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Liberty students gain hands-on experience as part of CUSA basketball tournament broadcast team for ESPN+

Christopher Kirby preps a camera for a CUSA basketball tournament game in Huntsville, Ala. (Photos by Chase Gyles)

When the Liberty University Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams took to the courts at the 2024 CUSA Basketball Championships in Huntsville, Ala., earlier this month, students working with Liberty Broadcast Experience (LBX, Liberty’s broadcast communications department) had a front-row seat to the action during their Spring Break, running cameras, sound, and graphics as the TV packager for ESPN+.

The department’s Mobile Unit Truck traveled down to Propst Arena, where the crew covered 12 games across four days: the men’s and women’s first round games and quarterfinals, along with the women’s semifinal games.

Camera operator Christopher Kirby, a junior studying video production who has worked at LBX since January 2022, used several types of cameras throughout the week, mostly with a handheld camera over his shoulder. At Liberty’s home games, he splits his time as a cameraman and a director.

“I enjoyed working the tournament and learning some new things,” he said. “It was a marathon and not a sprint with 12 games, but it was a lot of fun, and I’d definitely say we sharpened our skills as the week went on.”

Sophomore Hannah Navage, who also studies video production and has been involved with LBX since November 2022, was in the truck helping provide replays and highlights packages. She also assisted in preparing the cameras before games.

Sophomore Hannah Navalge compiled replays and highlights from the LBX Mobile Unit Truck.

“We left Lynchburg on Sunday at 8 a.m., had a 10-hour (preparation) day on Monday, and then Tuesday through Thursday we covered all of the games,” Navage said. “We got to see that what we’d set up on Monday helped build the production for the rest of the week. It was so much fun to be working and doing something like this over Spring Break.”

Whereas the crew usually has cables and other equipment already in place when they work home games, the students said broadcasting the tournament presented the challenge of setting up in an unfamiliar venue.

“It was a great experience that we don’t normally get to do,” Kirby said. “It’s a lot of fun to go down to a different place with people you work with. We’re a pretty close-knit group, and we all got to be together and do what we all love to do.”

“We all wanted to do the best we could and help others do their best work too,” Navage added.

Flames Basketball was eliminated by University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) in the first round of the conference tournament, and the Lady Flames reached the title game before falling to Middle Tennessee State.

“The student experience with LBX is unique to other colleges due to the breadth and scale of what they can learn,” said Bobby Keating, executive producer of Broadcast Communications. “Students can learn proper use of industry leading gear from seasoned professionals on staff in roles ranging from venue lighting to television audio. This high caliber learning environment is what opens doors such as packaging the 2024 CUSA Basketball Championships for ESPN+. The feedback we received from tournament organizers was full of praise for the quality work our students and staff provided.”

This year, LBX is producing 224 sports broadcasts, which creates over 2,200 student crew positions. These shows air on platforms such as ESPN+, giving students quality material for their demo reels prior to graduation. Keating said the average amount of sports broadcasts worked per active student has been 14, with 48 being the most games worked by a single student.

Students that work with LBX are either Christian/Community Service (CSER) volunteers or student-workers.

In addition to sports, LBX works on on-campus shows like Convocation, Campus Community, Coffeehouse, Commencement, Christmas on the Boulevard, Block Party, After Party, The School of Music’s Night of Worship, and well over 1,000 more annually.

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