Every Saturday during college football season, Randy Calcaterra can usually count on receiving at least a few texts from former students, reaching out from some pretty incredible vantage points. Many of them are helping to run productions of college football games and other sporting events, and they like to share their fun stories with the Boyne City teacher who taught them all they know.
“With so many former students working out in the field, hearing their amazing stories from them has become a very special payoff for me,” said Calcaterra, who runs the Rambler Sports Network (RSN) and teaches the TV and Film Production & Broadcasting class, a career and technical education program offered out of Boyne City High School. “Nothing is more rewarding than seeing the impact these graduates are making.”
“I would not have the same interest or love for sports broadcasting that I do without the RSN class or Calc. I’m a huge believer in the idea that a teacher can make or break how you feel about a subject, and Calc is definitely the reason why I got so interested in broadcasting.” – Megan Harmeling, 2021 Boyne City High School graduate
A recent Saturday unfolded like this for Calcaterra as he was home enjoying college football games himself:
2:36 p.m. 2016 RSN alumni Kory Skop texts from Kearly Stadium in Houghton. He was on break during halftime of the Michigan Tech vs. St. Thomas football game. Skop was running the wireless sideline camera for ‘Husky TV,’ Michigan Tech’s production unit that live streams all of Tech’s events. He has worked for Husky TV for years, and has run just about every position for them producing football, basketball and hockey.
3:42 p.m. 2021 RSN alumni Lizzi McHugh sent a picture of her in the control room of Hope College’s Ray & Sue Smith Stadium. McHugh was hired to run replay for Hope College’s production program, Hope Broadcasting. Her first event was Hope vs. Coe College football on that September Saturday. Her bosses told her she was already the most qualified student on the crew from what she had done at RSN, and she has already been promoted to technical director for the next home football game, Calcaterra noted.
4:07 p.m. 2021 RSN alumni Megan Harmeling texts a picture of a very empty University of Michigan football field from the press box in the Big House in Ann Arbor. Harmeling was hired as part of the Big Ten Network’s production crew and was on site 4 hours before game time to set up Big Ten Network’s nighttime national broadcast of Michigan vs. Hawaii.
4:45 p.m. 2018 RSN alumni Anna Harmeling texts a picture of a very empty football field from the press box in Stanford Stadium in California. She was on site 3 hours before game time to review the script and program all of the content for the Stanford vs. USC football game later that night. Anna was in charge of all graphics and banners through the entire stadium. The game was also televised nationally on ABC.
7:00 p.m. 2022 RSN alumni Riley Dittmar sent a selfie as he was running the ‘baseline camera’ for Michigan State vs. Duke volleyball from the Breslin Center in East Lansing. Dittmar applied and was hired immediately for MSU’s ‘Spartan Vision,’ which is responsible for production of all media elements at Spartan Stadium, the Breslin Center, and Munn Ice Arena. The MSU volleyball game was being televised on ESPN 2.
8:30 p.m. Anna Harmeling sends a picture of an amazing ABC camera setup right before the game at Stanford. She was on the field for last-minute game prep before she ran back up to the press box to run all the stadium graphics.
8:45 p.m. Megan texts a picture captioned “current situation.” With the game on a lightning delay, she (and the entire U of M team) are jammed in a stadium tunnel to wait out the storm. With her phone, she is filming JJ McCarthy staying loose throwing balls in the tunnel.
9:10 p.m. 2014 RSN alumni Jill Solomon sends a text from the control room in the Big House. She is Technical Director for the gigantic video boards at the top of each end of the Big House. Technical Director is the 2nd highest ranking position in the control room. Similar to Megan, Solomon is texting to fill time, as everything is at a complete standstill with the production as everyone waits out the lightning storm.
9:34 p.m. Now back on the field in the Big House, Megan sends an updated “current situation” picture showing that the game is back on. In the picture, she captures the video board which fellow RSN alumni Jill Solomon is directing.
9:40 p.m. As Calcaterra receive these texts, he is also flipping from ABC, to ESPN2, to Big Ten Network watching all this stuff in real time and seeing the results of each of these students’ work in the stadiums they are in.
10:15 p.m. Megan sends a pic of her on the field with her Big Ten Network vest and media credentials.
3:00 a.m. Megan texts, “Just clocked out for the night. Coolest experience ever!”
As much pride as Calcaterra feels for his former students in those moments, the feeling is mutual right back to him when they’re asked about their experiences in his classroom.
Megan Harmeling said the skills she learned in Calcaterra’s class set her up for success working for both the Big Ten Network StudentU productions and the Big Ten Network itself when she was asked to assist with production of the U-M / Hawaii game.
“The things I learned in Calc’s class definitely have helped me with my BIG+ roles,” said Megan, referencing the live streaming service “BIG+” where U-M home games, across all sports teams, are broadcast. “We actually use the same switcher system that was used for the Rambler Sports Network, which made it much easier to transition to BIG+ for me.”
