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Inside NBC’s Broadcast

Oct 18, 2011, 11:29 AM EDT

For those of you fortunate enough to watch the Irish live and in person on football Saturdays, you might not be aware of all the work that goes into NBC’s television broadcasts of Notre Dame football.

While Tom Hammond, Mike Mayock and Alex Flanagan are the faces and voices of the Irish on NBC, producer Rob Hyland is the true quarterback of the squad. Now in his third season at the helm of NBC’s Notre Dame broadcasts, Hyland himself is a former college football player. He graduated from Williams College (Mass.) and was a force on the Ephs offensive line, helping lead the team to a 28-3-1 record in his four seasons.

While a junior at Notre Dame, I had the privilege of working with Rob and his crew in the television trucks on the west side of the stadium for the 2009 season. I operated QBStat, a statistical software program used in the creation of in-game graphics and updates. Rob and color commentator Mike Mayock were recently on campus and spent some time in the Gug preparing for the upcoming season.

I had a chance to speak with Rob while he was watching the Irish practice. He shared more about the ins-and-outs of NBC’s coverage of Notre Dame football, as well as his experiences in the industry.

What other NBC coverage have you worked on?

I began in 1997 right out of Williams College. I played football there and was an offensive lineman, many pounds ago. I started out with NBC as a runner, working at the World Track and Field Championships in Greece in 1997, where I actually spent some time working with Tom Hammond.

After people began to notice me, I was offered a freelance opportunity with the NFL on NBC, where I worked as a P.A. (production assistant). I spent three years doing replay for Sunday Night Football, where I got to work very closely with John Madden. I learned a lot more about the game from watching film with him.

I’ve also worked on the network’s horse racing coverage. I met my wife through horse racing. Her father was a trainer for Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro.

I always knew I wanted to do college football, and obviously with NBC, Notre Dame is the big one.

What changes were made to NBC’s Notre Dame broadcast for the 2011 season?

Last year for the Purdue and Michigan games we tested out an aerial action camera. This year we’ve brought it back for the entire season. It’s expensive, but it’s the kind of equipment that any big-time game deserves.

For Michigan State we used super slo-mo cameras in the lower end zones. We’ll have those back for USC, so we’ll be able to get some good shots. We’ve probably added about four cameras this year. I think we have a pretty similar amount of equipment as what ESPN uses for their prime-time games. We’re very fortunate to have a great production complement.

How many people are involved in NBC’s production of a home Notre Dame game?

There are between 60-80 people. From runners to cameramen to people operating the tape, etc., there’s all sorts of firepower and people working together. We have fifteen camera and ten tape machines.

Just like the guys here on the field practicing, you’ve got to get those people to rehearse and really understand every possible situation. There’s a lot of planning that goes into it, so really, it’s pretty rewarding when you’ve done a good job with the broadcast. It’s like you’ve won your own ‘game.’

What is your week like in the days leading up to the game?

I’m overseeing all of the college football coverage for NBC/Versus, so I usually watch our other games on Saturday night or Sunday. Across the two networks we’ve got about 30 games this year. That coverage includes Ivy League, Pac-12 and Mountain West games, in addition to what we do on NBC for Notre Dame, so I usually watch those games and give feedback to the production teams.

On Sunday night, I watch Notre Dame’s opponent for the upcoming week and get notes on their team from Dave Cook, our associate producer. Then on Monday, Mike Mayock and I discuss themes and concepts we want to focus on during Saturday’s broadcast.
Tuesday, we’ll meet at the NBC headquarters at 30 Rock in New York and install our game plan.

Wednesday, we edit the packages that we’ll use during the broadcast and we hold a conference call with the visiting team. We’ll speak with the head coach, coordinators and a couple of key players and that usually lasts about two hours.

We travel to Notre Dame on Thursday, and meet with a few players and coaches on Friday. Then, it’s Saturday.

What is something that people might not know about live television coverage?

I think a lot of people might not realize how much of a group effort it takes to be successful. All that goes into it, every graphic, every detail requires teamwork. It really requires all of those 60-80 people doing their jobs for us to be successful and many of those people go unnoticed when you’re watching at home.

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