I’ve worked with the radio broadcasts of nearly every sport in my time since beginning school at Auburn, and now that I’m not involved with the network, it’s something that I miss quite a bit.
That doesn’t mean that the relationships I made while working with the crew have gone away. One such friendship is that of Brad Law, who’s the on-site producer for Auburn Sports Network broadcasts. Brad’s job is to keep the train running — making sure segments and interviews don’t run too long, handing sponsor reads to Rod Bramblett and Paul Ellen, and generally directing traffic from pregame three hours before kickoff until the postgame show signs off before a stadium that’s long since emptied. What follows is Brad’s account of the weekend in Auburn, and his thoughts on the game, the atmosphere, and a little taste of the radio world as well, in what should become a weekly feature here on College and Magnolia. Enjoy!
“Ronnie Brown made a jalapeno-teriyaki glaze for his grilled lamb chops, Andy Burcham hosted a festival of grilled meats, and Jason Campbell made grilled turkey burgers. Whether it was last Thursday night or the last weekend in August, everyone on the Auburn Sports Network crew celebrated the start of college football season a little differently.
Last Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium, however, the crew was together to launch both a new season of Auburn football and a new era in Auburn radio coverage. For the first time in the regular season, Tiger fans got three hours of pre-game coverage. In addition to Paul, Andy, Rod, Stan, Ronnie, and Jason, Bruce Pearl, Dean Calvin Johnson from the AU College of Veterinary Medicine, former players Spence McCracken, Charlie Trotman, Marcellus Mostella, Eltoro Freeman, and Marcus Washington, joined us on the stage. We’ve added some early thoughts from Gus Malzahn and a report from Tiger Walk as well. We want this expanded pre-game coverage to be fun for listeners – to convey what a tailgate party truly is. For the producer, it’s always chaotic and nerve-wracking. I don’t know if it sounded that way on the air, but we’ll continue to tweak things as the season progresses. On behalf of everyone at the network, I hope you enjoyed the show.
After the show, I went through one of the student gates down toward the field. Stadium construction has taken away the elevator I used to use to get to press box, so the trek to the booth is more circuitous than in the past. I passed the recruits on the field as I strolled behind the South end zone, looked up at that awesome video board and smiled, and then trudged up rows of stadium steps. It felt like 275 rows of steps, but it was probably only 20. The line to the elevator stretched beyond my line of sight, so I headed up the winding ramps to the press box.
Once I get to the press box – and after I catch my breath and stop sweating – things settle in a little bit. That’s possible because our team in the booth takes a back seat to nobody. Chief engineer Patrick Tisdale has decades of experience and has had the booth set up since Friday afternoon. Rod and Stan are pros who don’t need a ton of direction, and there’s not a better studio (stadium) host in the country than Paul Ellen. They flow with the game effortlessly. Rod gives us the excitement of the big plays, Stan breaks down the “why,” and Ronnie is on top of the sideline developments. They’re in midseason form, and I’m grateful.
The game itself went a little better than I expected, frankly. Under Coach Malzahn, Auburn’s first-game scoring output has been 31, 45, 31, and 13. That’s an average of exactly 30 ppg, so I expected an average offensive output. For the offense to rack up 41 points without Kam Pettway, without Kerryon Johnson for more than a half, without Kyle Davis, and with a quarterback playing his first game in almost two full calendar years… I’m optimistic about what’s ahead for this team. Defensively, I can’t add anything new to the conversation. That unit was as dominant, statistically and in every other way, as any effort we’ve seen in a couple of generations. Marlon Davidson played more than I expected, Jeffrey Holland answered the bell with increased output, and Nick Coe showed why the coaches are excited about his potential. Admittedly, the secondary wasn’t tested last week, so they’ll be the ones in the spotlight as the team heads to Clemson this weekend. Overall, though, our excitement about the defense was confirmed in Game 1.
As the game ends and you start your drive home, Andy interviews players and coaches in the locker room while Paul and Ronnie run through highlights and analyze the game. Patrick packs up the equipment we’re not using. The roar and rumble of the crowd gives way to the distant buzz of the bright lights shining onto the emptied stadium. Kathy Harker graciously offers us pizza from the press box as the clock hits 11 PM. Pizza at 11 is a choice I’d later regret, but it’s been a long day and I’m thankful for a few extra calories to get us home.
After the broadcast, Paul and Ronnie bid farewell while Patrick and I finish packing up the gear. He drops me off at my car beside the coliseum, and I head home. My wife and kids have been visiting family in Birmingham all week, so I go home to an empty house. Finally, at 12:30 AM, it’s ok for the adrenaline to wear off.
We are blessed to be able to bring you the action from the booth every week, and we’re grateful that you invite us into your cars, living rooms, or earbuds on game days. Weeks and months of planning and prepping for Game 1 are now in the rear view mirror. Auburn football is 1-0. As far as I’m concerned, the Auburn Sports Network is 1-0 as well. Let’s go get Clemson!”