Improvisation: Pressbox delay won’t stop live broadcast

Published 1:53 am Thursday, August 30, 2018

The newly updated Andalusia High School football stadium is ready for football action Friday night, but the press box won’t be finished this season.

So WAAO owner Blaine Wilson is improvising.

Wilson converted an old trailer into a mobile broadcasting station to live broadcast the Bulldogs’ home football games in 2018. Come Friday night, Wilson expects to have scaffolding and a walk board set up over the trailer, and fans will see members of the broadcast team calling the game from that vantage point.

When word came down that the press box wouldn’t be ready in time for the 2018 season, Wilson said he went to work outfitting the trailer to do the job.

“I think it was in February that I went into the board meeting and asked them to allow us to pull a trailer into the stadium,” Wilson said. “I started that process then. I already had the trailer and we just really took the old layout of the old press box and just tried to mirror it inside the trailer.”

“We had to have something that could handle our broadcast team,” WAAO owner Blaine Wilson said. “You probably have one of the most elaborate high school broadcasts, especially in 4A and down.”

Wilson said he believes it’s important for the community to have a great broadcast for Andalusia football.

“The reason is that corporate American has bought up radio stations and broadcast rights,” Wilson said. “You don’t have a local owner that’s locally connected to the community or to the school that deeply cares about the school. All they are looking at is can they make a bottom line by putting it on the air. If the they can’t, they’re just not going to consider it.”

WAAO’s broadcast team had deep ties to the community and the game of football, and Wilson said that’s what makes them special to the community.

“We are fortunate enough to have a school board member, Dr. David McCalman, on the team,” Wilson said. “Patrick McCalman who is a PowerSouth attorney. We have Brian Capps that’s been doing this since he was in high school with John Croft. Then we have me. I’m just a proud alumnus with a kid coming through the program. I don’t really care if I make a dollar. I don’t care if it costs me a dollar. We are going to have it on the air.”

Wilson said that the team works hard to put the best quality program on the air on Friday nights.

“We try to do everything we can to make the broadcast sound as professional as possible, equipment wise, versus having to run it through a plain telephone system,” Wilson said. “A lot of stations have to do that, or choose to do because they don’t want to step out and buy the equipment that they need to make it sound studio quality.”

Things on Friday night could be easier on Wilson and his team, but putting out the best quality is more important than making it easy Wilson said.

“If it was just me and another person, it would be a lot simpler to set up and we could do it a lot quicker,” Wilson said. “We have guys though that specialize in different things. I’m actually running the broadcast from here. The commercials and all of the audio is being produced right here. The station is simply turning us on and off. Matt McQuay, who is a sixth grade history teacher at the elementary school, is at the station covering for us and he is there in case something goes wrong on our end, he can keep us going back at the station. He is also updating scores to us so that we can announce them during the game. He is one-fifth on the equation.

“David (McCalman) is doing the play-by-play and he is awesome. He understands football and the offensive and defensive schemes. He is able to break things down on that level,” Wilson said.

“Patrick (McCalman) is a football nut and he knows football. He doesn’t say a lot but when he does is something educated,” he said. “Brian (Capps) started out doing statistics for Mr. Croft, which is where Mr. Croft loved to start young people.”

With the temporary broadcast setup, Wilson said Capps will be on the sideline this season.

“This year, we are going to have Brian down on the sidelines like he used to do,” Wilson said. “From our vantage point, we are going to need Brian on the field to help tell us where the ball is spotted. Especially once we get east of the 50.”

Broadcasting not only the football game, but also the band’s halftime performance, is something that the WAAO team takes pride in, Wilson said.

“One thing that Brian really takes pride in at halftime, and we take pride in at the stadium, is staying with the band for their performance,” Wilson said. “I dare say that very seldom does a station stay with the band’s performance and we stay with our band’s performance. We make sure that our band from start to finish is broadcast so that parents, grandparents, brothers or sisters or whoever can hear them perform. We feel like the band is just as important part of the production that the game is. We try to really spotlight the band at halftime.”

Wilson said that a lot of the wiring that he uses either can’t be found in stores or can be hard to find.

“In the early days of me starting all this Gary Buck really helped a lot,” Wilson said. “He helped me make up cables and connecters that were very unique that you couldn’t simply buy off a shelf, or if you could the timeframe that we needed them in wouldn’t allow that. Between things that we had left over from Radio Shack, things that I keep at WAAO and things he had, I could come to him on Tuesday or Wednesday and just say, ‘I’m in a bind and need some help.’ He would drop what he was doing and help me.”