Megan, 19 and a U of M sophomore, works on any home games that are assigned to stream on BIG+, including soccer, field hockey, volleyball, gymnastics, wrestling, baseball, softball and women’s basketball. She recently was tapped to work on FOX’s Big Noon Kickoff on Oct. 13-15 for the Michigan vs. Penn State football game – another example of the level of her production skills.
“Calc’s class helped me to learn how to work under pressure and maintain a good work flow,” she said. “A huge aspect of live broadcasting is constantly fixing problems as they occur, and the role I had in RSN trained me to become better at addressing these problems while maintaining the quality of a show.”
Across the country, her sister, Anna, sings similar praises about the skills she developed in the TV and Film Production & Broadcasting class. Anna graduated last spring from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in management science and engineering. She has started pursuing her master’s degree in community health and prevention research, also at the university.
In early winter 2020 when she was a sophomore, she was first hired to work for Stanford Athletics as a technical operator, which she continues today. In that role, she works for both webstreams and board shows – the video productions that appear on the screens of large stadiums.
“My favorite position is to work replay, where I get to do in-game replays but also construct highlight packages as I go,” said Anna, 22. “I also have worked graphics, cameras, shading, and video playback.”
Similar to her sister’s comments, Anna also said the Boyne City class did a “fantastic job” preparing her for her job. “I am currently the only student who works my position, meaning that I work amongst professionals,” said Anna. “I was hired essentially only off the work I did with RSN, which my boss believed was enough to make me a qualified candidate. I still had a lot to learn once I started … however, my time at RSN helped me to understand the industry and the flow of a live production.”
Jill Solomon graduated from Boyne City High School in 2014 and is another alumni of Calcaterra’s program who developed a love for broadcasting. While she graduated from Michigan State University in 2018 with a degree in microbiology, and a Master of Public Health Degree from the University of Michigan in 2020, Solomon, too, has gotten great mileage out of her high school production skills.
“Video work is my side hustle, as my day job is in public health,” said Solomon, now 26. “I am a freelance technical director and director for Michigan Sports Television (MSTV), which is the group responsible for the in-house videoboard at U of M sporting events.”
Solomon works two or three home games per week, including football, men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, and gymnastics. Her role is to follow the directions of the director about what to put on the huge videoboard during events – live feed, graphics, and so forth.
“It’s just cool! It’s fun being part of a fast-paced production and the people I work with are talented and great,” said Solomon.
“Being in Randy’s class was about so much more than getting a cool side hustle after high school,” Solomon said. “Many of the skills that we use in live sports production are skills that you need to have in any job: Clear communication, working under pressure, and problem solving. I feel like the side job (working for MSTV) helps me develop my communication skills that I need for my public health career, and RSN was the beginning of that.”
That sentiment resonates with other grads of Calcaterra’s class.
“I would not have the same interest or love for sports broadcasting that I do without the RSN class or Calc. I’m a huge believer in the idea that a teacher can make or break how you feel about a subject, and Calc is definitely the reason why I got so interested in broadcasting,” said Megan Harmeling. “Other than just making the class fun and something I looked forward to every day, Calc gave me lots of leadership and the opportunity to take on a creative director role, which allowed me to learn a lot and discover how much I liked the workflow of broadcasting.”
Added her sister, Anna: “One of my other favorite parts about my job is the community I still find with those from RSN. Whenever I am home (in Boyne City), I get the chance to talk to others who were or currently are on the crew about our work, which always brings me joy. My sister working at Michigan, my brother currently in RSN, Calc, and I – we are constantly exchanging stories from our productions … Calc has been a fantastic teacher and mentor throughout this entire experience.
“When I began, I truly knew next to nothing about sports or broadcasting. However, Calc’s encouragement for me to step outside of my comfort zone and his guidance in helping me learn all that I could allowed me to fall in love with the profession. I hope wherever I end up next in life, this work can always be a part of it.”
More from the RSN alumni student highlight reel:
- 2013 graduate and ‘RSN Godfather’ Andrew Deneau has been working on $100 million plus blockbusters for years. Working as a Visual Effects Supervisor, Andrew has worked on films such as the Avengers, Jungle Cruise, and Venom.
- 2017 alumni Jared Frank went on to study sports production in one of the country’s most prestigious college production programs at Ball State University. Graduating Ball State in 2020, Jared now works as a production specialist for Turner Sports, where he works with TBS Sports, the TNT Sports & AT&T Sports Network.
Career and Technical Education classes offered in any Char-Em ISD school are open to any student, from any district. Ask your high school how to enroll. View all programs and more info on the new Char-Em ISD Career and Technical Education website: www.charemisdcareertech.org