Months of planning went into preparing for Saturday’s ESPN College GameDay broadcast at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
ESPN first alerted the university of its decision to have Butler host the first show of the season last August.
The athletics department had been working in coordination with ESPN since October to finalize the logistics of the broadcast.
“I’m going to say we’ve had three or four conference calls with ESPN,” said Mike Freeman, associate athletic director for external operations. “We’ve been in constant communication with them the last two months because this is the first one where they’re doing basketball this season.”
ESPN crews first arrived at Hinkle Fieldhouse Tuesday night and began work Wednesday.
The network sent a camera crew earlier this month to shoot footage and scout the venue ahead of the broadcast.
“When they came in to look at the building and get ready for it, they said it’s going to set up well for television,” Freeman said.
Construction of the set at center court began Friday night after the teams wrapped up their practices.
“There’s some different things that we’ve had to work through in terms of site, space allocation for ESPN over the last few days, setup times,” Freeman said. “We’ve had to work through adjusting practice times, but nothing major and in the end it’s all going to be worth it for the kind of event and exposure that Butler University will get from having ESPN College GameDay on our campus.”
Freeman said the national broadcast is unlike any event Hinkle has hosted in the time he has been at the university.
“We put on events on the court sometimes—tipoff dinners, luncheons. We even had the John Mellencamp concert a couple years ago,” Freeman said. “They brought in 45 staff members to run College GameDay, so the workload on us hasn’t been as much as when we run an event.”
The months of preparation for the broadcast and the active involvement of ESPN in the organizing process is also atypical of most Hinkle events.
“Most events like that around here don’t work like that,” Lindsay Martin, athletics marketing manager, said. “They’ve got their own staff that’s solely dedicated to College GameDay and making sure every aspect, from things that happen during the show, to where their production staff needs to set up, to helping us get a commemorative T-shirt in the bookstore and stuff like that. People are assigned to every single aspect of that, which is certainly a larger scale operation than what we’re used to.”
ESPN staff members began to arrive around 5 a.m. Saturday morning, with Hinkle employees reporting for work around an hour later.
“Basically we’ll be here to answer any questions for fans that come out to the broadcast because obviously it’s something that’s new for everybody,” Martin said. “No Butler fan has ever been through a College GameDay before here at Hinkle.”
ESPN analyst Rece Davis said Hinkle is a classic venue for the program that showcases the traditions of the game.
“It has the feel of a place like Cameron Indoor Stadium, like ‘Phog’ Allen Fieldhouse that, you know, maybe it’s just because in our minds and subconscious we appreciate the history of the game,” he said. “But it’s almost as if you feel a connection to the past when you walk in there. It certainly has the old-school look and feel and it makes you feel, like this is what basketball should be.”
The national exposure that the broadcast brought to Butler is the pinnacle of success that both the basketball team and the university has achieved in recent years, Freeman said.
“For them to select us, I think it kind of shows what everything that we’ve done over the last 25 years,“ Freeman said. “It’s not the start, it’s the culmination of a lot of things that have gone right.”