Sports Business 101- The Sports Information Director
When you tune in to watch your favorite college team’s latest game on television or read a story about them in the paper, do you ever wonder how the broadcasters and reporters are able to know so much about so many different teams? Is it because they spend every waking moment studying the rosters of every team in America? Are they calling and talking to coaches every night? Well, not exactly.
While many broadcasters and reporters aren’t afraid to do homework on the teams they cover, they also get a lot of help from some people who are rarely noticed or acknowledged – the Sports Information Director (SID).
Associated Press sports editor Teresa Walker, who covers both professional and college teams across Tennessee, described SIDs as “crucial” to her job. “Sports information directors keep me informed on a daily basis about what is going on with their programs.”
The role of the sports information director is multifaceted, meaning they have to be able to wear several different hats in their job, many of which they must wear at the same time. The overall goal, however, is to help promote the university and its athletic teams.
One local sports information director who has done just that is Greg Sage of Belmont University. Sage, who is in his ninth year as Belmont’s SID, has helped facilitate the Belmont athletics brand from that of a small Nashville college to a nationally recognized level. While overseeing all of Belmont’s 17 NCAA sports, Sage works largely with the men’s basketball program. He has seen the Bruins advance to college basketball’s biggest stage, the NCAA Tournament, six times during his tenure.
When casual sports fans hear this, it sounds like a dream job. They often envision it as hanging with their team in front row seats, keeping the stats and talking about the game afterward. In reality, it is much more than that. While there is a lot of interaction with the coaches and players, and the seats with a good view are rarely complained about, the two or three hours spent at a game are only a small portion of a “typical” day for the SID. The real truth is that there is no “typical” day in this job, and a 40-hour work week can easily be achieved by Wednesday or Thursday of each week.
“People often think of us as pencil pushers and stat keepers, and there is a piece of that in the job, but so much of what myself and others in my role do now is so new media oriented,” said Sage. “It now also includes audio production and editing, managing live video feeds and pitching stories to local, regional and national media outlets.” He added, “There is almost no difference than if I was an event planner for a music or sporting red carpet event.”
Like event planners, much of the work an SID does is completed well before game day even arrives. When Sports & Entertainment Nashville was on hand at Belmont’s men’s basketball regular season game against Murray State in February 2014, this game featured the top two teams in the Ohio Valley Conference and was aired to a national audience on ESPNU. For this game, like those before and after it, an SID will compile a new set of game notes and send those out to media outlets across the country who will likely be covering the game. Those notes will include research materials for media personnel like statistics, trends and individual player analysis, along with interesting notes on each player.
He will have also worked with local and national media, pitching stories for them to cover and coordinating times for them to attend practices and conduct interviews leading up to the game. In a town like Nashville that also features multiple professional teams and a wealth of other colleges all looking for media attention, this can be a rather time consuming effort.
When game day arrives, Sage and SIDs like him at universities around the country change the hat they wear countless times throughout the day. Prior to the Belmont vs. Murray State game, Sage spent time as a technical coordinator, helping television and radio crews prepare to broadcast the game. He also worked as a logistical coordinator, assigning credentials to media and photographers, assigning seats to those in attendance to cover the game. He also wore the hat of statistical coordinator, putting together a crew to keep the official stats for the night’s game, in addition to updating social media outlets throughout the game and coordinating the in-house video production to show the game and replays in the arena.
SIDs like Sage at schools the size of Belmont also must remain versatile because they have to cover so many different sports and treat each one of them equally. At Belmont, Sage is one of two full-time staff members, along with three graduate students. Contrast that with some of the larger BCS schools that may have five to 10 full-time staff members.
“There is a contrast between us and BCS schools,” he said. “They have a greater number of full time staff and more niche sport assignments, but they also sponsor more sports usually.”
After the final buzzer sounds on Belmont’s win over Murray State and fans begin heading home, Sage’s work is still far from done. He still has to gather players and coaches to appear at the postgame press conference he will oversee, write a story for the school’s website, send the final statistics to media and the OVC and answer questions from reporters. After putting all the final touches on the Murray State game for the night, Sage will be back in the office the next day, starting the process all over again.
Sage noted about his job that it is really a “hybrid, non-descript role. You have to be extremely versatile, not locked into just one or two skillsets and able to adapt.” Sage’s versatile background helped prepare him for the role of a sports information director. Having previously worked as a producer at The Golf Channel and as a sports anchor/reporter/producer at two television stations, he knows what reporters are looking for when they cover a team. He also still uses his broadcasting skills – during basketball games, he also serves as the color analyst for the Bruin Sports Network broadcasts with Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram.
So the next time you are reading about your favorite team or watching the game on TV and hear something new and interesting about your team, know that there was probably an SID like Sage behind the scenes helping to bring that information to you!
Originally published in Sports & Entertainment Nashville, May 2014.