Behind The Scenes

Assembling a star-studded LAX field

ESPNU’s Warrior Classic is a men’s lacrosse doubleheader staged in East Hartford, Conn., a short pass away from ESPN’s main headquarters in Bristol. Saturday’s lineup at Rentschler Field includes three top-15 ranked teams — No. 4 Syracuse, No. 8 Hofstra and No. 15 Massachusetts — as well as Rutgers.

Syracuse was ranked No. 1 in the nation until a recent loss to Cornell.

How did the event organizers out of ERT — or ESPN Regional Television — net such a loaded field, which was announced in November 2010?

“Pure anticipation,” said a chuckling Dan Margulis, ESPNU’s Director of Programming and Acquisitions. ERT is the production headquarters for ESPNU, and both are located in Charlotte, N.C.

“No. Really, we wanted to get a marquee team in here, but you’re limited to the amount of dates you can use because you’re doing it in Hartford” and New England’s unpredictable spring weather.

“But by looking at the matchups and figuring out who was willing to move a game, we could make this happen,” he said.

“We had a really good built in one in Hofstra-UMass (3 p.m. ET, ESPNU). UMass is a national program, they’re close, and they can bring in some fans.”

Perennial power Syracuse, which will face Rutgers in the nightcap (5:30 ET, ESPNU), sacrificed a home date to play in the East Hartford doubleheader.

ERT officials believe this year’s ticket sales will surpass the 6,400 fans who attended the inaugural event that featured the University of Denver, Fairfield, UMass and Georgetown.

The Warrior Classic is just one of more than 1,000 events ERT telecasts annually, amounting to more than 2,200 hours of television. The ERT menu ranges from college football bowl games (including eight ESPN owns), college basketball to golf to international soccer.

“Our staff is divided up for individuals to focus on certain events. In some cases, it’s working with programming to select the teams that participate, making sure those teams are set up and have a great experience,” said Kristen Butler, ERT’s Associate Manager Of Events.

Thursday Butler, ERT Events Supervisor Kathleen Hnat and Margulis were on the Bristol campus to help produce an interactive fan area ESPN employees participated in. The fan festival atmosphere will be duplicated at Rentschler Field and is just part of the many responsibilities of the ERT team.

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