UK Alum Must Be on Her 'Game' in Role at ESPN
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In the months between August and March, University of Kentucky alum Megan Powell has traveled to 20 different states to help bring National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) events to television viewers across the country.
From Alabama to California to New York, the Versailles native worked behind the scenes as an associate producer for ESPN. In this role, she helped cover Southeastern Conference (SEC) football and bowl games, Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Men's basketball and SEC Women's basketball as well as the NCAA Women's Volleyball tournament. As March Madness begins, she'll bring the Women's NCAA and NIT tournament action to viewers and then move on to NCAA Softball and Baseball.
"In the middle of a broadcast, I am responsible for anything that a viewer would read on the screen," said Powell. "So any graphics that you see, we do a lot of research before we get here, we follow the stats in game and I have a group of people around me that support me to make the show look good or bad as it could be."
Her goal is to paint a picture of the action happening on the field or court for those who can't be there in person.
"Whatever sport it may be I am a part of a team to tell our viewers at home who can’t come to the game what is happening," said Powell. "Every day is different in my work but we are coming to a place where people are paying money for tickets; and we get to bring that atmosphere home to the viewers."
While this College of Communication and Information graduate loves sports, it's not all fun and games. There is a great deal of work that has to happen in the days leading up to just one game.
"We have to do a lot of statistical research, getting on conference calls with coaches, talking to our announcers, talking to the producer and director to see what direction we want it to take, what the storylines are for the games," said Powell.
That means being prepared for the unexpected.
"We have to be ready for almost anything could happen on the field, said Powell. "If you lose a starting quarterback, if you lose a starting running back, if you lose a starting defensive lineman, what’s your back up to that scenario? So we have to think about anything that could possibly happen on the field and be ready to react to that. Before the game is a lot of proactive work and then during game it's about reacting to what is happening on field."
And that means the pressure can build up during games, especially when it comes to SEC Network games.
"We are following the game, we’re following the story lines that happen in the game and of course there is pressure," said Powell. "There is pressure in any job but our viewers are very knowledge about the SEC, they're very knowledgeable about their teams and so we have to be even more knowledgeable than they are so that when they're watching a broadcast, we are teaching them about it and giving them the story."
The colleagues making up production teams each game help alleviate some of that pressure.
"That’s where the team scenario comes into play," said Powell. "You have a lot of people helping to make my job easier but also my job is only one part of what’s going on (during the game). We have a whole tape room that is handling replays and video packages and a producer and director are handling cameras and directing the talent of which way to go with following the story lines."
One of Powell's first SEC Network games actually took place at Commonwealth Stadium. UK Football's home opener brought her back to the Bluegrass, and her family.
"Coming home to Kentucky is always a really exciting time," said Powell. "It’s always a joy to come back to my alma mater."
But once she clocks in for work, her connection to UK must take a backset to doing her job.
"At work I have to set those feeling aside and very much concentrate on the game and what the stories are," said Powell. "You know, everybody in this business, they all have an alma mater somewhere and when we walk into work, you no longer have that alma mater. You have to be very objective to the scenarios and then in the social scene, you can go back to being a fan."
So while she can't always wear her blue and white, Powell is extremely proud of the education UK provided her.
"My time at Kentucky was very valuable to me because I learned a lot about time management and organization," Powell said.
But it wasn't just lessons she learned in the classroom as an integrated strategic communications major that helps her today.
"Being involved in outside the classroom activities and doing internships that were available to me through the university were incredibly helpful to me," said Powell. "I was very prepared to walk into this field after college and I am incredibly thankful to my alma mater for that."