Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference distributes full court press for men’s, women’s, basketball quarterfinals
The Division II conference streamed live broadcasts of eight games taking place simultaneously
It’s time for the college basketball postseason, and as fans across the nation gear up for the NCAA’s Final Four, March Madness isn’t reserved for Division I. In Division II, the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) – a 13-member conference which competes in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware – fired up the fan base with its broadcast of the quarterfinals of the men’s and women’s tournaments. Dubbed Full court pressit NFL red zone-eske program gave fans live look-ins of all eight games taking place simultaneously.
“We’ve always asked ourselves what we can do to add more content,” says Doug DeBiase, Assistant Commissioner, Strategic Communications, CACC. “We’ve been wanting to create material that would differentiate us from other conferences for the past four or five years, but this specific endeavor emerged in the past two months.”
Constant development: the CACC network is the basis for Full court press
Since joining the CACC in the summer of 2014, DeBiase has sought to upgrade the conference’s video production and live streaming. With a background in Division I athletics at the University of Maine and a Division II program at Franklin Pierce University, he understands the value of broadcasting games to a dedicated fan base. Unfortunately, when he began his work at the CACC, the resources were not available for every sport’s regular season.
“We were mainly focused on the live streams of all our championships and linked them to our conference [and each institution’s] the website, he says. “We started to see Division II and Division III working with different apps — including Roku, Fire TV and others — to modernize their live streaming and bring every game to the fans.”
With each of the 13 institutions utilizing its own live-streaming network, the first order of business was to bring the athletic programs together on one system. With the goal of providing as many games as possible to fans, the CACC Network came online in 2018 as the conference’s official live streaming home.
DeBiase and his team worked with BlueFrame Technology to optimize the platform and help each school upload live video signals for distribution. In January, after extending its partnership for a further five years, the conference refined its technological and production skills and, able to pull in more broadcast feeds, spent the six weeks leading up to the quarter-finals on 28 February rehearsing what became Full court press.
“It’s the first time we’ve done a show like this,” DeBiase explains. “When there were multiple games going on at the same time, I set up a test broadcast to work seamlessly cutting from one game to another. I was trying to build that muscle memory so that when we went to the live broadcast, I would know how to quickly get multiple plays without a lot of lag.”
Flying Solo: Inside DeBiase’s Operation, Production in New Haven, CT
On the night of the broadcast, DeBiase relied on the typical workflow of the CACC Network: the sports information directors of the seven host schools — Chestnut Hill College, Jefferson University, Caldwell University, Bloomfield College, Post University, Dominican College and Holy Family University — set up their on-site infrastructure and created a dedicated RTMP link for each game. Once established, the conference uploaded each feed to BlueFrame Technology’s production truck software for live streaming on a laptop as a makeshift production switcher. With games starting at 5:30 p.m. ET, the 30-minute pregame show features integrated commercial breaks highlighting the conference and each school. When the frenzy began, up to three games could be shown simultaneously, and games that went full screen included real-time audio from the play-by-play announcer and instant replays.
Moving between eight simultaneous matches in 1½ hours is difficult, but a wrinkle fans couldn’t see made the job that much more difficult: DeBiase took on the role of both director and on-air talent. Works from 10 x 12 feet. office space at the conference headquarters in New Haven, CT, with a conference-themed backdrop and a TV screen with rotating images as the broadcast studio, he found the biggest challenge was figuring out the cadence, rhythm and tempo of the broadcast.
“I was able to watch four games at once in the software,” he says, “but since there weren’t as many close games as we would have liked, [the broadcast] was much easier without having to jump back and forth between eight games. If another game was approaching, we notified viewers that they would soon be taken to that game. It was about taking it one step at a time and keeping the fans updated.”
After the broadcast went off the air around 9:30 p.m., the conference recorded 1,500 unique viewers and an increase in website traffic. Looking back at the broadcast, DeBiase wanted to take some responsibility off his plate to streamline and simplify the live stream a bit more. This will allow him to be in control solely of getting graphics on air in time and putting in cleaner transitions from game to game.
“With the success of the network in recent years,” he says, “I’ve been able to hire announcers for all of our championships. After reporting back to Commissioner Dan Mara and the athletic directors, I might bring someone in to help with this next year if they feel it’s worth the investment.”
Possible expansion: The conference sees potential for other sports
Now that the dust has settled, he sees endless possibilities for other editions of the broadcast. With indoor sports like basketball and volleyball easier to cover given their consistent power source and Internet access, the next step would be to provide sufficient infrastructure for outdoor sports — soccer, lacrosse, baseball, softball — to pursue their own versions of Full court press.
“I’d like to do this for more sports,” DeBiase says. “I think it’s certainly possible. Our schools do a great job with outdoor sports, so they get a lot of credit for finding a way to live stream games. I would also like to do this for the last day of the regular season since we always have seedings determined by the results of those games.”
All in allFull Court Press marks a watershed for the CACC as well as for other Division II conferences. Not only do fans of each school get to see their fellow student-athletes participate and excel in the playoffs, but the digital platform and production concept can enhance the visibility of the conference as a whole.
“From a coaching perspective,” DeBiase adds, “it will help with recruiting if this is something that a lot of high school athletes tune into. This is a chance for the fans to pick a team they want to follow, and going forward they can get much more interest in Division II basketball.”
Caldwell University defeated Jefferson University in the CACC finals to advance to the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Championship and was defeated by St. Anselm College in the first round. Dominican College defeated Post University in the CACC finals to advance to the NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Championship and lost to Assumption University in the first round.