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CBS Sports’ director is on a historic Final Four run

Disclaimer – People like Mark Grant led me to love working in the sports industry. I’ve known the 5-time Emmy Award winner and CBS Sports director most of our careers. Today, I get to share my friend with you via a Q & A in which we talk about his role in the broadcast production truck and the barrier he’s about to bulldoze.

(Photos provided by Mark Grant.)

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As Mark Grant makes his way through the NCAA Tournament with his CBS Sports crew, he prepares to assume a seat that was long occupied by legendary director, Bob Fishman.

Beyond being the first new Final Four director in 40 years, Grant is believed to be the first Black director of a major sports event. It’s a job he performs with pride and also great responsibility. He calls the camera shots that appear on your screens with knowledge that it takes more than one man to create dynamic TV.

He’s been called a “true maestro when it comes to capturing the drama and excitement at events he’s directing,” by CBS Sports Chairman, Sean McManus.

Mark is an LSU graduate and member of the LSU Hall of Distinction. He also mentors students and young professionals throughout the country.

Without further ado, my chat with Final Four director, Mark Grant …

Gail • What does it mean to you to replace Bob Fishman, who essentially invented every camera angle that’s existed at the Final Four in the last 40 years?

Mark • “Truthfully, I’m both excited and scared. I’ve been directing for a very long time but directing the Final Four will be on a grander stage than I’ve ever been. Millions of viewers will be watching, colleagues will be watching and most importantly, Sean McManus, the Chairman of CBS Sports, will be standing directly behind me!”

Gail • Will you adjust your pre and in-game preparation in the rounds leading to the Final Four and once you get to the seminal weekend?

Mark Grant and Mark Wolff will be in the Final Four director’s and producer’s chairs for CBS Sports.

 

Mark • “No, I will prepare as I always have. I’ve done the early rounds of the tournament for 25 years and nothing is as hard as prep to cover four games on the first day. You have eight teams, many you’ve never seen, and a very narrow window to learn about them.

“One of my early games [this year] was 16th-seeded Northern Kentucky vs. No. 1 seed Houston. I had to give the Norse as much attention in my preparation as the Cougars. With all the teams I direct, I dig deep into information about each team’s players, alumni and parents of players so the telecast is balanced.”

Gail • How do you assess your work after games?

Mark • “I watch the games and see if there was chemistry between the announcers and me. Did the camera shots match what they were talking about? Did I capture the excitement in the building and make the viewer wish he or she were at the game? I’ve never had a perfect game. There is always something I could have done better.”

Gail • What is the most important lesson you’ve learned through the years that you carry during the NCAA Tournament, and will to the Final Four in particular?

Mark • “I want everyone on my crew to understand how important they are to the success of the show. Telecasts are so much bigger than the producer and director. I need everyone to feel that whatever role they play, we won’t be successful without everyone being excellent.”

Gail • You are one of the few Black professionals to sit in a producer’s or director’s chair for America’s biggest sports broadcasts. What is the answer to increasing that number? Does it matter?

Mark • “It matters because it’s never happened. It’s been far too long. Every sport has Black athletes, and Black people are a large demographic of the audience. Our production crews have people of color on them.

“I am not quite sure why people of color have been ignored. There are many talented Black producers and directors who are great at what they do. I hope that the glass ceiling that I am about to shatter creates opportunities for others.

“I’m ok being the first person of color to get there, but it would be awful if others did not get the chance in the future.”

Jim Nantz and Mark Grant provide star power for CBS Sports on and off the court for March Madness.

Gail • How many years have you worked in TV?

Mark • “I have been in television since 1980. I started in local cable covering city council and school board meetings, high school football, parades, etc. I got lucky in the mid-80s to run camera for ESPN and worked my way up to become a director there in 1989. In 1998, I was offered the chance to direct the NFL with CBS, and it’s been my home ever since.”

Mark and his CBS Sports crew, which includes producer Mark Wolff and Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill and Tracy Wolfson courtside, are in Kansas City for the Midwest Region’s Sweet 16 games before traveling to Houston for the Final Four.

 

 

© Gail Sideman, gpublicity.com

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