper technique, which can help avoid injury.

Game Time

When games are being broadcast, setup work is typically completed the day before the game. For games not televised by a network, Athletic Technology Services created its own HD channel this year, allowing those games to be broadcast in Conte, Alumni, and Yawkey.

Eric Girard (Associate Director of Athletic Multimedia at BC) and Vinny Higgins (Assistant Director) spend a lot of time in the control room, located between Alumni and Conte. This room allows visual access to both venues, and is a hub of activity during games. While other buildings may have this type of room buried underground to make room for a luxury box, Eric noted that their location allows them to act as spotters for the camera operators, helping to assure all game action is captured.

BC uses three separate replay systems. Avid video tools are used to capture and edit video and audio. Eric and Vinny also control the scoreboards and audio, including player introductions and music.

During football games, replay officials, scorekeepers, and the scoreboard operators are constantly communicating with officials and other personnel on and off the field. 

Behind the Scenes

Athletic Technology Services also helps in ways not seen by viewers.

  • Dan Donovan, a Network Engineer for ITS whose responsibilities include supporting Athletics, has been at BC for 20 years. His responsibilities are wide-ranging and include:
    • Setting up headphones for the football team (8 on the field, 7 upstairs). Dan also travels with the team to assist during road games.
    • Helping reporters and photographers activate network access.
    • Setting up phone lines for basketball games (about 25 lines are courtside).
    • Assuring phone and hi-def lines are set up for TV crews.
  • Injured players can be x-rayed on site at Chestnut Hill. The x-rays are then uploaded and available to doctors at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Boston. Those doctors can consult with medical personnel at the game and decide the best course of treatment for the athlete.
  • Dozens of members of the media attend some events. When they have computer problems, Will’s team helps out however they can.
  • Buying your tickets online? New cash registers were recently installed that, in the future, will allow you to put money on the tickets at the time of purchase. Once you’re at the game, cashiers will be able to scan your ticket as you pay for your hot dog and popcorn.

Players, officials, coaches, fans, and media – one way or another, Athletic Technology Services is helping them get their jobs done or enjoy the game.

If you have an idea for a story about how technology is used at BC, please email it to jonathan.mcgrath@bc.edu.

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Eric Girard works on game production with a broadcast pix machine.
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Vinny Higgins works on the audio for the player introductions for the football game vs. Virginia.
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Will Gartner overlooking Alumni Stadium the day before a football game.
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Just some of the controls in the control room between Conte and Alumni.
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The Daktronics Control Console controls what is on the scoreboard, and has a feed to ESPN to update their crawl.
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Some of the equipment in the video room for football.
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Dan McDermott working on basketball video.