To say the UMBC basketball program is trending upwards would be a major understatement. The Men’s team hired Ryan Odom to take over the reigns as head coach. In his first season, he led the Retrievers to an 18-12 record improving their previous year’s record by 15 wins.
Coach Odom was then given the Joe B. Hall Award, which is presented annually to the top first-year coach throughout all of Division I basketball. On the women’s side, the Retrievers are coming off back-to-back seasons finishing with a record of .500 or better, which has not occurred since the start of 2010 when the women were crowned conference champion. Coach Stern is in his 16th year as head coach, and has all the tools to make it the third winning season in a row for the Retrievers.
With all that is going well for the teams on the court, things are getting even better off of it. The America East Conference has agreed to terms with ESPN to stream every single basketball game live on their ESPN3 network. For UMBC, this means that 17 men’s games, and 13 women’s contests, will be able to be viewed via live broadcast. On top of a new and improved way to watch the games, UMBC throws in a new Events Center featuring an $85 million total budget to sweeten the deal.
The future is bright for UMBC athletics, and the combination of the ESPN3 deal with the new Events Center, are definitely contributing to that future.
In November of 2016, the America East Conference signed an 11 year deal with ESPN3 to stream an extensive number of live athletic events. Last year, UMBC rolled out production with fifty percent of their home basketball games. These broadcasts were so successful, that UMBC was recognized as the top school in the conference for online streaming events. Steve Levy, the director of Athletic Communications at UMBC, said, “The ESPN3 deal is not only great for the teams and athletes here, but it also is an unbelievable opportunity for students who have any sort of interest working in sports production.” The athletic department has implemented a program where students can have a hands-on learning experience during the productions of all of the ESPN3 events. Levy said, “We put our students right in the middle of the action. The camera work, graphics, audio, you name it and our students are controlling it because the best way for them to learn is by doing it themselves.”
The program’s success has the potential of making an impact far beyond the University’s basketball programs. Levy said, “We have already had six different people, who previously worked in our program, get opportunities in sports production at the professional level.” Last year, there were barely over 10 students to help in production on a regular basis, this year that number has already doubled. “We have already experienced a great amount of growth, and we expect more of the same in the future,” said Levy. The popularity of the program is spreading around campus, and more students are trying to get involved. There is one Sports Media class offered in the Winter term as an MCS 370 course, but the athletic department hopes that this newfound eagerness to learn will spark some change, and create additional classes for students to enroll in within this line of work. A major influence in this process will be the influence of the new Event Center.
The new Event Center will be the pinnacle of operations for the athletic department. The faculty will have new offices located above the court similar to that of the current RAC. The center will feature improved media systems, as well as upgraded equipment comparable to professional facilities across the country. Basically, setting up a live broadcast at the Event Center will be just as easy as if the game were being played at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.
Levy said, “All of our equipment is just like the ones ESPN uses during their everyday production. This is not only an unbelievable commodity for us to have as a University, but when students are presented with a professional opportunity to work in sports production, it allows the transition to be completely natural.”
$85 million is an incredible amount of money to spend on a basketball court, but UMBC Athletics believes the impact it will have on the institution will prove to be priceless. They hope it will be more effective in bringing in top notch recruits to improve athletics. Moreover, it will provide for an exquisite environment to witness any sort of entertainment.
On top of it all, it will be a place that students can master their craft towards pursuing a career in sports. The advancements the center has to offer will provide students with a multitude of opportunities to grow.