The Yale Athletic Department announced the hiring of former football player and hockey play-by-play announcer Evan Ellis ’12 as athletics video producer on Jan. 3. In his newly created position, Ellis will spearhead the development of broadcasting, publicity and multimedia coverage of Yale sports and coordinate live coverage of Yale sporting events on the Ivy League Digital Network.
Ellis hopes to expand coverage to more of Yale’s 33 varsity teams, produce more on-demand video features for broadcasts and increase undergraduate participation in broadcasting, from announcing and camerawork to editing and production.
“It’s kind of like building a presidential cabinet,” Ellis said. “I want to surround myself with talented people who can help me do the job better.”
While the Athletic Department has coverage of many Yale teams, Ellis hopes to expand video content to cover baseball, track and field, fencing and swimming and diving in the near future. Yale softball games will be video streamed for the first time this spring, and Ellis ultimately hopes to provide coverage of close to 20 teams.
Ellis additionally hopes to produce more on-demand content for Yale teams, already receiving video coverage that can be featured within live broadcasts and published on YouTube and on Yale’s ILDN channel.
The ILDN was launched in the fall of 2010, during Ellis’s first year broadcasting at Yale, initially under the title Yale All-Access. The pay-per-view live streaming service has evolved over the last few years, adding high-definition streaming and instant replay in the fall of 2012. Ellis said he hopes to continue making incremental improvements to the service.
“There’s going to be a lot more player features, behind-the-scenes [coverage] and interviews,” Ellis said. “We’re getting ready to start doing more stuff to highlight our student-athletes.”
According to Ellis, the athletic department has always envisioned its video production as a “student-led, student-run” operation. For that reason, as coverage continues to expand, he hopes to aggressively recruit students to join broadcast teams.
This campaign is of the utmost importance given that Yale relies more heavily on students to produce its sports video content than other Ivy League schools do, according to Sam Rubin ’95, assistant director of sports publicity. The athletic department has attempted to incorporate student workers as it has expanded its ILDN coverage, Rubin said.
However, there are still holes to be filled in broadcast teams. The men’s hockey team, for instance, does not currently have a dedicated broadcast team.
In addition to recruiting broadcasters, Ellis may face additional obstacles to expanding and improving Yale’s digital content. According to Kyle Deakins ’18, who has worked in sports publicity at Yale for the last three years, the hardware available to student broadcasters needs improvement. Many of the cameras used are outdated, Deakins said, and minor equipment issues such as headset malfunctions often interrupt broadcasts.
“It would certainly do wonders for our broadcasts to get some new equipment,” Deakins said. “I think that’s one of the goals of the publicity office as we work to continue to improve our broadcasting program.”
Fortunately, Ellis returns to Yale with experience producing digital content with limited resources. Last summer, he worked as a video producer and broadcasting assistant for the Tennessee Smokies, a minor league baseball affiliate of the World Series champion Chicago Cubs. As part of his role, he produced a 13-episode weekly show on the team, using nothing but a $250 digital camera and shooting studio segments inside of a recreational vehicle.
Mick Gillispie, director of broadcasting for the Smokies, who supervised Ellis, commended his diligence in producing the show.
“He’s the first guy to the fire,” Gillispie said. “He brings a blue-collar-type work ethic to Yale.”
Ellis also gained experience working on University of Tennessee broadcasts for the SEC Network, a subsidiary of ESPN, as a graduate assistant, statistician and stage manager. Additionally, he spoke on talk radio shows and as a play-by-play announcer for the rookie baseball team from his hometown of Elizabethton, TN, the Twins.
Now, Ellis returns to his alma mater, where his passion for broadcasting originated.
“Yale is where I caught the broadcasting bug,” Ellis said. “It’s where I decided that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. I get to help students-athletes, help students and help the university that I love.”
This weekend, Ellis is working on five broadcasts: men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s hockey and gymnastics.