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Sports Broadcasting

Sports Broadcasting

Graduates of the University of Kentucky fill prestigious media positions all over the country and have won just about every sports media award ever given. 

There is no better example than Tom Hammond, a 1967 equine studies graduate of the University of Kentucky and good friend of the School of Journalism and Media.

Hammond won the Eclipse Award as horse racing's top honor for a broadcaster, and during his 35-year career at NBC Sports he called the Kentucky Derby and won an Emmy Award for coverage of the Breeders' Cup. 

You may also remember Hammond for his coverage of Summer and Winter Olympic Games for NBC, calling track and field events and ice skating competitions, or his NFL or Notre Dame football games. 

What does Hammond have in common with Michael Eaves, a studio anchor at ESPN since May 2015? 

Both are Emmy Award winners, yes. And both are UK grads. Eaves graduated with a journalism degree in 1994. 

What do these men have in common with Annie Dunbar, a general editor, social media, for ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut? 

Right, Dunbar is a UK grad, too, finishing her journalism degree in 2015. 

If you are looking for the next big names in sports broadcasting from UK, ask journalism school Lecturer Andrew Dawson, who created a sports broadcasting class, which features students going live on local cable television weekly on the "UK Students' Sports Show."

Dawson, a 2009 graduate who was mentored by broadcast professor Mel Coffee, is now Coffee's faculty colleague teaching broadcast basics in Writing for the Mass Media, and upper-division courses, including his new one.

"Mel had such an impact on me as a student, I wouldn’t be where I am today without him," Dawson said. "We have become very close friends since I graduated, and I am thrilled to be back at my alma mater teaching future journalists."

Of course, Dawson's students are interested in covering UK men's basketball this semester, especially as the team heads toward March Madness, but their instructor is making sure they can walk before they try to run.

"Everybody wants to cover the big-time teams like UK basketball," Dawson said. "But what many students don’t realize is that high school sports are just as important, if not more important, to some people. 

"To many viewers, their local high school team IS the big important team. If the students can master covering high school sports, they will be ready to cover UK."

After graduation Dawson started his career in news at WBKO-TV, the ABC affiliate in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He was named weekend sports anchor in 2011 and held that position until he was named sports director in 2014.

He was honored as the Associated Press Sports Broadcaster of the Year in 2013 and was named runner-up for the same award in 2012, 2014 and 2015. 

Dawson takes pride that under his guidance WBKO's high school football show, "Football Friday Night," won runner-up for the best sports prep show in 2015. 

The "UK Students' Sports Show" debuted in the Spring 2018 semester as part of his new course, so this is the second year of its production.

That “semester was a learning experience for the students and myself," Dawson said. "I learned how much work was too much, and they learned what it is like covering local sports. I try to give them an experience as real as working at a local TV station gets." 

The show may not have the technology that your local TV station has, but the standards are high for the quality of storytelling.

“I expect our students' work to look like what you would see when you watch the local sportscast," Dawson said. "If the students get in the habit of meeting that expectation now, they will be ready to get a job in the industry and be successful."

In Dawson's class, students work as one large group to produce a program over a week's time. They trade roles as reporters, producers and anchors, and receive hands-on experience making graphics.

Production begins in a three-hour lab on Thursdays starting at 2 p.m. in a computer classroom in Blazer Dining Hall. Then students walk over to the Taylor Education Building studio to do a dress rehearsal. Finally they go live at 4 p.m. with a half-hour sports show for Spectrum cable television.

The class then debriefs with Dawson until the lab ends at 5 p.m. The sports show is rebroadcast on local cable television at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Thursdays.

Although students go to lab in a classroom setting, Dawson teaches them to use an internet-based program called Rundown Creator that allows students to write and update stories from home. They assemble their stories in the lab, placing video and graphics on a server.

Sports Broadcasting is becoming more popular, beginning with eight students last spring and having 14 students this semester.

“I hope the class continues to grow so much that we have a daily sportscast,” Dawson said.