February 5, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 42°F


ESPN panel to offer industry expertise

The Roy H. Park School of Communications will welcome 13 alumni employed by ESPN to campus tomorrow to give students a glimpse into the television industry.

There will be a panel discussion with the visiting alums from 2 to 4 p.m. tomorrow in the Park Auditorium as part of the inaugural ESPN Day.

Moderated by senior journalism major Tom Eschen and senior television-radio major Nick Karski, the discussion will consist mostly of job descriptions from each employee followed by a question and answer session.

Though the visiting alumni all work at the network’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn., they are diverse in their occupations and graduation years. The group is led by commentators Karl Ravech ’87 and Kevin Connors ’06, who work on duties ranging from on-air talent to producing.

Mark Gross ’88, senior vice president and executive producer of ESPN, said the main goal of the event is to teach students the skills they need to enter the television industry and work as a professional.

“We want to inform students on exactly what the reality of the business is and what it is not,” he said. “If we can teach something to someone by the end of the day, we’ve done our job.”

Gross’ role at the network includes overseeing all aspects of live studio shows and field shows from events, such as the content, budget and technology used.

Robert Labay ’93, a senior post-production editor, said the event will provide students with a good opportunity to network.

“Dealing with professionals in the industry teaches students how to be professionals themselves,” he said.

Labay has worked at ESPN since he graduated and describes his job in the creative services department as a “one-stop shop for video editing, motion graphics and sound design.” He has worked on broadcasts of shows such as College Gameday, Monday Night Football and E:60, an hour-long newsmagazine show devoted to investigative sports stories.

Diane Gayeski, dean of the Park School, said she wanted to expose students to alumni media professionals from classes that spanned many years. She wanted students to learn how the alumni contributed to the evolution of the network.

“It’s sometimes difficult when you first come into a major to know how many different positions and roles there can be within a large company like ESPN,” Gayeski said. “I hope they get to see a variety of jobs but also how people’s career paths morph and change over time.”

Gayeski said the event would also act as an official launch for the ESPN alumni fund, which will be used to buy new equipment, such as high definition cameras, for student media. The money will also go toward refurbishing ICTV’s truck and adopting special effects such as replay technology that will enhance the quality of sports broadcasts.

The web-based fund has raised more than $7,000 thus far, with donations coming from about 50 ESPN alumni as well as Ithaca College students who have interned with the company.

Gross said in addition to advising students, he wants to pinpoint the issues in communications education that have come with the emerging new media landscape.

“I want to do a lot of listening to students, faculty and staff to get a good idea of the challenges they face in education,” he said. “Since we started working in the business, there have been a lot of changes in the college that we’ve heard about but haven’t seen.”

Junior sport media major Gavin Cote, who will be doing an internship for ESPN in studio production at the Bristol headquarters, said he is excited to meet some of his future co-workers.

“Getting to see a few faces and make a few connections will make getting started there this summer less intimidating and make the transition easier,” he said.

Senior television-radio major Mike Hibbard said he was looking forward to getting feedback from the executives on live broadcasts of ICTV shows such as Newswatch 16 and Sports Final.

“It will be good to see people who care enough about Ithaca to come back to see and appreciate the current work we’re doing and see what our potential is before we get out of college,” he said.

Karski said he hoped the panel discussion would help students make connections between participation in extracurricular activities and their application to careers in sports media.

“We want students to understand how what these alumni did well in and led them to do great things at ESPN,” he said.

Labay said he hopes ESPN alumni will express their love for sports, media and the college when they visit.

“We have a passion for sports, we have a passion for what we do in television and we all have a passion for Ithaca College,” he said. “We want to present that burning desire that fuels us to the students.”