Ticats reluctant participants in the TSN live mic experiment

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are very reluctant guinea pigs.

The Ticats will be part of TSN’s first-ever “live mic” experiment on Sunday with in-game audio from head coach Kent Austin and quarterback Zach Collaros included in the broadcast. Their Calgary counterparts, coach Dave Dickenson and quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, will also be wearing microphones.

But Austin and several players have expressed concern that audio gleaned from the broadcast could put them at a competitive disadvantage in subsequent games, negatively impact the way they communicate with one another on the field and potentially hurt their reputations.

“There are challenges with hurry-up and catching key phrases and words that you might hear in a huddle that’s also used in hurry up that’s now on a broadcast that can be recorded and catalogued,” Austin said.

TSN vice-president and executive producer of live events Paul Graham says the broadcast will feature a 10-second delay designed to give the broadcaster time to make audio edits on the fly.

“We have a protocol in position to deal with language that is offensive and certain situations that are deemed off-limits,” Graham said. “We’ve been provided with some key verbiage to keep and eye out for – or an ear open for, if you will.”

The live mics will be shut off when the quarterbacks are at the line of scrimmage and CFL vice president of football operations and player safety Kevin McDonald will be charged with identifying anything that could impact the competitive balance in the future.

“When it comes to football-specific decisions with respect to sensitivities that is going to be a league decision with respect to what gets in and what doesn’t,” Graham said.

Bu there’s concern that MacDonald, a former CIS quarterback who has never played or coached at the CFL level, will hear the game in the same way an opposing head coach or coordinator will. TSN will be looking to glean as much quality audio from their highly-touted experiment and 10 seconds isn’t a long time to make a decision.

“Everybody does things different in terms of how they communicate what they do schematically,” said Austin, who was to meet with TSN and league officials in Calgary on Saturday to discuss his concerns. “A one-size fits all isn’t going to work so there has to be some customization to it that I’m not sure has been fully thought out.”

Ticat players have also expressed concern that the way they communicate with teammates and their opponents – which can sometimes be colourful in both language and content – will make it onto the broadcast, even accidentally. One unfortunate comment uttered in the heat of the moment could impact public perception in the long term.

The timing is also an issue. Instead of launching the live mics in the pre-season – when the stakes are much lower – TSN is introducing them in Week 10 of the regular season, right before the Ticats face off with the East Division rival Toronto in a crucial home-and-home match up that begins on Labour Day.

“This will be an experiment and if it gets some really good traction all parties may see if we can do more games this year,” Graham said. “It’s an ongoing discussion but obviously how things go Sunday will play a lot into that.”

With declining ratings in each of the last two seasons, TSN has lobbied hard for expanded access and the initiative has the support of the league’s board of governors, including Ticat president Scott Mitchell. Austin, meanwhile, sees the value but doesn’t want it to hurt his team’s chances of winning games.

“As a league and as individual coaches we have to be really smart about protecting the integrity of the game, protecting what you’ve spent a lot of time building,” Austin said. “But also understanding that this is good for the league, good for providing some compelling sound and presenting a better product on TV.

“It certainly has a little bit of momentum and the train is out of the station.”

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.
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Drew Edwards
About Drew Edwards (1554 Articles)
Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.

25 Comments on Ticats reluctant participants in the TSN live mic experiment

  1. I don’t know if hearing these guys grunting, groaning and swearing during the course of play will add anything to the broadcast.

  2. Steve Bolton // August 27, 2016 at 3:17 pm //

    Only time the mics should be on is when they line up not before the Defense can hear Zach so who cares if the fans can the hudle and most of sideline talk should be off limits imo

  3. Annie Rection // August 27, 2016 at 4:08 pm //

    This is a silly article & really doesn’t matter. I agree with Coach Austin. The lunatics are on the grass ….

  4. I agree with Austin…on this.
    I understand where TSN is coming from when wanting to expand it’s broadcasting format.
    But personally…this is an “area” that should not be exposed.
    As an long time Cat Fan…Hamilton has kicked out many “spies” planted from other Teams, that were found at ” open ” practises.
    As I am sure other Teams have done as well..
    Coaches at least “most” also cover their mouths when speaking directly to QB’s on the headset, and have done so for many years now.
    To prevent lipreading…
    Perhaps this all sounds a bit over the top..to some.
    But the fact remains “all Teams” have people employed to look for all of these things…to get an advantage.
    Austin is very..very right, on this one.

  5. Is Rod Black behind this goofy idea.

  6. I enjoy the “sounds of the game” but this may be taking things a bit far. Competitive advantage is EVERYTHING.

    Perhaps TSN should have a former CFL coach or CFL player (especially a QB) judging what should be aired and what should be censored? No disrespect to MacDonald, but someone who played CIS ball in the early 1990s is not a good choice to be determining what should air and what should not, regardless of his long tenure employed by the league office.

