Navy, CBS Sports Network offering different look for spring game

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Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo didn’t measure his words Wednesday when the topic of his spring game’s place on CBS Sports Network was broached.

“I think it’s great exposure for us,” Niumatalolo said. “For a non-BCS team to have your spring game on national television, that’s huge. To me, that says a lot about our program.”

It also says a lot the network – formerly known as CBS College Sports (and CSTV before that) – has the chance to tinker with things typically not seen during any college football broadcast.

Wide receiver Doug Furman and cornerback Kwesi Mitchell will wear microphones. Players will do interviews in the middle of the game. Cameras will go into the huddle. Both Niumatalolo and defensive coordinator Buddy Green will be interviewed at the start of the fourth quarter.

Producer Steve Scheer said the genesis of this sort of project ultimately came from a 2008 game when Niumatalolo, in his first full season, agreed to wear a microphone during Navy’s comeback victory over Temple.

The relationship developed from there led to some more creative possibilities.

“He said to me, ‘We trust you guys. What happened with that Temple game, it’s one of the best things we’ve ever done, so let’s go for it,’” Scheer said of discussions with Niumatalolo. “He’s been phenomenal. It’s refreshing. In college basketball, we’ve come a long way where Jim Calhoun let us in for his pregame speech before the national title game. You don’t get that in college football. Very few guys will give you access, especially with what coach Niumatalolo is giving us.”

Scheer said the idea of as close to an all-access spring game as possible was first floated to him a couple weeks before the NCAA basketball tournament. Understandably busy with planning, he figured he would wait to begin dissecting how to go about making the broadcast work until after basketball was over.

But the more Scheer thought about it, the more things he scribbled down. Eventually, he sent a list to Navy – and everything but live access to the huddle, where Navy will use its actual terminology, was approved.

With the vagaries of technology involved, there’s no guarantee it will be a perfect night. Furman could get tackled and wind up crushing his microphone as he hits the ground. Weather could play a role.

And then there are possibilities no one on the television side can completely account for.

“If somebody curses, I’m in trouble,” Scheer said.

Still, it’s broadcast that will include camera work from inside the 40s – usually forbidden territory. It will have halftime discussions from both locker rooms rather than a traditional studio show.

In short, it will be something different, which is precisely what both Navy and the network would like. It helps that the two have been partners for all of the Mids’ home games since 2005.

“This thing is all about Navy and the CBS Sports Network,” Scheer said. “There’s a great relationship between the two, and that’s how we’re able to pull off some of these things.”

Patrick Stevens

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