UA ATHLETICS

'Digital gurus' help Cats find an 'Edge'

2013-08-11T00:00:00Z 'Digital gurus' help Cats find an 'Edge'Zack Rosenblatt Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 11, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Sometimes McKale Center can feel like a maze.

And the door to the video production offices feels like a dead end.

It's colorless, sans a room number or a label.

It's on the second floor, in the Northeast corner of McKale, past the swim and diving team office, and comes at the end of the hall beyond two doors, one labeled Storage Room A, the other Storage Room B.

Open the door, and, appearance be damned, it's no closet. Instead, it's Narnia.

Or, just a long and winding hallway. It's no Storage Room C.

"We're definitely hidden in here," said Mike Hausler, a longtime UA videographer/producer, "but that's the way we wanted it."

This is where Arizona's video production team makes camp. There's one room where football coach Rich Rodriguez and basketball coach Sean Miller do interviews with the Pac-12 Networks.

Another where the team edits videos produced for fans and recruits - like the popular western-themed "Hard Edge."

And just down the hall sits the video control room, where they command the video board at Arizona Stadium on game day.

"I call them the digital gurus," said Matt Dudek, UA football's on-campus recruiting coordinator.

One of those "digital gurus" is John Daley. He was a football coach, through and through. Until he wasn't.

"Basically," he said, "I'm a failed football coach."

After 12 years as a high school coach in California, Daley came to Tucson with his wife four years ago and was hired as the defensive coordinator at Pima.

That was short-lived, though - the Aztecs went 0-10, and Daley was fired.

Soon after, he was hired by the UA to head up its video production department - armed with filming experience in car-and-loan funding infomercials. Six months later, the social media-savy Greg Byrne was hired as the school's new athletic director, replacing Jim Livengood, and since then video production is at an all-time high for the UA.

Hausler has seen the department's development from the ground floor. His 25 years at the UA have spanned three athletic directors, four football and basketball coaches.

"You see," Hausler said, smiling, "we're before the Internet came."

A stack of old VHS tapes sits at the corner of Hausler's desk. For a while, that's all the department - of one (Hausler), for a period -had. Fast forward to 2013, and we've moved even beyond DVDs.

The basketball team puts most of its recruiting material on an iPad. So, when Miller and his assistants go out on in-home recruiting visits they have an iPad that's loaded with a "ton of recruiting content," Daley said.

The coaches can take it, plug it into the recruit's TV and do a presentation on the spot.

And with Miller and Rodriguez embracing the medium, the "digital gurus" are producing more content than ever.

"It's such a powerful tool to be able to tell our story," Daley said. "The approach that I've taken, and Greg Byrne spearheaded this, is everything we put out there has to be exciting to 16-, 17-year-old recruits. But, it serves a dual purpose because we also want to engage our fans.

"So we try to get it to look hip, cool and exciting."

Added Hausler: "We're the propaganda department. So we want to show how great we are, we wanna show how great these athletes are."

Some of their work includes those star-studded "This is Arizona" intro videos that play at McKale Center during basketball season, and the "Sounds of Arizona Football" that can be seen throughout the football season, giving fans a sneak peek at the team from behind the scenes on game day.

But, none of the videos have been more popular, or cinematic, than the Old Tucson, Western-themed "Hard Edge" football videos.

It started out as a simple photo op idea, from the mind of Rodriguez's wife, Rita, to shoot photos with the coaching staff dressed up as cowboys in sort of tongue-in-cheek way with the intent of sending the photos to recruits with taglines such as, "The posse is coming to get you.".

When they were offered a chance to use the Old Tucson movie set, Daley, Dudek and a few other people toured the set and were blown away.

The next day, they storyboarded ideas and came up with a script. Then the next morning, from 6 until noon, they filmed "Hard Edge" - which comes from a phrase Rodriguez likes to use to describe how he wants his teams to play - and shot photos of the coaches in cowboy garb.

It was a match made in heaven, considering Rodriguez's affinity for Clint Eastwood movies.

Rodriguez was "great, he embraced the role," Daley said. "He's a pro when it comes to that."

Added Dudek: "We want to get as much of the program as we can out there. We don't mind being open and showing the personalities of the staff, showing the personalities of the players."

By June 17, it was condensed into a 2-minute-39-second video and released to the public. Within 30 minutes, ESPN called and asking for footage. At the end of the day, it had 50,000 hits, and was picked up and written about by Deadspin, Grantland and other major news outlets.

Daley knew it was successful when he saw how upset it made ASU and Michigan fans.

In fact, he said 20 percent to 25 percent of the views came from Michigan, where Rodriguez coached for three years before being fired after the 2010 season. Daley had to disable comments on the video because they got too hostile.

Still, the success of "Hard Edge" spawned a sequel, "Hard Edge II," starring the players. It currently sits at about 18,000 views since its July 24 release.

"I think we're ahead of the curve," Byrne said. "John and his crew are one of the leaders in our industry.

"They are the best there is."

At least they'll never be known as "those guys in Storage Room C."

Contact reporter Zack Rosenblatt at zrosenblatt@azstarnet.com or 573-4145. On Twitter @ZackBlatt

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  Conference Overall
Team W L T PCT W L T PCT
UCLA 0 0 0 0.000 4 0 0 1.000
Washington 0 0 0 0.000 3 0 0 1.000
Arizona 0 0 0 0.000 4 0 0 1.000
Stanford 0 0 0 0.000 3 0 0 1.000
Oregon 0 0 0 0.000 3 1 0 0.750
California 0 0 0 0.000 3 1 0 0.750
Oregon State 0 0 0 0.000 3 1 0 0.750
Utah 0 0 0 0.000 2 1 0 0.667
Colorado 0 0 0 0.000 2 1 0 0.667
Arizona State 0 0 0 0.000 3 2 0 0.600
USC 0 0 0 0.000 2 3 0 0.400
Washington State 0 0 0 0.000 1 2 0 0.333

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Teams Date Time Links
ASU at
Arizona
11/28 1:30 pm
Stanford at
UCLA
11/28 1:30 pm
Utah at
Colorado
11/29 11:00 am
Notre Dame at
USC
11/29 1:30 pm
BYU at
Cal
11/29 2:30 pm
Oregon at
Oregon State
11/29 6:00 pm
Washington at
Washington State
11/29 8:30 pm