COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Umterps sat down with Under the Shell executive producer, Mike Springirth, who has been working on the show for years. Find out how the show is made, the access granted and more.
The show airs on Comcast SportsNet Mid Atlantic on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. Watch the season premiere of Season 10 here and watch every episode of the previous nine seasons at http://www.youtube.com/user/MarylandWBB.
What has working on the show been like for you?
I worked at two television stations in my 30 year career in WAVY-TV in Norfolk, Va. and WJLA in Washington, DC and you always dream of getting full access to a sports team. The dream is to find out what is being said behind the scenes and getting to put it on television for others to see. I got that chance by doing this show, so that makes it great.
Whatʼs your role on the show?
My role has changed over the years. I have always been a producer, editor and camera person for the show. Over the last four years, I have been made executive producer. I still shoot some, I still edit a little and I still produce. I have hired Ryan Celli, a film student from Towson University, who does most of the editing. He has added a whole new look to the show and the players, coaches and fans have all loved it.
How did you get involved?
I worked for Jess Atkinson, the former kicker for the Maryland football team, who has his own production company. Jess asked Mark Thomas, who is now Brenda Freseʼs husband, to produce the show and Mark ask me to help him out.
Are there any parameters that you have to adhere to when around the team with the camera?
Not at all. Brenda has never asked me to stop shooting anything. I think we have good judgment for when certain things are too personal. For example, one of the players was having academic problems and they were talking about how to help that player. Brenda didnʼt want the player to be embarrassed. That’s the only time we’ve ever discussed not using something.
Brenda always wears a wireless microphone during the game and in practice. Everything is available to record, even when she is yelling in the locker room about a tough performance. The greatest example of Brenda giving us total access was when she let us announce to the team that she was pregnant with twins, then followed that up with allowing us in the hospital room right after the twins were born!! If only she would have only let us in during the births of her twin boys (just kidding)… The most interesting thing about giving total access is that the players don’t even notice you anymore. You can shoot tight shots of their faces, in private moments, and many times they don’t acknowledge that you are even there. I really think that it helps them with dealing with the media because they are videotaped all the time.
When you put the show together, is there anything you’re trying to convey?
Yes. I’m trying to convey the team’s message and the school’s message in an interesting way. I want to show how tough it can be to play college basketball and also how exciting and fun it can be. I want to show what the girls do off the court, for example the holiday tournament to Puerto Rico, volunteer work and school work. I also like to convey how much the coaching staff cares about the players.
You’ve covered sports for a long time, going to Super Bowls and so many big events. Is there anything unique about covering a women’s basketball team?
All sports are similar. It is about the amount of coverage each sport receives that makes it different. There are great stories involving all people. There are great moments in all sports. If you followed the baseball team at Maryland you would find great stories and could do a great show. When players of the same abilities play against each other, everything is relative. I worked on the Maryland men’s basketball show for five years. For example, the women’s or men’s games against Duke are so similar. They are always big games, with big crowds and a lot riding on them. The only difference is that the womenʼs game is never covered with the same intensity as the men’s game.
Most memorable moments?
The national championship win over Duke. The ACC tournament where Alyssa Thomas played an unbelievable stretch of games and the Terps won the title. Little moments when our cameras caught behind-the-scenes segments. Once, our camera person Jen Schoenmann got a great segment of the team playing a practical joke on Sequoia Austin. Alicia DeVaughn was turning on and off her overhead light on the plane without Sequoia seeing her. Sequoia thought it was the electrical switch and maybe even a spirit. It was so funny and showed how they have fun all the time.
Another memorable scene for me was in the locker room two years ago, after a devastating loss to Virginia Tech at home. Brenda told the players to raise their hands and discuss what happened during the postgame speech. Players talked for 45 minutes. Players such as Alyssa Thomas, who was injured and didn’t play, broke down and cried about the loss. It was good example of turning a negative story into an emotional story that fans thought was positive because it showed the feelings players and coaches have during really low points of the season.
Any people who stand out as best interviews over the years?
For me, Shay Doron, Sequoia Austin, Chloe Pavlech, David Adkins, Laura Harper, Jade Perry are all great. Shay, Chloe and Laura love the camera and the camera loves them. They understand TV. They understand what sounds good on TV and they deliver big. Jade Perry was just funny. She didn’t say a whole lot but when she did it was entertaining. She didn’t have much of a filter either, that is why she was great on television. Things just happen to Sequoia Austin, a walk-on who tries hard all the time. Brenda gave her a scholarship her first year at the holiday party. She broke down and cried, then called her parents to tell them the good news. Once, during a game she attempted seven three-point shots in a row, missed them all but was a good sport in the locker room and laughed about the whole incident. David Adkins can say so many insightful things in a 15 minute interview, that you are totally convinced that it should all be used, unedited.