Recent graduate reflects on his FOX Sports University experience

By Ari Gilberg ’17

September 1, 2017

Last summer, the Newhouse School partnered with FOX Sports University to launch a new course: The Sports Media Project. Students in the course worked together in teams to compete in a challenge set by FOX Sports University, with access to FOX Sports data and guidance from FOX Sports executives. The winning team, consisting of Ari Gilberg, Benjamin Gramley, James Hadnot and Randy Posner, flew to Los Angeles in June to present their proposals to FOX Sports executives. Gilberg, who is now working as online sports editor for the New York Daily News, writes about his experience. 

Experience is something that cannot be gained by reading a PowerPoint slide or sitting in a lecture hall. Experience is something that can only be gained through first-hand observation and the hands-on completion of a task.

And that is exactly what working with FOX Sports University provided.

What made my FOX Sports University class so unique was the fact I wasn’t just working to earn an A, I was working because I genuinely enjoyed the material—and I received an in-depth look into the inner workings of the sports media field while doing so.

Left to right: Benjamin Gramley, Ari Gilberg, Randy Posner and James Hadnot FOX Sports University

When FOX Sports University first presented its challenge, I was intrigued to say the least. The representatives of FOX Sports University tasked us with researching the 18-24 age demographic and presenting a proposal to help make FS1 the top-of-mind destination for sports fans, both on-air and digitally.

The assignment was broad and, at first, appeared daunting. How were we, as college students with no real-world experience, supposed to solve FS1’s greatest challenge? We spent weeks brainstorming ideas, researching information and conducting focus group studies before we finally developed a proposal we believed could have been produced by any other team of industry experts.

And that is what FOX Sports University helped us become: a professional team. We gained valuable real-world experience despite not actually being out in the real world. FOX Sports University brought the real-world challenges, tasks and assignments to us, which allowed us to gain professional experience from within a classroom in snowy Syracuse.

If our story ended there, that would have been enough. We had already completed our task, gained valuable insight into the sports media world, made new contacts, expanded our network and won the Syracuse challenge by being selected over the other groups in our class.

However, months after we presented our initial proposal, FOX Sports University invited us to visit the FOX Studios Lot in Los Angeles to present our findings and ideas once more, this time to the top executives. Our trip also consisted of touring the FOX Studios Lot, sitting in on pre-production meetings, watching “The Herd” and “Speak For Yourself” live from the shows’ control rooms and even taking pictures on the iconic couch on the set of “The Herd” during a commercial break.

The most interesting aspect of our behind-the-scenes tour was being able to see the preparations producers of “Speak For Yourself” made prior to the day’s show (at 7 a.m., to be exact), developing potential topics and preparing the show’s order and structure, and then seeing it all come together just hours later.

The entire day was exciting, eye opening and extremely rewarding

Although touring the lot and becoming best friends with Colin Cowherd (ha!... not really) was fun, the most rewarding part of the trip was presenting our proposal to a group of high level FS1 and FOX Sports executives. This was the culmination of months of brainstorming, research, planning, rehearsals, etc. And simply put, it was satisfying to know the ideas that we spent so much time and energy to develop were being seriously considered by some of the most reputable people in sports media. We weren’t viewed as naïve college students, but rather as sports media colleagues.

FOX Sports University started out as just a college class, but for me it quickly evolved into so much more.