Written: June 3, 2011
Two common themes can describe the start of the Trinity Sports Network. Primarily, it all starts with an idea and secondly history has a wonderful way of repeating itself. Just ask ESPN’s Bill Rasmussen and TSN’s Matt Sullivan ’10. In the spring of 1978, Rasmussen, an unemployed DePauw University graduate, chose to construct a 24-hour sports programming network. His unemployment was the result of being fired as the communications manager for the Hartford Whalers and then as executive director for Howe Enterprises. Rasmussen was going against the societal norm, as there was no way a news network dedicated solely to sports could survive. As of the date this article was written Rasmussen’s unique idea airs roughly 70,000 hours of programming annually broadcasting 65 different sports. Rasmussen could not have imagined that his plan to broadcast Connecticut sports would flourish into a multi-billion dollar empire, which we now know as ESPN.
In the fall of 2007, Sullivan had a vision to create a media-based site that would boost the student body’s support of the athletic program and in turn, increase school spirit. The lack of enthusiasm for Trinity College athletics was, to him, overwhelmingly evident when he arrived on campus his freshmen year. Sullivan, being a baseball player, saw that there needed to be change. Looking at how the student bodies of Division I schools maintained high levels of appreciation for their athletic programs, he found there was one commonality: the media. With that he built the foundation for what Trinity athletes and coaches all willingly know as TSPN. With the help of the Athletic and Computer Science Departments, Sullivan managed to get his vision going, but needed to find assistance from students who also shared his passion for Trinity athletics.
Sullivan found Kate Murdock ’11 who shared this passion for athletics. He also found computer savvy Chris Terlik ’10 to manage and operate all publications that appear on the TSPN Website. With the assistance of those two Bantams, Sullivan was able to publish interviews about men’s basketball, women’s lacrosse, wrestling, squash, and baseball. There were ups and downs during its inaugural year, but TSPN was moving in the right direction.
With the new school year came great news and new additions to the staff. Sullivan, coming off a baseball season in which he won a Division III National Championship, was told that the Computer Science Department would aid TSPN with media equipment and room availability. Furthermore, the athletic department vowed to help TSPN gain supporters within the athletic programs through e-mails sent out by Director of Athletics, Richard Hazelton and Associate Director of Athletics, Robin Sheppard.
In the early stages of this year, Sullivan added three new faces to his staff in the fall: Jack Abbott ’10, Rhett Prentice ’10, and Joey Roberts ‘11. The three additions, coupled with the strong nucleus, increased the professionalism and popularity of TSPN. The staff went on to add Amanda Ward ’12 in the winter to do reporting on various sporting events. Overall after 2008-2009 TSPN had done interviews and reports for over ten sports, which produced a good amount of recognition in the NESCAC and on campus.
Eventually, that recognition would spread to the ESPN law offices. TSPN had been in violation of name and logo infringement, which forced Sullivan to change the name of the organization. In the summer of 2009 he settled on the Trinity Sports Network.
Before Sullivan graduated in May of 2010 he built a partnership with another on campus media based organization called TrinTV. Under the direction of president Gordon Thorpe ’12 TrinTV had established a strong presence on campus. With the use of funding from the SGA Thorpe was able to purchase top of the line equipment, which greatly enhanced the overall product of TrinTV and TSN.
After his graduation Sullivan named Joey Roberts the president of TSN. The first order of business for Roberts was to find a new crop of students that wanted to get involved after he saw Sullivan, Abbott, and Prentice enter the working world. To continue the weekly football pre-game show he called upon Ben Speicher ’11, Sushil Trivedi ’12, Cory DiBenedetto ’12 and Marc DiBenedetto ’13 to offer their analysis on the week’s upcoming game. There has been a pre-game show produced each of the 24 weeks over the course of the past three football seasons. The 24 shows have accumulated over 9,000 YouTube views from parents, players, alumni and other NESCAC followers.
Also, Roberts continued TrinTV SportsCenter by finding Kevin Collins ’11 to co-host the show. With the help of a green screen, space in the basement of Jones dormitory and Thorpe’s editing techniques, TSN was able to produce a professional product that gave recognition to a majority of the sports teams. With the help of current Director of Athletics Mike Renwick, the trajectory of SportsCenter should have highlights accompanying the team write-ups for the 2011-2012 sporting year.
At the end of his college career Roberts was given the Larry Silver Award. This award, in memory of Lawrence Silver Class of ’64, who was killed on a bombing mission in Vietnam, is given annually to a student who, by vote of the athletic department staff, has contributed most to the Trinity athletic program as a non-player. It’s an award that Roberts humbly accepted on the behalf of TSN and one that Sullivan would have surely won in 2010 if he had not been the starting center fielder for the baseball team.
After his graduation in May of 2011, Roberts named Marc DiBenedetto the third president of TSN’s history. Ward was named the Vice-President for the second consecutive year, while Taylor Denson ’13 was named Director of Sports Operations and Harry Hawkings ’14 became the Director of Media Operations.
The athletic department and the TSN staff know that there is no limit to Sullivan’s vision. However, that’s just part of TSN success. How will TSN’s success be measured? The answer is simple. It’ll be measured by the level of school spirit that a Trinity student or supporter can feel when he or she attends a Bantam athletic event. Part of the college experience is to see how a loud and fanatic student body can motivate a college athlete to do physical tasks that he or she thinks are impossible. This experience can’t be found in a book.
Matt Sullivan’s recap of TSN history (May, 2010)