Jumbocast reaches audiences off the Hill to spread Tufts athletics
Published: Thursday, October 24, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 24, 2013 09:10
On a gray Saturday afternoon during Homecoming weekend, Tufts students crowded into tightly packed bleachers in a showing of school spirit that some may consider uncharacteristic. Those familiar with the sports culture at Tufts understand that this kind of high attendance at sporting events is the exception to the rule.
While Tufts athletics may not enjoy the kind of notoriety or diehard following that can be found at large Division I state schools with massive student bodies and deep athletics budgets, Jumbocast, Tufts’ sportscasting student group, strives to make athletic games more accessible to students, parents and alumni both on and off campus.
Founded in 2001 by Steve Clay (LA ‘90), who wrote for the Daily and was the sports director on WMFO, Jumbocast was one of the first sportscasting groups in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) and has since been influential in broadcasting at many other schools in the conference, according to senior and General Manager of Jumbocast Michael Roubey. Covering 11 different sports across three seasons, Roubey said that Jumbocast works with advanced audiovisual equipment and in conjunction with student commentators to create a high quality video available for live or archived streaming.
Unlike most NESCAC sportscasting programs, which are deeply rooted within their own athletic departments, Jumbocast is a student organization with no formal affiliation with the Athletics Department, according to Roubey.
Eliza Halmo, a member of the women’s lacrosse team, said that this connection is actually beneficial to the organization.
“I think it’s definitely looked well upon and it’s nice that we’re independent of the athletics department,” Halmo, a senior, said.
Jumbocast does, however, work in coordination with the Tufts athletic department to broadcast games and also uses a webcasting infrastructure that Tufts’ Information Technology Services built, which is based on technology from RealNetworks, Inc., a software company.
One of the most unique aspects of Jumbocast as a student organization is that it pays its members for working as commentators. While the pay may be modest, it provides an incentive for members who have to give up large stretches of weekend hours to report.
Roubey explained that those working with broadcasting for the group are enthusiastic about the job, but not because of the pay.
“Our money isn’t enough to survive on, so no one is coming to Jumbocast just to get paid,” Roubey said.
Funded by the Tufts Community Union Treasury, Jumbocast does not limit its services to just sports; it has made its services available to different types of student group events on campuses including a capella concerts, symposiums and conferences.
“The underlying goal is the sporting events, so no one has to pay us for working a sporting event,” Roubey said. “Our goal is always to do as many sporting events as possible, but given that we have some very high-tech equipment and we know how to use it, we offer those services to non athletic groups for a price. We can broadcast anything that any club wants to broadcast.”
Despite struggling for a large membership last year, Roubey stressed that Jumbocast has always been about quality over quantity.
“We ... do less broadcasts than most of the other schools, but because of that, we only do broadcasts that we know we can do well, that we can staff with broadcasters who actively want to be there and have a passion for the sport and for the team,” Roubey said. “It would be my belief that if we tried to force any of our commentators to work a game or a sport that they didn’t really know or were actively engaged in, they wouldn’t be able to deliver as high quality of a broadcast.”
While Jumbocast provides an opportunity for Tufts students who are passionate about sports to commentate on live games, the program also offers a way for students, alumni and parents in particular to see their friends and children compete, according to Connor Schaible, a member of the men’s varsity soccer team.
“My parents can’t come to every single game,” Schaible, a sophomore, said. “Even my grandma and aunt get to watch the games online and text me after the game.”
Schaible, who is from New Jersey, noted that Jumbocast can be especially important to those members of the team whose families do not live nearby.
“I know for guys from further away, like California, whose parents might only come to one game a year, they really use Jumbocast to get to see the games,” he said.
Roubey said that while Tufts may not be known for its sports teams, he hopes Jumbocast can support Tufts athletes and athletics.
“We have the hope that Jumbocast helps spread the sporting events, but if you can’t go all the way down to Cousens Gym to watch a basketball game, we hope that you would at least have it on your computer in the background in your dorm room,” he said. “We know how much time and effort these athletes put in. Even if it’s D-3, the NESCAC is a strong competition where athletes put in a ton of hours and a ton of work and so we really want to help show that.”
While at its heart Jumbocast is focused on sports at Tufts, Roubey also explained the need for technologically literate students in broadcasting as they play a vital role in the process of capturing live games on camera.
“Half of each broadcast is technical,” he said. “Our technical director now is a sports fan but he’s much more interested in the technology of video and broadcasting. We are always looking for technologically savvy people.”