  7. moncton ticats fan // August 27, 2016 at 6:40 pm //

    Don’t like this at all. I can’t imagine any team willingly allowing their communications to be broadcast, 10 second delay or not. How was it that these two teams and this game were chosen? The Cats are obviously not for it at all, and I’m guessing Calgary isn’t too pleased either. The league wants to grow the game, but they must be able to come up with something that isn’t so intrusive.

  8. Chopper11 // August 27, 2016 at 10:22 pm //

    Ratings are probably down the last 2 years because the ‘mighty’ Rider following isn’t enjoying what they are watching during that similar time period….
    I too agree with Austin, about his concerns, but also his comment that he understands that they are trying to grow their viewership. I hope the players can relax and just play their game, and that nothing negative comes from what is heard. Go Cats!

  9. Having mic’s on the players/coach is ok IF it is not live, but shown on another show after the game, like the HBO insider series done in the past prior to the NHL Winter Classic games.
    TSN ratings are down! What a surprise! With idiots like Black and Forde still calling games, that shouldn’t be a surprise. Having those clowns doing games is like CBC/Sportsnet keeping Bob Cole on the air for hockey.
    If TSN focused more on the game at hand rather than continuously taking us away from the strategy to endless conversations around some obvious story about certain players, maybe more would be watching.
    Good article, Drew.

  10. Dave Hamilton // August 28, 2016 at 6:53 am //

    This ranks up there with retro uniforms. Teams will need to create a second set of signals for on air games. NFL officials are probably wishing they thought of this first….????

  11. Get out those Mikes, cause it’s GAMMMMME DAAAAAY!!!!

    • Annie Rection // August 28, 2016 at 8:00 am //

      Jeff, while I applaud your enthusiasm … don’t you think it’s a tad early to get all excited ?!? Or are you into the sauce already !?!

  12. Yaa, shreddies. Early is when I could no longer sleep several hours ago cause it’s gameday!! Watch and learn!

  13. Ratings are down? Hmmmmm, Rod Black, too many challenges, the game has slowed due to constant reviews…..

  14. I think it’s a terrible idea……for numerous reasons
    Hope our mikes malfunction ASAP.
    Go Cats.

  15. ratings are down?well speaking for myself there commenters are a joke not professional in the least bit,listen to our play by play then throw on a Nfl game there play by play gives you way more insight and acts more professional,and that coming from a fan who likes the Cfl way more than the Nfl.

  16. Reminds me of the time Fox decoded to put a blue halo around the hockey puck. Stupid idea.

    • Don’t give them any bright ideas – next thing they’ll do is put a blue halo around the football. Stupid idea and totally agree with KA.

  17. This not a new idea.This was tried back in 1970.They put a microphone beside the Ticat bench and as you might have guessed the players and coaches let loose a steady stream of profanity which of course was a PR disaster.
    I really could not care less about what the players and coaches are saying.
    The challenges issue coupled with too many penalties I find the most annoying.
    I wish the broadcast commentators spend more time calling the game and less time interjecting inane anecdotes about players such as so and so is the son of this famous player and so on. I find TSN constant hard sell of the CFL tiresome and wish they would recognize the product is good and they are not.

  18. This is a bad idea for all the reasons mentioned. The game has become harder to watch also for the reasons mentioned. That is where the solution should be found. The inability to see what the problems are by TSN is incredible. The potential impact on the two teams doesn’t seem to be a concern for TSN. Their solutions and their confidence in them shows how little they understand what they are going to do.

  19. Horse Crap it will be great to hear them finally tame that wild horse !

  20. We win going away. TSN has slowed the game down by the pattern of advertising especially after every kick.

  21. Ticat Mike // August 28, 2016 at 5:26 pm //

    This is a dumb idea that add s nothing to the entertainment value or give any insight into the game behind the game. That’s what the broadcast analyst and TSN panel are supposed to do. I really hate the intrusion on the players and staff, much like the damn cameras that pan in on players after a play looking for a reaction for TSN producers so they can put it on sports center.
    If TSN were interested in updating its format or production – they should focus on what really matters: the quality of the on-air broadcasters, and panel, their outdated music, graphics, and production of the game.
    I give TSN credit for helping the CFL gain exposure , build a following, and provide fiancial stability — but they are killing the product with certain on-air personalities that are simply boring, annoying or uninspiring. Gimmicks like this won’t work.

  22. This is another stupid cfl idea that is right up there with such “unique” to the cfl marketing techniques that include the no-cost 1st challenge( just recently changed for the better), the need to pipe in loud music into the stands in between plays, and allowing goofy fans to bring cowbells and horns, both unnecessary annoyances that again speak to the cfl having such an inferiority complex on their own game that they believe fans must be constantly cranked by stimulation because the game as itself is not interesting enough! The cfl is interesting wide open football with teams constantly getting back into a game and creates it’s own buzz! However
    marketing people feel that unless there is a goofiness in the stands fans will not be satisfied!

  23. I like the idea of players and coaches being mic’d up, but I would rather it be used on the sidelines and after the whistle to prevent teams from learning certain aspects of their offense. Every team strives to find advantages over others, and I think we should respect that, certainly with the current parity in the league.

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