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Local student helps build Madness with NCAA app

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If in recent weeks you’ve watched fearsome blocks, monster dunks and other exciting college hoops scenes online on your mobile device, chances are Columbus native Luke Martin helped bring them to you.

Martin, a sophomore at Ball State University, is part of a team of students that is helping Turner Sports bring the most exciting scenes of March Madness to viewers in real time.

Today, real time begins at 6 p.m. when Louisville plays Wichita State and about 8:45 p.m. when Michigan faces Syracuse in the men’s Final Four semifinals.

Viewers who are running the March Madness Live app on their devices get an alert any time the Ball State students upload another exciting game clip or post-game interview.

The team at Ball State Sports Link, the university’s hands-on learning program, also posts tweets and photos to provide a near-constant stream of new material for March Madness fans.

Martin, a Columbus East High School graduate and sports fan, said he has had great fun — even under stress — in making sure that viewers see the tournament’s greatest moves and photos.

He said he has especially enjoyed doing actual work — rather than just reading in books or producing something just for class — in all nearly all aspects of sports broadcasting.

“I just loved it,” he said.

Martin pursued his sports broadcasting career from an early age. As a freshman at East, he garnered the support of Athletic Director Bob Gaddis to start a website dedicated to East High School sports. He posted content including stories, photos and videos about basketball, baseball, football and other sports.

In his junior year, with help from TV instructor Don Baker, he launched a TV show, which showed game footage and included interviews with athletes and coaches.

It was a natural step, Martin said, to pursue a sports broadcasting career at Ball State.

He said he has enjoyed especially the variety of sports broadcasting aspects about which he has been able to learn.

Martin said he has hosted radio shows, filmed feature stories on Ball State athletes and coaches, done the play-by-play announcing for various sports and, in the past two weeks, has watched a lot of NCAA basketball to pick the right clips to disseminate to a national audience.

“It’s pretty hectic,” he said.

Usually two students per game post content to March Madness Live; and in the tournament’s early rounds, when lots of games are played simultaneously, the university’s media control room was packed with students. They watched the games on five plasma TVs on one wall and sat in front of Apple computers along two other walls to filter game highlights, celebrations, interesting tweets and photos that captured the games’ excitement.

Chris Taylor, instructor of telecommunications/sports, said that about three years ago Turner Sports, which has NCAA tournament broadcasting rights, approached Ball State to inject its online coverage with some pizazz. The connection came about because Michael Adamson, vice president of sports new products and services at Turner Sports, is a Ball State alumnus.

Turner liked what the Ball State program offered and has come back to the school for the third year in a row, Taylor said.

The students gain valuable real-world experience in stressful situations, which fits in Ball State’s approach to immerse students in their fields.

“The thing I tell our students is to respect the opportunity and to respect that we’re working for the (NCAA) tournament,” Taylor said.

And each year, the demands from Turner go up, and the technology becomes more sophisticated, continually exposing the students to cutting-edge technology, Taylor said.

The students get to follow the spikes in conversations on social networks and provide meaningful content for those conversations, Taylor said.

And the conversation in sports now frequently revolves around what is the best available screen to reach an audience, Taylor said, and sometimes that screen is not the TV.

Ball State will build upon its program by offering a digital sports production track starting this fall.

Martin said his work at BSU has convinced him that he has chosen the right field. He dreams of being a national play-by-play announcer but wants to hone other skills related to sports broadcasting to be more valuable to prospective employers.

This weekend, however, he’ll be back in front of the plasma screens and Apple computers at the university, helping bring the Final Four’s most exciting scenes to millions of viewers.

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