– SportsCenter:AM producer Heath Henry’s thoughts about Temple visiting anchor Kevin Negandhi
Everyone knows that SportsCenter anchor Kevin Negandhi is a big fan of his alma mater Temple University.
So after Temple football won the American Athletic Conference championship trophy on Saturday with a victory over Navy, the team came up with an idea: Let’s surprise Negandhi on SportCenter.
The plan was executed on Wednesday morning, but it unfolded like a spy novel.
“I thought of the idea on Sunday when I was watching SportsCenter. We were planning on taking the trophy on tour locally and I thought, ‘what bigger stage than SC?’” said Rich Burg, assistant athletic director of Temple Football Communications. “Kevin has been such a great ambassador for Temple that we wanted to make this a presentation to him.”
“On Monday, Rich Burg reached out to me to ask if SportsCenter was interested in having the captains stop by with the AAC trophy to show Kevin Negandhi,” said ESPN programming coordinator Bethany Karantonis. “Knowing how passionate Kevin is about his alma mater, I felt it was an opportunity we should consider.”
“My thought was how can we make something like that memorable for our viewers, for Kevin and for the players – something more unique than a traditional question- and-answer guest segment,” said SportsCenter:AM producer Heath Henry. “My suggested pitch back was we would love to do it if we could keep it a secret from Kevin and save a few minutes at the end of the show to pull off the surprise. That would be a win for everyone.”
“Everything was confirmed until roughly 11 a.m. ET on Tuesday when it was reported that Matt Rhule accepted the head coaching position at Baylor,” said talent producer Katie Miervaldis. “Rich [Burg] and I went back and forth about whether this affected the appearance, but we agreed it was still worth the trip as long as the players understood that questions regarding Coach Rhule weren’t off the table.
“When Avery [Ellis], Avery [Williams] and Hassan [Reddick] arrived yesterday morning it was roughly 8:40 a.m. and their smiles were only rivaled by the gleam coming off of the [incredibly heavy] AAC Championship trophy as it emerged from the SUV,” Miervaldis said. “At 9:40 a.m., I was told to bring the group to the DC2 [Digital Center 2] Green Room where segment producer Rob Morgan went over the show rundown with us. We could enter the studio no sooner than 9:50 a.m. giving us just enough time to get the players mic’ed without Kevin coming backstage.
– Rich Burg, assistant athletic director of Temple Football Communications, about visiting ESPN
“As Kevin wrapped up his line, the three captains came from behind the monitor and jumped on Kevin,” said Miervaldis. “He was truly surprised and then immediately asked him to hold it [the trophy]. After he cradled the trophy like a child and beamed at the championship T-shirt and hat he received from the captains, he snapped right back into professional mode and started asking the necessary questions.”
“Everyone was in on it – except Kevin obviously. Katie [Miervaldis] did a great job communicating with Temple on the logistics of keeping it quiet before their arrival – not reaching out to Kevin, not posting about it on social media, etc. and upon their arrival Wednesday morning – keeping them away from the studio as long as possible so Kevin didn’t run into them,” said Henry.
“Our team did things like omitting the segment from our planning note the night before, conversing about it in a separate email chain and most importantly, keeping quiet about it all morning. Keeping it a secret was truly a team effort and led to the spontaneous moment of surprise for Kevin.”
It was. Completely caught me off guard this morning. A memorable moment. https://t.co/I1aa7BPoDk
— Kevin Negandhi (@KNegandhiESPN) December 8, 2016
“The best part for me was reliving it on the way home with the guys. They had a great time and were in awe of the entire experience,” Burg said.