Taking an opportunity of turning a campus event into a learning experience, Barth Cox, assistant professor of film and broadcasting at Tusculum College, arranged to have his mass media students take notes from a top sports event director in town to direct the nationally televised football game between Tusculum and Wingate University on Thursday, September 24.
Mark Grant, a television sports director for CBS Sports, visited with a group of Cox’s mass media majors on Wednesday, September 23, and shared his experiences as well as gave tips and advice to the aspiring media students.
“To have this type of professional speak personally to our students is the kind of opportunity you don’t get very often, particularly in this size market,” said Cox. “The students walked away with a better understanding of the profession they are preparing to enter.”
Grant began his career at a local Cablevision station in Baton Rouge, La., and through hard work, persistence and taking advantage of “defining moments” in his life has risen to become one of the top sports event directors in the country and has covered sports all over the world and in 48 states.
He talked to the students about hard work and making their own opportunities. He also told his own story that started with him “knocking on doors” and volunteering for any job that would help him gain experience and improve his skills in the broadcasting field.
Grant said that while he worked for the local cable company as a producer and director, he learned much of his craft through stints volunteering for ESPN when their crews were in the area shooting an event.
“I ran errands, made coffee, worked as a cameraman, anything that would let me see how things were done at that level. Then, I would bring what I learned back to my small high school game broadcasts and applied the new skills to those productions,” said Grant.
The skills he learned from working with these professional crews allowed him to win several awards for production and eventually got him a job with ESPN.
And, while he didn’t start out as a director, working for ESPN put him in position to take advantage of what he calls his “most defining moment.”
The director of the Division 1AA National Championship game, at which Grant was working, had to leave the site when his wife went into labor, providing Grant the opportunity to step in and direct his first game and event for ESPN, which he called “his coming out party” as a director.
“What I think is important to tell students whenever I have the opportunity - these defining moments will come in your life, and you need to watch for those opportunities and then take them and hit a home run,” said Grant. “Don’t be safe, take the chance and give it your best.”
Grant also shared inside information about how directors get hired, contract negotiation, work schedules and how to “move up the ladder.”
“Don’t ever be happy with where you are in life. Always put yourself in a position where someone else wants you. Always put yourself in a position to win. Never stop learning and improving,” he told the students.
Several of the students in the Tusculum class had the opportunity to work as part of the broadcast team with CBS on Thursday, and he advised them to take advantage of any opportunity like this that comes their way.
“I recommend to you that you find a mentor - two mentors - one far away who does what you want to be doing really, really well, and one close by who will tell you the truth. Sometimes you need to be criticized in order to get better. Find someone who will tell you where your weaknesses are so that you can improve.”
Grant also talked to the students about giving back. He is adjunct professor at Louisiana State University and enjoys mentoring students who are interested in the broadcasting field. He is also an active volunteer in the community and sits on the boards of the local YMCA, the Boy Scouts of America and the Volunteer Health Corps.
“It is very important to give back and to be a mentor to other people who want to be like you. When you are given that opportunity to do that, you should do it,” he said.