BY KATIE WOLFERT | Special To Chirp City
As a current senior in Ball State’s Sports Link program, Matt Craig has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with the world.
From day one at Ball State he has been involved in Sports Link and has grown into one of the most involved and reputable members. Craig also connected with college basketball writer/analyst Seth Davis through Sports Link.
The goal of this “Q&A” session is to give a senior’s perspective of Sports Link and offer another look into the lives of the students behind or in front of the cameras.
Q: Why did you choose Ball State?
- I’m from Oklahoma, so the first time I came to Ball State was for a basketball recruiting visit. On my visit, I visited the old Sports Link room and they were doing a soccer broadcast that day and the program director basically forced my mom and me to go watch the broadcast even though it was raining. I felt like Sports Link and Ball State wanted me while I was on my visit and genuinely wanted me to come to school here, unlike other schools where I was just visiting. I was almost being recruited by Sports Link that same way I was for basketball.
Q: Had you shown previous interest in going into sports production?
- Yes, my senior year we had to do a capstone project for an honors class. So I did a documentary on our volleyball team, because my high school’s volleyball team had won state 10 years in a row. But before this project, I had never done anything with sports media before, so I basically taught myself how to use the camera and edit. That peaked my interest to go into this field of work.
Q: Did you look at any other schools specifically for sports production?
- University of Oklahoma has a strong program and I liked Butler as a school, but their sports production opportunities were not as strong as Ball State.
Q: How do you think Sports Link is different from other sports production programs?
- Sports Link is pretty small compared to other big schools with sports production programs. Therefore, it is more hands-on. I’ve had the opportunity to do everything. You won’t be able to do as many different things if you go to a big school as you would coming to Ball State.
Q: What specific opportunities have you had the chance to do through Sports Link?
- My freshman year I did a lot of crew work on live productions, but then I realized that was not what I wanted to do. I was very interested in creating a website for Sports Link because I knew they didn’t have one, so my freshman year I pitched the idea to create a website (Chirp City) that was more content based instead of an information site which is what Sports Link had at the time. So over winter break my freshman year, I designed it on WordPress and started working on the editorial side. Over the years, I have had more chances to do on-air talent, work on feature stories for soccer, men’s basketball and men’s golf. I’ve gotten to do everything, and it’s been great.
Q: What has been your favorite experience?
- Any chance I had to be on-air. That is the easiest spot in the broadcast by far; you get to sit there, have fun and talk about the event. The crew people work a lot harder, and there’s no glory in it. Any time you are on-air it is just fun.
Q: How do you think the breadth of opportunity has opened doors for you?
- I would say it has helped with my clarity and helped me figure out what I want to do. I got to do everything and that’s what makes Sports Link different. I was able to try a bunch of different stuff and it helped me decide later what I wanted to go into.
Q: What do you think this program has taught you about the sports production industry?
- I feel like I’ve learned a lot about the industry, but with that, Sports Link also helps its students get hooked up with internships. I would say I’ve learned most about the industry while working directly in it, but Sports Link has definitely helped me land those opportunities.
Q: What is your dream job?
- Ideally, I would like to be a Tom Rinaldi. Being about to write, do video features and report from events. I would like to have a job where I could do a lot of different types of stuff as long as it is storytelling or sports analysis.
Q: How do you think Sports Link has helped you figure out what you want to do or help you get there?
- Sports Link has helped with everything. If I came with my high school experience and came to school and only went to class, I would not be ready to go work in the industry. Everything from my Sports Link experience, as well as teaching and talking to other people is way more valuable. That’s where all my education has come from.
Q: What do you believe is the greatest takeaway from Sports Link?
- Getting to do it. You learn and learn to fail on the job. Sports Link lets you do it and then correct it along the way as you learn, but they don’t hold your hand which is especially valuable in our industry. You can’t really teach media in a textbook, so you have to do it.
Q: What advice do you have for future students wanting to get into the sports production industry?
- One, you have to be a huge sports fan because most of your life will be following sports. Two, know that you are going to have to work a lot of unconventional hours; working nights and weekends is the norm. Three, have a passion to continue to learn and get better. As I’ve gotten more experience as a senior, it is important not to get in the mode that you know everything. You have to want to continue to improve and learn from people that have done it more than you.
Q: How much time do you think you spend a week on Sports Link related projects?
- The good people in Sports Link are in here like it’s a full-time job. You’re class work does not take up nearly that much time comparatively, but you should be in here several hours a day if you want to do it well.
Q: Describe Sports Link with only one word.
- Storytelling. In our broadcasts, features and social media this is what we are trying to do. Tell stories.