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Sports media students share deep connection with Cornell

Junior+sports+media+major+Chris+Sohl+records+an+episode+of+Big+Red+Faceoff.+The+weekly+ICTV+show+covers+Cornell+University+mens+and+womens+hockey+programs.
Ethan Wilson
Junior sports media major Chris Sohl records an episode of Big Red Faceoff. The weekly ICTV show covers Cornell University men’s and women’s hockey programs.

Over the years at the Roy H. Park School of Communications, many sports media students have gained experience in the field by covering the Ithaca College sports teams. However, some have had the opportunity to take their craft to the Division I level.

Besides the ability to cover athletics at the college, many students have enjoyed the rewards of covering sports just across the hill at Cornell University.

Most notably, Ithaca College Television hosts “Big Red Faceoff,” a weekly show breaking down the university’s men’s and women’s hockey teams. Junior television and digital media major Rheanna DeCrow currently serves as the lead women’s analyst, and is in her second straight year on Big Red Faceoff’s cast. She said her experience with the show has been rewarding and that it lets her see a sport that without Cornell University, she would not be able to cover.

“I loved hockey and I knew when I was coming to Ithaca that my only concession was that the Bombers did not have a hockey team,” DeCrow said. “However, I was elated when I found out Cornell had a hockey team, let alone a show that let us cover it.”

DeCrow said that being able to work so consistently with “Big Red Faceoff” has opened doors that would not have been available to her otherwise, and the experience of being able to work in a high-level athletics field has offered her a glimpse at what her professional career might look like. DeCrow spends on average two to three hours in a given week preparing for the show, which records at 4 p.m. every Tuesday.

“It really has helped me push my boundaries of comfortability,” DeCrow said. “I have been able to sit down one-on-one with the head coach, and to cap it all off, I got to skate on the ice with two of the players at the end of their season and conduct an interview with them at center ice of Lynah Rink.”

DeCrow, while acknowledging the many diverse career fields the sports industry offers, said that working in the NHL would be the ultimate dream goal. She said Cornell’s Division I status might offer her a valuable opportunity to get connected with athletes who could soon enter professional leagues.

“Having the ability to watch a premier program right across the hill where we may see players in the NHL in a matter of a couple of years is a luxury not everyone has,” Decrow said. “Hockey is on the rise in the media realm, and it’s special to cover something that is making its way into the big light, and it really makes people aware of the presence it has on our athletic sphere as a whole.”

However, hockey is not the only avenue that Ithaca College students are using to experience Big Red athletics. Since Cornell University is a Division I school, all live coverage of their games is on ESPN+, a sister branch of ESPN. A few select Park School standouts have been asked to fill in roles for live game coverage for the Big Red.

Junior sports media major Cam Manna is currently the lead play-by-play and color commentator for the Ithaca College football team on 91.7 WICB, among many other duties like broadcasting local high school sports, other collegiate teams on campus for VIC Radio and coverage for Cornell Athletics on ESPN+. Manna said that working for ESPN has been a dream come true.

“I’d probably say the best part has been getting to cover bigger games and seeing more that goes into a production from a professional side is important, and it’s not to say Bombers Live isn’t professional, but being around all the features of ESPN makes you kind of starstruck, since that is all I dreamed about as a little kid,” Manna said.

Manna was awarded an opportunity with the Big Red just a year ago, after Jeremy Menard, television and radio operations manager, got in touch with Bob Michaels — who coordinates the ESPN+ broadcasts for Cornell University — and gave him a list of prospective students he saw fit for the role. In no time, Manna and his broadcasting counterpart, junior sports media major Eli Fishman, were able to call an abundance of games and sports ranging from volleyball to field hockey.

“A Division I athletic school right next door for Park students is a cool niche,” Manna said.

Fishman is also no stranger to calling big games, having worked the previous two summers for the Somerset Patriots, a Double-A baseball affiliate of the New York Yankees. He also said he sees the biggest difference between Bomber and Big Red athletics being on the production side.

“The production staff has a lot more resources and the staff is more experienced,” Fishman said. “All of the main production interns are out of college and the production quality overall is a lot better in terms of the graphics and the replays, and that helped me really understand what a potential real-life, high-tech scenario would look like.”

Menard said the students he recommends for these positions on East Hill must have outstanding potential and, when he finds a student that he deems fit, he will send their name to the Cornell athletics department.

“Cornell looks for different people in the community to work with technical aspects, along with voices for the broadcasts.” Menard said. “Due to my long standing professional relationship with John Lukach, that is how we are able to make it work.”

Lukach is the associate director for athletics and video production and recruiting resources at Cornell University, taking over this role in August 2023 after he spent four years as the assistant director of athletics and multimedia production. Lukach oversees all the department live video broadcasts and the various venue video board productions. Since his arrival, Cornell athletics has seen a steady increase in viewership across all sports.

“I can put in my two cents, but it is ultimately John’s decision who he wants for the broadcasts,” Menard said.

Menard said he only selects a few individuals to put on that list because of the importance of those high-leverage opportunities. Manna, Fishman, and DeCrow all have stood out as outliers above the rest.

“What makes Cam, Eli, and Rheanna so strong is they are so passionate in what they do; they take great pride in their work,” Menard said. “Their hunger, passion, and drive really is what sets them apart from others.”

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