Trinity High School had played twice before on national TV but never on its home field before negotiating with ESPN to air its season opener Friday night.
One problem: Trinity’s Marshall Stadium, like just about every high school football facility in the country, isn’t hard-wired for national TV broadcasts.
“They sent an ESPN rep here early in the summer for a site visit, and some of our staff people spent time with him,” said Rob Saxton, Trinity’s associate athletic director. “We walked the campus — walked the stadium — and really went through from A to Z about what they’d need to produce a national broadcast.”
It will take two semi-trucks full of equipment and a 40-person crew to air Trinity’s game against Nashville’s Ensworth High School on ESPNU. Ultimately, five HD cameras will go live from St. Matthews at 8:04 p.m.
Yes, the defending Class 6-A champion will open its season on a bigger network than the University of Kentucky and Western Kentucky, which are relegated to ESPNews for their Week 1 showdown in Nashville.
“I think some schools might look at this as an inconvenience or a hassle,” Saxton said. “We flipped it the other way. We’re so pleased and proud to have the opportunity that we’re definitely willing to make the accommodations that are required to be in this position and have this kind of broadcast.”
Both Ensworth (20th) and Trinity (45th) are ranked in the RivalsHigh100. But ESPN’s weekend-long High School Kickoff — 13 games in nine states from Friday through Sunday — is just as much about the future as the present.
“When fans tune into this game,” said Mike Moore, ESPN’s senior coordinating producer, “one of the first things they want to know is, ‘Who should I watch? Who is going to play at the next level, where are they going to play, or where are they looking to play?'”
The best example from Friday’s game is Trinity quarterback and University of Louisville commit Reggie Bonnafon.
“So we expect a whole bunch of Louisville fans to be watching, and since he plays the quarterback position, there will be a lot of talk about him,” Moore said. “Expect to see quite a bit of analysis and scouting on him.”
ESPN will have a camera in school Friday to film spots of students, and the network plans to spotlight Trinity’s campus and history — 21 state championships at Kentucky’s highest level — during timeouts.
The Shamrocks’ other major TV appearances came once against rival St. Xavier during the 1990s and again last season against Cathedral (Ind.) High School, a game ESPN2 picked up from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
“It’s fun to bring it back on our campus,” said Dennis Lampley, Trinity’s athletic director and former football coach. “We’d like to showcase it. We’re kind of landlocked, but we’re able to do a lot of things because so many great decisions were made within our administration.”
Lampley said tickets are still available to Marshall Stadium.