The SEC network SEC Saturday night The broadcast crew of Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers and Cole Cubelic have been together since 2017 and are doing something interesting for their second straight season on Saturday. Last year they brought the entire Vanderbilt Commodores – Ole Miss Rebels game announcement team to the sidelines. They’re doing so again this year for the Rebels’ #14 game vs. the Arkansas Razorbacks (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network). Hart (seen center above, with Cubelic on the left and Rodgers on the right) spoke to AA on Thursday and said last year was an impressive effort that was quickly brought together, particularly on the production side.
“Our production team deserves the utmost respect and recognition for what they accomplished last year. Our job as announcers was really easy, but the technical aspect of getting the audio right, getting the equipment from remote cameras to handheld cameras for a different setup than what we usually have is a real challenge for the truck, and that requires a lot more work on your part.”
Hart said he expects things to run more smoothly this year with more preparation on the technical side.
“Last year we kind of threw it together and made it work; We had to go through some things technically and people had to work really hard to make sure it worked and there were no problems, but there were some problems that they just overcame. This year we have a bit more tech support and I think that will make it a lot easier for the crew because we kind of know what we’re getting into.”
Hart said calling a game from the touchline worked great last year, and that vantage point gives callers perspective they might not get from the dressing room.
“Apart from the technical aspect, I thought it went really well. The trainers were accommodating. And the way we present it is: “We don’t expect any additional access from you, but we will be on the field and if you want to communicate with us or share something, we are more than happy to use that and.” present it to better tell the story.’”
Here’s one of those clips from last year’s show:
Hart said a key to that is seeing how athletes react to games up close.
“Respect is really what changes everything. I was impressed not only to be so close to the action, the size and speed probably wouldn’t surprise anyone here, but one of the things we’ve focused on at ESPN over the years is humanizing these athletes. If you’re down at the pitch level and you can look them straight in the eye, you can see their body language and reaction to a game going well or going wrong, it really is. And that’s something that surprised me that I didn’t expect on the field for Ole Miss-Vandy last year.”
While announcers can’t see the entire field from the touchline like they could from a traditional dressing room, Hart said he thinks the trade-offs can be worthwhile.
“There are challenges, there are also advantages. It’s just a matter of perspective. As a football play-by-play announcer, you’re used to seeing the field the same way people do at home. It’s a rectangular box, left to right, right to left. And you know that all 22 people will be in your line of sight from the booth. When you go out onto the field, you lose that perspective, but you gain others.”
“It’s like fans are sitting in different places in the stadium. When you look at a game through the end zone, you suddenly have a much better view of what direction a game is going, how big the hole the offensive line opens. Looking at it from the sidelines at the field level gives you a better understanding of speed, especially linebacker blitzing and how quickly they can converge. I think it’s important to have better feel and detection of players and detection of count and body type. I’ve found that I use my observation card a lot less when I’m down there, I just lose memory. But for every angle taken off the seat, two more angles open up.”
Here’s another clip from last year’s Sidelines show showing that:
Temperatures in Fayetteville will be a challenge for the sideline transfer this year, Hart said.
“I’m already cold. It will be 25 degrees. We can be divas in the cabin with hand warmers and space heaters and layers and maybe even a blanket if we need it. Hopefully we can find a way to keep warm.”
He said he still can’t wait to do it, and has already proven the value of doing so over the past year with the access coaches (particularly Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin) who were willing to grant.
“I’m very excited. The key to this work is giving the viewer something they wouldn’t otherwise get. And the coaches are key to that and we have great relationships with both staff. The Arkansas staff we know for years, and it’s a great group of people. The staff at Ole Miss is as outgoing as anyone. Lane approached me in the second quarter last year and sneaked up on me and gave me back-to-back defensiveness -Play calls. On the first they went to zero and sent the house and after they pulled Vanderbilt offside they went to eight. You know, you don’t get that when you make a play in the traditional sense. As long as we have more can bring to the table, it pays to do these slightly non-traditional things.”
Hart said his past experiences should also help him with the common cold.
“I should be warm enough. I played the coldest game in the major leagues [Baseball] History when the Braves were in the Rockies and it was 23 degrees. I think I have the same pair of socks from that game and hopefully they’ll work again.”
An interesting part of this show is how to do that SEC Saturday night The crew have been together since 2017, incredible longevity in a sport with frequently changing station line-ups. Hart said he, Rodgers and Cubelic had hit it off since day one and part of that was trusting each other’s preparation.
“The chemistry was right straight away. When I first met Jordan, we got into a hot tub together; It’s a very complicated story, but it was a TV part. but [the chemistry] based on friendship, number one, but also respect, responsibility. We all have many things to do in our lives: Cole and I are parents, Jordan is just married, Jordan has several productions he is involved in, Cole has his radio show, I have other sports.
“But we know that each of us comes to the table after we’ve done our work and made our preparations. And that makes a big difference, just having faith in the guy next to you; I can go anywhere with any of them, and I’ll never catch them off guard, I’ll never catch them off-guard. You always have an answer and insight into any topic that comes up during a game. So that plays a key role.”
He said that chemistry isn’t just about longevity, it’s about how the three interact.
“I don’t know how to do chemistry. I think it just happens. You can encourage it by spending time together and going out to eat together, spending time together in the off-season, that certainly helps. But the basis for this is friendship and respect.”
Here’s a photo of the SEC Saturday night Crew enjoying themselves at an ESPN photoshoot this offseason:
Hart said her group found a good balance of Xs and Os game coverage and fun.
“First of all, I have two guys with me who have both played at the SEC and who see more films than anyone I’ve ever been associated with. They know the game inside and out. And we can always talk about ball as a trio, and we often do. But we also want people to feel like they’re watching the game with friends, and we don’t badmouth them. We may eventually teach them about the game, but we’re here to have fun; You know, it’s a Saturday night, there’s 90,000 people in the stands. The game is a big deal and while we take the game seriously, we try not to take ourselves too seriously. Hopefully that works. The joy of it is based on the chemistry we have as a group.”
The fun was certainly remarkable as this group produced many memorable moments. And Hart said that most of the comments he gets about times they move away from the rigorous game action have been positive, with a helping factor being that Rodgers and Cubelic’s knowledge base makes it quick and easy to get involved Needs quick and easy to withdraw to play .
“Ninety percent of the feedback is overwhelmingly positive when we do anything that takes us away from the game. But I think what’s unique is that it’s not just an ass-grabbing game. These guys know the game so well we can take it back and talk about the double eagle blitz or the RPO action or how to properly grab a ball in the rain with a guy who played quarterback in the SEC. So I’m proud that we can have fun and be easygoing and recognize when the game dictates that we need to be dialed in. Because the bottom line is you need to get the game in front of the SEC fans, that’s why you’re there. But I think there’s room to have fun while you do it.
Hart said it also helps that they cover the same conference every week and every year.
“You don’t just know each other, but also the league. We cover 14 teams over the course of a season, and that’s for several years, the stories of the league, the coaches, the players, the story is ingrained in us. That makes the preparation much easier because we were there, we lived it, so to speak.”
Hart, Rodgers and Cubelic will announce Saturday’s Ole Miss Arkansas game from the sidelines. The game begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.
[Photos supplied by ESPN Images]