Q&A With NEXT UP 2017 Honoree Kenny Mossman

August 2nd, 2017 | by Cody Junot
Q&A With NEXT UP 2017 Honoree Kenny Mossman

Editor’s Note: Oklahoma Senior Associate AD / External Operations and 2017 NEXT UP presented by adidas honoree Kenny Mossman took a few minutes late last week to talk with CollegeAD on a wide array of topics. The Q&A below has been edited for clarity and length.

CollegeAD: Without a league network, Oklahoma has partnered with Fox Sports, how important is it for OU to have created SoonerVision instead of relying on outside production sources?

Kenny Mossman: It’s been very important because not only has it been a source of revenue for our department but it has increased our exposure ten-fold. We have sports that have entire schedules televised that never had that kind of exposure in the past. SoonerVision goes far beyond linear TV now to online exposure and many other platforms. The decisions we made there were critical, and if you look back over the last ten or so years, the transformation we made in terms of hiring staff and equipping that facility probably rank among the top three to five decisions that have occurred here.

CAD: SoonerVision is 20 plus years old, and you arrived on campus in 2001, how much has SoonerVision grown and changed in the past 16 years and what kind of infrastructure has been put in place to ensure SoonerVision stays on the cutting edge?  

KM: The biggest move we made with SoonerVision was the hiring of Brandon Meier to come in and run the operation for us. We built two high-def control rooms side by side, one that we could use to televise events and the other to run the big boards in venues. That commitment which totaled about $5 million was trend setting in college athletics. A number of conferences and athletic departments from around the country began to visit us to see what we had built. I think it’s become a model for many other locations around the country.

That’s meant a huge growth in staff as well. When Brandon got here, we were around 3-4 full-time employees and had a handful of student assistants. Now we’re up to 14 full-time employees and around 60-65 student interns. Our interns do very meaningful work, they’re doing more than just moving cable and the elementary tasks in a TV operation. They are taking on aspects that are very important for us. SoonerVision has become a fully functioning television operation, it’s far more than just coaches shows in a stadium studio. It’s a high-tech, very high-level production unit.

CAD: SoonerVision now has apps for AppleTV and Roku devices, creates documentaries and podcast available on iTunes, from a creative side, what’s next for SoonerVision and how much collaboration takes place between SoonerVision, Fox, and Sooner Sports Properties to produce content?

KM: Content production is well planned in several different ways. We work with our partners, Fox Sports is a part of that and plays a roll in helping us chart our future in that area. Chart the stories we want to work on and the content that we want to develop, and then there’s a whole nother of that planning that occurs in-house. We are planning 1000 hours or more of live TV every year. Not only are we populating the linear side but we’re also creating a lot of content for our website to drive a subscription based SoonerSports.TV, the sister to SoonerSports.com. There will always be something new around the corner and we will try to be on the front end of that.

I think the one thing that we want to accomplish in the next the few years is to take this high-level production unit and great television agreement that we have and morph it into a greater recruiting element in our department. Up to now, there has been some overflow that has come out of TV production unit that helps in recruiting but not a lot of it has been overt. So as we look at our digital staff, our SoonerVision staff, we’re starting to ask ourselves how can we play a greater role in assisting the coaches and teams in developing content and giving these great resources in a way that will make a difference for them on the recruiting trail.

Our philosophy is that it all starts and ends with recruiting. It’s recruiting that ultimately draws the right people to our campus, those people are going to determine our success. Thier success will build fan affinity and that affinity builds the support for the department.

CAD: As a writer and storyteller yourself, what are looking for in candidates when adding new members to your creative team?

KM: People who will break the mold of what we’ve been. I think college athletics for a long time did a poor job of managing its content. I think we were satisfied to let others tell our story and really not participate in that process. We fell into practices that didn’t change much for probably 30 or 40 years, if not longer. So when we go out and do a job search now, we’re looking for people who have a fresh take on how college athletics and public relations and communications can be done. The skill set we need now is far different and far more diverse. When I talk to students in classes, I warn them not to train themselves too much in one area, if the field of communications is interesting to them, they need to be prepared to do everything from telling stories, to managing social media, to editing video, and more. I think the days of producing media guides and writing games notes are disappearing in our rearview mirror.

Now we need cutting edge communicators who embrace new media and who have thought well enough ahead to develop their skill set to be prepared to join that race. I don’t know if there’s been a greater point of evolution in my career in college athletics than what we’re experiencing right now, especially in the external side of things. I’ve never seen things change this fast, and I’ve never seen our needs change this fast, and I’ve never seen our desire for a different kind of employee change this fast.

CAD: With so many sports information departments taking on a PR role and rebranding themselves to athletic communication departments, what’s the next big change coming to the industry and what is the biggest challenge facing communication directors today?

KM: I think the next big change you’ll see, and I think it’s already happening at some places, I think the traditional structure of an external side will probably change in the next 5-10 years. We’ve primarily been reactive in nature and I think you’ll see college athletics move to a more proactive approach. You’ll go from seeing us compared to news rooms to maybe more overt public relations.

The hesitation or lack of change for many years I think really inhibited us. I think now is the time for us to continue that quantum leap forward. Our consumption habits have changed so much, as have our attention spans. It has gotten a lot shorter. We have to be quick to the point and provide information that is easily digestible because people aren’t willing to invest as much time as they use to do.

CAD: Oklahoma, year in and year out fields one of the nation’s top athletic programs, Joe Castiglione has led the Sooner athletic department for over 20 years, what makes Joe Castiglione one of the most respected and successful athletic directors in the profession today?

KM: Joe is the best I have ever seen at thinking five years into the future, so much so that occasionally he will come up with ideas that leave the rest of us shaking our heads because we have no idea how we can accomplish such a thing because we don’t have the resources in place to get it done. But within a matter of months, we will be on track to finish it. Joe is unique in that respect, he does not view college athletics and his job in current time, he views it years down the road. That is one of the things that inspires this entire department to stay on the move. He told me one time he felt like it was his responsibility to come in and crank the engine every day, to push all of us, that’s what his job as an athletic director centers around.

Joe’s ability to look ahead, see things before they happen has been the thing that has charted the direction for this athletics department that has kept us successful for so long.

The other thing I think Joe deserves a lot of credit for is his multi-facet nature of his approach to running our department. We’ve won seven national championships over the last two years, also during that time we set graduation and GPA records and did in excess of 4000 community service hours among our staff and student-athletes. He sees our department on every platform that it represents and if anyone of those platforms takes a dip, he addresses it immediately.

About Cody Junot
Cody Junot joined College AD in November, 2014 as a contributing writer and was shortly promoted to Associate Editor in July, 2015. Cody graduated from UL Lafayette in 2011 with a degree in Sports Management.

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