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11/1/08

Navy coach ready for full disclosure, exposure

Niumatalolo wired for TV in unique broadcast deal
By BILL WAGNER, Staff Writer
Published October 31, 2008

CBS College Sports Network will conduct a groundbreaking experiment during tomorrow's telecast of the Navy-Temple game.

Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo has agreed to wear a microphone throughout the game, which will give viewers an unprecedented opportunity to hear sounds from the sideline during a college football game.

Niumatalolo's conversations with players and assistants as well as reactions to on-field events will be recorded and replayed periodically throughout the telecast. CBS College Sports will also provide sound and footage of Niumatalolo's pre-game and post-game speeches to the squad.

"To get an opportunity to do something like this is absolutely unbelievable. I am pumped up beyond belief," CBS College Sports Network producer Steve Scheer said. "Our network is so thankful to Coach Niumatalolo and the Naval Academy for trusting that we will do this right."

CBS College Sports Network had to clear two major hurdles in order to outfit a head coach with a microphone for the first time in the history of collegiate athletics. First, Niumatalolo had to agree to the wear the wireless microphone with the knowledge that everything he said during the game could wind up on television. Second, CBS CSN had to obtain a waiver from the NCAA, which bars coaches from wearing broadcast michrophones during games.

Navy sports information director Scott Strasemeier initially broached the prospect to Niumatalolo in July and Scheer reiterated the request in-person during a meeting with the coach prior to the season opener against Towson.

"I didn't know what to think when I first heard the idea. I really didn't have an opinion," Niumatalolo said. "After I thought about it a while, I said 'OK, let's do it.' I thought it would be great for the program from an exposure standpoint."

Niumatalolo thought about the Hard Knocks program that provides a behind-the-scenes look at National Football League franchises, most recently the Dallas Cowboys. He has seen segments of the Terrapins Rising show that provides an in-depth look at the Maryland football program.

"From a recruiting standpoint, you always want exposure. I think that type of stuff gives kids an insight into your team," he said.

Niumatalolo admitted he's unsure how this will work out, calling the wearing of a microphone during a game "uncharted waters." Fortunately, CBS College Sports will delay the coach's audio for at least 10 seconds to ensure that no foul language or other potentially embarrassing sequences don't get on the air.

"Early on, I'll be conscious of it. After the first missed block, I'll probably forget and start yelling. I'll try to remember so that I behave myself," he said.

Scheer is going to be extra careful on Saturday, listening to every sequence of Niumatalolo audio personally before incorporating it into the telecast. Scheer will not allow any arguments with referees, discussions about strategy and play-calling or other sensitive material.

"I would never do anything to embarrass Coach Niumatalolo, the Naval Academy or CBS College Sports. Since this is the first time this has ever been done, we will error on the side of caution," Scheer said.

Rather, what Scheer is looking for is raw emotion that demonstrates the intense, competitive side of college football coaching. He's envisioning slot back Shun White breaking a 40-yard touchdown run then allowing listeners to hear how Niumatalolo reacts to such a game-breaking play. There will be a camera focused on the head coach at all times so the audio can be matched up with video footage.

CBS College Sports Network purposefully chose Senior Day at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium because it figures to be fraught with emotion. Scheer said an ideal scenario would be for senior quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada to lead Navy to a commanding victory then have an opportunity to be removed from the game late in the fourth quarter to receive a standing ovation from the crowd and a huge from Niumatalolo.

"I think whatever Coach Niumatalolo would say to Kaipo at that moment would be powerful and really capture the audience," Scheer said.

A production assistant will be charged with monitoring all the commentary that comes from Niumatalolo along with any other sideline sounds his microphone picks up. Scheer will be alerted whenever a particularly strong sequence is captured and will then review the audio himself.

"There are four commercials per quarter and my goal is to air something from Coach Niumatalolo coming out of each one," the producer said.

Strasemeier has worked with Scheer on the Army-Navy game for many years and has no reservations that CBS College Sports Network will handle this experiment properly.

"We wouldn't allow Coach Niumatalolo to agree to this if we didn't trust CBS implicitly. I have no doubt that Steve Scheer and his crew will present this in a positive manner that will reflect well on Coach Niumatalolo and Navy football."

CBS College Sports Network will carefully review all the audio collected during tomorrow's contest and compile it into a half-hour program entitled, Wired: Navy Football. That program, which will provide fans an extensive, all-access look at the Senior Day game, will air on Dec. 4 (8 p.m.).

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