As college athletic departments around the country weigh options to hold events amid the coronavirus pandemic this upcoming season, much of the discussion is around attendance.
Will fans be allowed to attend? If so, how many fans? Even if fans are allowed to attend, how many will feel comfortable enough with the surroundings to show up?
No matter the path forward for UND athletics, there's a strong likelihood attendance will suffer in the 2020-21 season.
So the Herald asked four television and radio broadcasters -- Jack Michaels, Paul Ralston, Tim Hennessy and Alex Heinert -- what that scenario might be like and how it would impact their mediums.
Here are five themes to consider:
1. You won't let the crowd noise fill the gaps
Michaels: "I'm a firm believer in crowd noise because radio is an intimate medium. Whether it's a roar or a boo or a scream, it's vital to the broadcast on radio. The picture is painted. So to not have that, the thought process is you have to fill more of those vacant holes with stats and numbers and stories. It's pretty obvious, but dead air is not good. It should be a dance. In football play-by-play, there's a setup, there's a play, then you're getting to your high note, then the crowd comes in to finish off that song. That's the dance to me. You're going to be minus that confirmation of that play. Someone catching a ball and getting lit up on the catch, it won't be confirmed by the ooo or the ahh ... that to me will be the telltale sign of your play-by-play ability. You have to hope fans like the way you call a game."
Ralston: "For basketball, I will probably have to have a few more nuggets and notes. What's great about college basketball from that side of things is usually there's not a lot of down time like you would have in baseball. At the end of a lot of games, I look down and I've used about four of the 20 notes I made pregame."
Heinert: "As an announcer, you take your cues from the crowd. If a shot is wide or there's a big hit, there are ooos and ahhs. They draw your attention, especially if they happen away from the basketball or puck. That's taken out of the equation. That'll be the hardest thing ... is to get excited and pay attention to the whole game without those cues."
Hennessy: "You won't sit back and let the crowd take over. How are the players going to react? They're used to Chelsea Dagger and the fight song and going up and down the bench. I wonder what it'll be like for them. I've always figured that I try to do the best I can to describe what's going on. That's what I've tried to do my whole career. I don't think that'll change."
2. This isn't completely foreign territory
Hennessy: "I remember going to Boston College when Doug Flutie was there. It was an old rink under the grandstands of the football stadium. It wasn't a huge building, maybe 80 people. I was doing the game right by the penalty box. Then you have to worry about who's hearing what."
Michaels: "I've probably had percentage-wise 10 percent of games done professionally, maybe more, where the crowd has been thin. I would hear, like, two small children talking from a grandstand away. Swing and a miss, Strike 2 and two birds chirping or two guys talking about what they did at the senior center last week. Some of those spots (while calling minor league baseball games), not to diss on some town, but there's been some moments."
Ralston: "Oftentimes when you're at one of those holiday (basketball) tournaments and it's the last day ... that's when you see a sterile atmosphere. I think you can count people on 10 fingers. It's not a very fun atmosphere."
3. You have to bring your own energy
Ralston: "Everyone knows I tend to feed off that crowd energy. I get excited off the energy of the building. I don't know if you're going to pipe in artificial sound like you see in some of these soccer matches. I've been in those sterile environments. You have to have your own fun."
Hennessy: "I get excited by the game, right? So if Denver makes a great play or a great save, you have to be excited to see that kind of stuff. A 90-yard kick return for a touchdown is just as exciting if it's the other team. You'd maybe rather have that for your team but four passes, bang-bang-bang, and a goal? I get just as excited for the other team. But it'll be a different world."
Heinert: "You've seen that in the (German soccer league) ... you can tell how the announcers sound without fans. It's different. You don't have the roar to aid you in your call. When there's a goal or a touchdown, you're revved up right with the crowd. There's still excitement, but we're going to have to manufacture the energy and excitement. That'll be different."
4. The technical side will change
Heinert: "Even at intermissions, you're looking at the concourse ... it's the things you go to automatically. Those will be things that will be difficult for our director. He's done hockey and football and everything else for decades. All those things you fall back on -- hit this (camera) shot, hit this shot ... all those are gone. All those muscle memories have to be relearned. Where are those fans located at? You can't show the same 10 people over and over. That'll be different. Last March when we were ready to do the NCHC quarterfinals without fans for about 24 hours there, we had a meeting to go through some of these things we'd have to address. What do you do when a goal is scored? What new camera shots can tell the story? Camera 3 will go to opposing goalie or opposing coach maybe. Those will be the things to sort out. It was nice to have a chance to think about this already back in March."
Ralston: "It's a very interesting challenge from a technical side. What do we need? Every time I think about it, I come up with different wrinkles. Golf is using a big, long boom mic to do interviews. Do we need to do that? We had Dick Bremer on our morning show with Tim and I, and it sounds like for Major League Baseball, Bremer said they're going to do away games from Target Field on a TV screen from the away press box. Does college have the ability to do that? There are so many other questions that permeate by the hour, not the day, as thing unfolds. My mind is constantly worrying about the technical standpoint."
Michaels: "You have to be more strategic with (natural sound microphones). In football, we use a parabolic. We have the parabolic guy getting sound from the field. He's usually near the line of scrimmage. You can hear the hut-hut, the pad pop and a coach yell. Football can be easier with that. In basketball, you need to be strategic with your crowd mic and maybe have it closer to the bench or have basket mics, so you can hear the swish."
5. It's going to make broadcasters even more valuable
Michaels: "Broadcasters are even more important to bring games to people who can't be there -- to put someone in a seat who's not allowed to be in because of corona. I think broadcasters will be even more vital."
Heinert: "We know that because people aren't in the stadium there's a lot of people wishing they were there in person. I think that knowledge will help us all in this industry to rally for the folks who are missing out. That'll help us bring the energy and emotion we're experiencing live ... the privilege we will have to get to be there in person. I don't think we're going to take that aspect for granted."