Clint Overby, ESPN Events, senior director, is overseas for the start of the college basketball season for the fourth straight year at the annual Armed Forces Classic (AFC) – this year staged from Camp Foster in Okinawa, Japan. The matchup between No. 9 Gonzaga and Pittsburgh (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET) is one of seven men’s college basketball games airing Friday, Nov. 13 across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and SEC Network to tip-off the 2015-16 season.
The Armed Forces Classic is a huge undertaking for ESPN Events, a division of ESPN, which is based out of the network’s Charlotte, N.C., office. While staging the event is taxing, it is also a rewarding experience for ESPN’s production, programming and operation teams, as well as a chance for a piece of home to visit the service men and women. Overby shared his thoughts on the event with Front Row.
How would you describe your job for ESPN and ESPN Events?
The ESPN Events team is responsible for creating and managing owned live events for the company. Currently we own 28 events, reaching 750,000 spectators each year, and contributing over 250 live programming hours to ESPN networks and platforms.
Can you give a brief summary of what goes into staging the Armed Forces Classic each year?
It is a tremendous undertaking combining efforts of our programming, production and remote operations teams. Going into a base setting, we having to transform and make a television-ready venue that was designed for something entirely different (in most cases). That, coupled with transporting and replicating everything necessary to stage a Division I men’s basketball game, it certainly takes a fair amount of coordination.
Which of the prior AFC events was most rewarding for you personally?
Each year we have done something unique that could be labeled as impactful – from visiting with wounded warriors at Ramstein in Germany to working in the mess hall at Camp Humphries in Korea to visiting with Coast Guard sailors, who had been at sea for three months without setting foot on land. We have had the privilege to work with the men and women of our armed forces to create something memorable. For me personally, it might be the most rewarding project in my professional career.
What was the most unique experience to come out of attending the AFC?
There are so many to choose from, but what stand outs is the entirety of the initiative. We have been able to work with the Department of Defense to bring a slice of the home front to our service men and women at active military installations overseas. That endeavor in of itself is unique.
What do we have to look forward to next year with the doubleheader in Hawaii surrounding the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor?
Certainly a lot of great history with Pearl Harbor and we hope to be able to capture that in the telecast. We will stage the event in one of the hangars that was damaged on Dec. 7, 1941. To this day, there are still bullet holes in the windows from that attack. We have a great lineup of teams and a great historical backdrop.