The Monon Bell Classic is one of the biggest events of the Wabash school year, with its famously exciting atmosphere that comes with such an ancient rivalry. It is no wonder that thousands desire to witness and be a part of this event, a grudge match unlike anything else. With increasing technology and the ability to broaden the game’s reach through broadcasting, it is also no wonder Wabash prioritizes televising the atmosphere of the Bell Game to as many people as possible.
Since the early days of mass-broadcasted television, the streaming of the Bell Game was right there with it. ABC network debuted the first broadcast of the Bell Game in 1977.
“In the early 2000s, Mark Cuban’s company, HDNet, would be the first cable company to broadcast the Bell Game in high definition,” said Athletics and Campus Wellness Communications Director Brent Harris.
High definition broadcasting of sporting events was rare during this time. While Division I schools were the first to get covered in high definition, The Monon Bell Game would be the first Division III game to be broadcasted in high definition. The excitement and atmosphere of the long standing rivalry would stand to be a prominent factor in the ability to broadcast the game, especially in the early stages.
“Mark [Cuban], being an Indiana University graduate, knew about the Bell Game and was adamant on covering it,” said Harris.
Mark Cuban’s insistence would create a somewhat long-standing relation with HDNet, now known as AccessTV, until it would focus more on radio. Following this, ISC Sports Network would take over the broadcasting and streaming in 2021, serving as the Bell Game’s host to the present day.
With modern streaming being easily accessible, people all over the world tune in to watch the rivalry unfold.
“We have alumni that we hear from regularly in Sweden and other parts of Europe that tune into the stream of the Bell Game,” said Harris.
ISC sports network streams the game to a number of social media outlets, as well as the official Wabash sports page. On average, the livestream attracts 2,000–3,000 viewers, more than double the average of other Division III sporting events.
With people behind the scenes like Brent Harris and Broadcast Engineer Adam Phipps helping with the technical side of streaming, people like long-time Wabash commentators Steve Hoffman and Jim Amidon provide interesting insight into the game.
“I show up at 12:30 and everything is set up,” said Hoffman. “Brent Harris and Adam Phipps do an amazing job that allows me to focus on commentating.”
Providing commentary over the broadcast isn’t as easy as the smooth talking broadcaster makes it sound.
“What Jim Amidon does is really hard,” said Hoffman. “He’s the play-by-play guy. He’s got names, numbers and stats in front of him.”
While Steve would humbly disagree, his job isn’t easy either.
“I go into the game and think about what the stories are,” said Hoffman. “I like to talk to coaches and see what we are trying to do and what we are worried about. I focus on the backstories and other things going on with the players that need light brought to them.”
Extending the reach of our beloved, eccentric rivalry takes a lot of preparation. Although it takes a lot of effort that may go unnoticed by the student body, the broadcasting work of this weekend is just as important as the Wabash men on the field and in the stands. The memories created this weekend will last a lifetime and all will appreciate being able to look back at this game through the efforts of the broadcasting team that make it all possible.