captures history on tape at Wisconsin basketball tourney
How United Visual Rentals
handled WISAA's final state championship
the early morning strains of the National Anthem to the basket-at-the-buzzer
that won the game, the memories from this year's WISAA Boys and Girls
Basketball Championships will take a long time to fade. But the 2000
season has been a bittersweet one for all the schools that make up
the Wisconsin Independent Schools Athletic Association. The 32 year
old sports organization has come to the end of the road, and by 2001,
the 56 religious and non-public schools that made up its roster will
join with the state's public schools in the Wisconsin Interscholastic
"This marks a new era for
our kids," says Todd Van Order, who himself played in the association
as a boy, later turned coach and ran the WISAA baseball tournament.
Combining public and nonpublic schools into one athletic association
will even out the playing field for all of them. One of the WISAA's
drawbacks had always been the disparity in school enrollment. Schools
in Division one could have enrollment as high as 1,300 or as low as
350. The change will put an end to that.
End of an era
the past four years Van Order had been Director of Sports Activities
for the Association that hosted tournaments in a variety of sports for
nonpublic schools across the state of Wisconsin. The Association had
the oldest football championship playoffs in the midwest, and the year
always brought tournaments in girls soccer, track and field events,
volleyball and even cross country. Wrestling came up in the winter as
did basketball, which Van Order calls "the pinnacle of our program."
February's WISAA boys and girls championship basketball tournament at
the U.S. Cellular Arena in Milwaukee marked the end of a nearly 40-year
run at the old facility and an even longer stint in the Milwaukee area.
The organization had moved its tournaments from the nearby Milwaukee
Auditorium to the Arena in the early 1960's. "I definitely think the
tournaments are what I'll miss most," says Van Order. "We've had some
great upsets over the years. This year the seventh seed girl's team
upset the number two seed in a game that started at 8:30 in the morning
and ended with a basket at the buzzer!"
Producing the video
But even this last tournament in February had its share of firsts.
This was the first time since 1966 that the tournament was televised,
although no one is sure why 1966 was such a magical year or who broadcast
it. This year United Visual Rentals provided a video production crew
that pulled the whole tournament together. They sent live play and
instant replays to the Arena's overhead scoreboard from a production
control center in the basement, as well as highlight tapes to Channel
4 and Channel 12 in Milwaukee and to Fox TV in Madison, all of whom
broadcast portions of the games. United also provided play by play
commentary, which was used by Fox and also by WISAA for full-game
tapes later offered for sale. The Midwest Sports Channel was also
on hand, and they ran portions of the games on cable TV.
managed the video production, created the graphics and ran the character
generator. He placed five cameras throughout the Arena to catch the
action during all 28 semi-final and final games, including three hand-held
systems right on the floor. Lundstrom has worked shows in the Arena
before, and has plenty of experience working commercial television
and Marquette Basketball productions, so things went fairly smoothly.
"Probably the most challenging situation was just getting all the
crew to work together as a team," says Lundstrom. "But after producing
the fifth or sixth game, you pretty much get things down to a science!
Whenever you're working on a large production like WISAA, it's nice
to work with a talented crew, who really know how to pick up the pace
when things get hairy!"
"United Visual was fantastic." says Van Order. "I tried to stay out
of it, just suggesting little things, like taping the national anthem
and the pom pon girls at half time. But they already seemed to know
what was needed. I saw a lot of people watching the scoreboard video
more than the game! The crowd loved the instant replays."
United Visual Operations Manager Mike Hahn says it was a lot of long
days but really enjoyable. The level of enthusiasm was definitely
high. "All those high school kids would get so excited to see their
faces up on the scoreboard. They'd go a little crazy!" Hahn says there
was a lot of on-the-spot editing going on, because after every game
the United Visual crew would edit and remaster the game tape so the
WISAA could sell copies and recoup some of the expenses of running
the tournament. It also gave many players their only chance to see
themselves in a professional video production and offered parents
and fans a chance to gather and relive tournament highlights once
the event had come to an end.
There's no doubt the Arena will miss the WISAA. This tournament was
the arena's largest draw over a three day period, bringing 27,000
fans to the event. They have a history together. "I played there in
the '70's," says Van Order, "and I was in awe of the whole thing.
Don Nelson would come out and shoot baskets with us." Appropriately
the WISAA office was in the Arena's old Milwaukee Bucks locker room.
"If you close your eyes you can probably see the ghosts, like Lew
Alcindor walking down the hall. I guess we're about to join them."
As for the future, "I think there will be a couple of bumps in the
road, but it will all work out. Other states are looking at what we're
doing. I think they're amazed at how well we get along."
The change didn't come as a surprise. The WISAA Board of Directors
bowed to the pressures of the economy and the high cost of travel
and voted to phase out the association in 1998. It was a great 32
years, but when the end of business came on June 30th, 2000, the WISAA
became a fond memory for a lot of people. "We went out as we came
in, I guess, kind of subdued," said Van Order. "I just turned out
the lights, closed the door and went home."