Behind The ScenesSportsCenterThe Undefeated

SportsCenter’s Verrett invested as host of A Conversation With The President

SportsCenter anchor Stan Verrett will host and moderate The Undefeated Presents A Conversation With The President. (Kohjiro Kinno/ESPN Images)
SportsCenter anchor Stan Verrett will host and moderate The Undefeated Presents A Conversation With The President, airing tonight at 10 ET on ESPN.
(Kohjiro Kinno/ESPN Images)

GREENSBORO, N.C. – SportsCenter anchor Stan Verrett welcomes President Barack Obama to North Carolina A&T University today to discuss matters that greatly concern both men.

Mentorship of young African-American men and athletes’ involvement in social activism are among the topics on the table as President Obama shares his thoughts during The Undefeated Presents A Conversation With The President (tonight, 10 ET, ESPN/WatchESPN).

Verrett is taking a brief break from co-anchoring the Los Angeles-based SportsCenter to serve as host and moderator for the program. The Conversation is taped in front of an audience composed of North Carolina A&T students and invited guests. A few audience members will have a chance to ask President Obama – who will discuss his My Brother’s Keeper mentorship initiative, among other things – questions at the end of the interview segments.

Verrett is a 1989 graduate of Howard University, which like host school North Carolina A&T is one of the nation’s leading HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). A SportsCenter anchor and studio host since 2000, Verrett tells Front Row how he prepared for this role.

What’s your schedule like?

“My week this week is pretty crazy. I left LA Friday for Bristol for ABC College Football Saturday, then travelled to Greensboro Sunday to begin prepping for Tuesday. Then it’s back to Bristol for SportsCenter Wednesday and Thursday, and then College Football Saturday once again. My reward after it’s done? A trip home to New Orleans to see my Saints hopefully beat the Carolina Panthers Sunday.”

Why is participating in this program important to you?
Participating in this venture is vital because the issues we are discussing are so important. The President is the most powerful man in the world and also can speak to issues related to African American boys and men because he has lived the experience.

What’s it been like to work with The Undefeated on this program?
The Undefeated has done an incredible volume of timely thought-provoking work since its launch. I’m flattered that [ESPN Vice President, Editor-In-Chief, The Undefeated] Kevin Merida and his team included me on this project. Their thoroughness and attention to detail have greatly assisted the process of getting prepared for the show.

An HBCU school is host for this program. What do you think that means to HBCU students and graduates like yourself?
The program is set at an HBCU and deals, in part, with issues related to their survival and importance. I hope that sharing my experience as a graduate of Howard University will help to give viewers a sense of why HBCUs remain vital in our society.

ESPN’s The Undefeated Presents: A Conversation with The President: Sports, Race & Achievement

North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, N.C., is the setting for a student forum with President Barack Obama slated for tonight (10 ET, ESPN and WatchESPN). The taped-delayed program will feature President Obama and SportsCenter anchor Stan Verrett, the program’s host and moderator. The Undefeated.com will simulcast the telecast at 10 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide content before and after the event airs.
President Obama has worked with ESPN in the past, including appearances on SportsCenter segments. What’s the most interaction you’ve had with the President?
I haven’t had any interaction with the President before this event. I am looking forward to hearing his thoughts and, hopefully, drawing out solutions for some of the challenges the program will address. I majored in journalism and minored in political science at Howard. I’ve been fascinated with the President’s journey to the Oval Office since his initial campaign.

How do you practice for this? How much does watching the presidential debates help?
I didn’t practice, per se, for the interview. I’m a voracious reader by nature and have tailored my reading recently to books and articles relevant to the subject matter of the program. I’ve tried to organize my thoughts about what I’d like to ask the President. And the show’s production team, led by [senior coordinating producer] Michael Fountain and [producer] David Rose, has helped to put those ideas together with the audience participation to create what should be a compelling hour for the viewer.

How much has having watched the previous Undefeated program in Chicago helped you prepare?
Watching The Undefeated Chicago town hall and programs with similar formats has helped me to get a sense of flow for the show. It’s critical to get the right mix of involvement from all of the participants.

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