With athletic competition put on hold for the fall semester, the Patriot League Network will lean on its production team and member institutions to keep the content flowing.
The current lack of live sports affects more than just those responsible for playing and coaching. The shutdown requires the Patriot League Network to engage with fans outside of games and highlights, but Assistant Commissioner for Multimedia Jimmy Johnson said the network will not have a problem adjusting because the in-house “Patriot League Productions” can still be produced.
In previous years, the network has emphasized sharing stories of and promoting its student-athletes outside of what they accomplish in their respective sports.
“The features that we do, we do about 50 of them a year, we’re not talking about leading goal scorers and high scorers in basketball,” Johnson said. “We’re getting the kids that are out there traveling overseas, doing community service, creating foundations.”
The new approach will require the Patriot League Network to conduct interviews over Zoom. They will have less emphasis on game footage and more emphasis on human interest stories.
Navy and Army are the only schools in the Patriot League that are allowed to have a fall season.
“Without everyone being on the field or the court right now, we want to continue to tell those stories,” said Rich Wanninger, the Patriot League Network senior associate commissioner. “We want to tell those…up close and personal accounts of our student-athletes. But also use it as a good recruiting aspect in order to tell the story of schools.”
Outside of Patriot League productions, the network will work closely with the sports media teams for the individual schools to help maintain a consistent flow of content for social media and other platforms. The schools will help with player stories but also will have a heavy influence on the actual sports content that it broadcasts throughout the fall.
Johnson said if Lehigh produces a “Touchdown Tuesday” video, the league will be sharing that video on the Patriot League Twitter account. Therefore, instead of duplicating the content, the network will utilize what comes from the schools.
This collaborative approach can help Johnson, who does a bulk of the work on the network’s end. He said he will have an intern to aid him with editing moving forward throughout the semester.
Tommy Biltcliff previously worked under Johnson as a Patriot League Network intern and is currently a member of the Lehigh sports media department. He understands the importance of the schools’ role in the flow of content in these unprecedented circumstances.
“We’re closer with the student-athletes than they are at the league level,” Biltcliff said. “[The Patriot League Network] knows them, but we’re the ones interacting with them more. So Jimmy [Johnson] and the Patriot League will come to the schools a lot looking for good stories because they don’t always have the time to get to know the student-athletes like we do, so we’ll pass on stories to them but we’ll also do our own features.”
Not every school will have students present on campus this fall, which impacts what content can be produced from each school. Schools like Lehigh, who have some students back for the semester, will be able to foster some form of normalcy when its student-athletes return to practice later in the semester.
Wanninger and Biltcliff cited innovation and creativity as objectives moving forward to continue to publicize the league and its universities.