Ohio State football: Keeping score

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The crew in charge of Ohio Stadium's scoreboard won't be on the sidelines this Saturday.

They'll be across the street in a darkened room in the basement of the Schottenstein Center, surrounded by computer monitors and control buttons connected to the 'Shoe via underground fiber-optic cables.

The six or so people who make up the athletic department's video services crew will watch the game through video cameras on the field, directing the cameramen and cuing up the appropriate computer animations from across Lane Avenue.

Video services intern Ken Hathaway calls it a "fun dance," and it's something the crew has been doing for awhile but few people know about.

Most of the video services staff are passionate Ohio State fans, including plenty of students who are interested in getting video and editing experience. It's a strange way to experience the game, Hathaway said, but he wouldn't have it any other way.

"You know you watched the whole game, but you sometimes don't feel like you watched the whole game. We only see what our cameras give us, so a lot of times, we're like, 'What's going on? What's the crowd saying?'" said Hathaway, who started with the crew in 2006 as a student and has since graduated. "It's quiet, for the most part, because if the director's calling for something, you have to be able to hear."

The program is centered around students learning, Hathaway said.

"When students first come in, typically they're a little awestruck because there's a hundred-thousand people, and you're on the field at a place where you've always wanted to be," Hathaway said. "We have to say, 'All right, don't forget where you're at and don't forget your work. Stay focused,' that kind of thing."

Mark Smith, director of video services for athletics, meets his team of students just days before the first game of the football season.

"There aren't any dry runs when the first game starts - we're off and running," Smith said.

Students usually begin with "running the grip," or pulling the cables behind one of the four student cameramen on the field. As the season continues, they learn by example. More advanced members of the crew usually end up working the buttons and levers back at the Schottenstein Center.

Once football is over, the whole group transitions to video work for basketball and the sports seasons that follow. They also film all home games and meets for Olympic-level sports, for the coaches to review and then archive.

"Everybody wants to do the camera, because the camera's the kind of 'glory' thing," Hathaway said.

And students who are interested in directing can often move up to being a cameraman. But running the camera is a little more difficult than just pointing it in the right direction.

"You don't want to push the wrong buttons, and do the wrong thing, and have it broadcast in front of 100,000 people," Hathaway said.

Because although they can't hear the roar of the crowd from the basement of the Schott, the staff hears about it later - usually from school officials after the game, and sometimes just by panning the cameras over the audience.

Yes, that's happened, Hathaway said: "Say I mean to take the end-zone camera, but I happen to take the wireless guy, who happens to be running up the stairs, and you see this big jiggle thing. Everyone's like, 'Nooo!'"

Tense plays, it seems, are even tenser when you're in charge of the replay.