Rattlers lose game, gain a national audience

Only at FAMU, can the faithful lead the country in home attendance one season and not fill half the stands to start the next.

The team that led all of Division I-AA in football attendance last season attracted less than half of its record setting figure 25,609 Saturday for its season opener.

Should new athletic director E. Newton Jackson be concerned? Not in the slightest.

With the Rattlers 21-17 loss to Delaware State televised nationally on ESPNU, it would be a safe assumption to say more than the announced attendance of 13,814 witnessed the game.

“Athletic visibility is always a good thing,” Jackson said. “We want to redirect some of the (negative) attention. I think the slant the media takes is for sensationalism.”

FAMU’s return to the Mid-Eastern Athletic C Conference was the second of nine conference games the college sports subsidiary of ESPN will cover this season. The Battle of the Bay, Hampton vs. Norfolk State, and the Florida Classic are the two jewels of the seven remaining games.

“This is truly a groundbreaking moment for the MEAC,” said conference commissioner Dennis Thomas in a press release. “To have a partnership with a world-known brand like ESPN is significant. This deal will provide our coaches and student-athletes (with) an opportunity to be seen by the world.”

Running through the 2011-2012 athletic season, ESPNU will own the television rights to all football and men’s basketball games in addition to covering baseball, volleyball and basketball match-ups. With the exception of the conference basketball championships and select other games all games will be televised on ESPNU.

Unlike FAMU’s last television contract, with the United Broadcasting Company in 2003, the school will not receive all the television revenues. FAMU will receive approximately nine percent of the overall revenues, which will be split among the 11 institutions in the conference.

ESPNU may have televised the game, but none of the approximately two-dozen members of the technical crew that covered Saturday’s game was employed by ESPNU. Hired through subcontractors, many members of the technical crew were not complete strangers as they had worked with each other numerous times throughout their individual careers. Only the inanimate production truck had a contract with ESPNU.

Mario Pimentel was hired for the game as an engineering assistant. Seven hours before kickoff he took 10 minutes to give a tour of the production truck, which at the cheapest can be $1.5 million. According to Pimentel, it would take milliseconds for the action inside the stadium to reach the inside of a viewer’s television

Operations manager, Will Self, whom Pimentel dubbed “the man with the plan with the book in his hand,” supervised the entire production. His wide-ranging duties included meeting with University officials Thursday afternoon to making sure the hundreds of feet of wiring were facing the right direction.

“It’s like live theater,” Self said. “I don’t care if it’s the Super Bowl of the World Series you’re going to have problems whether it’s technically or personally. If you make a mistake you just move on.”

With the national attention focused on the athletic field FAMU “fans across the country can tune into ESPNU, ESPN Classic and ESPN2 to learn more about the fascinating stories about the great rivalries, athletes and traditions” of the Rattlers and MEAC, like the vice president and general manager of ESPNU Burke Magnus will.

A schedule of the televised games can be found on the MEAC Web site.

contact Will Brown at thefamuansports@hotmail.com.