Fox Sports makes Pioneer broadcast debut

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  • Fox Sports’ Rob Mikulicka.

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Fox Sports’ Big Noon Kickoff broadcast live from the grounds of Pioneer High School for the first time, broadcasting last Saturday’s Maryland vs. Michigan college football game.

Michigan won its first conference game of the year in a 34-27 shootout. The years-long tradition of revilers and sports fans tailgating on Pioneer’s front lawn continued, as Fox Sports made its first appearance on this side of Main Street.

“The district has hosted Big Ten Network and ESPN before,” said Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Jill Minnick. “The district has a history of allowing broadcasters to set up their shows on our property. We never pay anyone to come in, but we often rent our facilities, parking lots, and other district assets to outside groups for a variety of purposes.”

As Pioneer High School is directly across from the Big House, the Ann Arbor Public Schools currently has an agreement with the University of Michigan which allows game-goers to park at Pioneer for the sake of convenience. The district also works with an independent parking management group to let people park on Pioneer property during game days.

“[In previous years,] we were over by the student entrance off Keech,” said Fox Sports director for remote studio operations Rob Mikulicka. “But, [the space] was small, and the police department didn’t want us to broadcast from there. Our crowds were too big and would block emergency vehicles entering. So, we called Pioneer.”

Over four thousand feet of cable were laid from the stage site at the corner of Main and Stadium to facilities in the stadium and parking lot. Network facilities sprawled across the northeast corner of the campus, with a large television sound stage built exclusively for this weekend. The stage was dismantled by Sunday morning, with the crew from Fox Sports restarting the game-day cycle at another college Monday evening.

“It’s 14 straight weeks for Big Noon Kickoff,” said Mikulicka, who is referred to by his crew as “Coach”. “I leave Monday, start work Monday night, and fly home Sunday. I have enough time at home to do laundry.”

“We’ve had TV networks in the past, and we fully anticipate that they could return in the future,” concluded Superintendent Minnick. “Fox has shared with us that [if Saturday] went well, they would be interested in returning. That is – if the U of M football team continues to do well, that’s what attracts them to our space.”