‘Illini Sports Night’ airs first show on B1G+ network

Illini Sports Night pregame show

Update 5/9/2023: Congratulations to the students who produced this broadcast! They won the 2023 NATAS Mid-America Student Production Award in the College Sports Program category.

Illini Sports Night hosted a live pregame show at State Farm Center on February 19 before the Fighting Illini women’s basketball game—the first-ever collaboration between the B1G+ network and the student-produced broadcast. The half-hour show aired on B1G+, which livestreams non-televised games.

Emmie Larson, senior in journalism and executive producer of Illini Sports Night, said students prepared for their national broadcast for three weeks.

“It was awesome to see that hard work and preparation create a live show,” she said. “This is something we’ve all never done before. It was cool to know we were capable of doing that.”

The pregame show focused on the Illinois women’s basketball team and the Penn State team, featuring interviews with players on both teams, commentary from the student anchors, and a sit-down with Illinois women’s basketball head coach Shauna Green. (Watch their special broadcast below and see behind-the-scenes photos.)

Illini Sports Night is part of UI7 Newsroom, where students write, produce, and report on all sports at the University as part of the journalism curriculum at the College of Media.

“The Illini Sports Night team had the opportunity to expand the reach of the program on a national scale and gain invaluable experience that will serve them in their future career pursuits,” said Kenneth Erdey, instructor and technical coordinator for Richmond Studio, the site for the student broadcasts.

Adrian Carrasco, senior in journalism and producer of the show, said he’s learned a lot from this experience and from his peers.

“That’s the great thing about working here—everybody’s so prepared and on it,” he said.

While their pregame show at State Farm Center did have some unexpected elements, Carrasco said they all took it in stride and learned something new.

During their live show, former women’s basketball head coach Theresa Grentz was honored with a banner unveiling—something the Illini Sports Night team thought would happen after their show ended.

The team quickly adjusted the end of their show, with anchors remarking on the historical impact of the moment, before transitioning to B1G+ programming.

“As our job, we kind of have to be ready for everything,” Carrasco said. “We have to be ready to solve any issues that come and just be on our A-game.”

Larson said one of her biggest takeaways from the show was that you can never be too prepared.

“If you keep your head in the game, you can create something very cool and very successful,” she said.

Illini Sports Night airs Tuesdays at 7 p.m. Watch past broadcasts. 

—Vivian La, Communications Intern

Illini Sports Night pregame show team

(Photos by Carla Erdey.)