QUEENS, N.Y. ‒ The premise is simple: to bring a viewer somewhere they've never been.
The execution is more difficult, but that's exactly what Fox Sports will pull off on Wednesday night when Xavier's men's basketball team visits St. John's at Carnesecca Arena.
Over the summer, when the Big East Conference held its annual coaches meeting down in Ponte Vedra, Florida, Steve Scheer, Fox Sports' senior coordinating producer for college basketball, approached Xavier head coach Sean Miller and asked if he'd be interested in being part of an all-access game.
"Sean was standing at a table eating, and we approached him and he said yes," said Scheer. "I had to go sit down right away."
It will be the first time in Miller’s career that he’s worn a microphone for an entire game, allowing fans to peak behind the curtain of what he’s truly like during a game.
Scouting report:No. 22 Xavier visits St. John's in search of seventh straight win
"You've got to be really comfortable in your own skin to do this and it's a hard ask. I'm incredibly thankful that guys were willing to do it for us. I'm incredibly thankful for the Big East for being so progressive in doing something like this," said Scheer.
Scheer had already had discussions with St. John's coach Mike Anderson, who also agreed to participate.
Miller and Anderson will be mic'd up for the entire game, and it will provide two new Big East voices ‒ Anderson's never done an all-access game, and Miller's in his first season back with the Musketeers.
The broadcast is live, running on a five-second delay in the unlikely event that a coach curses during the game.
This is the fifth year Fox and the Big East have aired an all-access game for viewers. It only happens once a season in the Big East – a 99% commercial-free broadcast doesn’t generate much profit – but it’s an idea that’s been well-received around the sport with other conferences following the Big East’s lead.
“We’ve had access to huddles with the Big East, pregame speeches, halftime speeches, we’ve done postgame speeches, but we never did anything that was live. We brought the concept to our higher-ups and to our sales execs a number of years ago, and we had an idea of what if we did a broadcast that not only gave viewers the best seat in the house but made you feel like a player listening to the coach all the time. In order to do that, we gotta be commercial-free,” Scheer said.
During live-game action, Miller and Anderson will appear on a split screen along with the game. You’ll be able to listen to what they’re saying. During timeouts, you’ll be inside the Xavier and St. John’s huddles. Cameras will have coverage of the halftime speeches. They've also agreed, time permitting, to broadcast the postgame speeches in each team's locker room.
Kevin Kugler, who’s doing play-by-play, and Jim Spanarkel, the color analyst, won't offer nearly as much insight as they normally would. From the production truck, Scheer and his director will be making strategic decisions on how to follow what's happening.
It’s a window into a game that’s usually not possible.
“It’s live," said Scheer. "I’m just trying to be the fan. Who do I want to hear from first? I’m constantly telling my announcers to let it breathe … let’s hear the coaches.
"Coaches are funny, they say funny things inadvertently. They’re animated and you get a real feel."
This will be the third time Xavier’s participated in an all-access game. Former head coach Travis Steele was mic’d up a few years back against Creighton, and women’s head coach Melanie Moore has also been under the all-access spotlight during a game.
“It’s great for Fox. It’s great for the Big East. It’s great for the schools because it gives your fans and people a totally different look and feel for what’s involved in coaching," said Scheer. "These guys, what they do in a game ... it's amazing what they see and what I don't see. So being able to listen to that and hear it firsthand is incredible."
Xavier and St. John's will tip off just after 9 p.m. on Wednesday on Fox Sports 1.