[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his past September, Bryan Mattingly, ’91, took advantage of a unique opportunity to capture a portrait of Ball State alumni at work. Mattingly was in Sonoma, Calif., preparing for his job as technical director of the Verizon IndyCar Series “a couple days before the season finale and championship race,” he recalled. “I realized that we have a pretty large number of BSU alumni working on the series.
“I took a head count and came up with 18 members of a roughly 60-member crew — a significant percentage. We could include one more to make it 19 if we include David Letterman, ’69. He isn’t on the NBC crew but is a team owner and part of our IndyCar family.”
Mattingly, who serves as technical director for the IndyCar Series, was inspired to take a group photo. Those pictured include “the producer, technical director, graphics, on-air talent, tape operators, fiber technicians — a wide range of people and abilities all who started their television careers at Ball State.
In an interview, Mattingly explained why he thinks so many telecommunications (TCOM) alumni wound up as part of the IndyCar Series crew and the decades-long American tradition of open-wheel racing.
Why do you think there are so many TCOM graduates working the series and in such a wide range of careers?
I think a contributed factor in so many BSU alumni working on IndyCar is Terry Lingner, ’77, [founding partner of the production company Innovate and Emmy-winning producer of many televised sporting events and documentaries.] I’ve known Terry since my senior year at BSU. The AERho chapter [Alpha Epsilon Rho, the Honor Society for Electronic Media students] — supported and encourage by Dr. John Kurtz [then department chair] — elected Terry as TCOM alumnus of the year. I was a vice president of the chapter and involved in orchestrating the annual event/dinner.
Terry has always been a supporter of Ball State TCOM students and alumni. He played no small part in my current career path. He was very supportive in helping stay in the field when I thought about giving up and getting a regular job. I don’t think he even knows that. His involvement and love of racing has created a lot of opportunity for freelance television professionals to work in Indy and perfect their craft. And as he has taken on bigger projects, those BSU grads in Indiana went with him. …
I’m not even sure it was conscious on either side. We all get along so well and through smaller racing projects have honed our skills — it just makes sense that we have followed each other to bigger projects. As far as so many different areas of expertise, we start out at BSU with the basics and find what we like and what we’re good at. Then there’s always opportunity and timing. Put all that together with help from fellow Cardinals and we create a team of people who work well together.
Have you noticed graduates from other schools that have as much representation among the crew as the alums of Ball State?
I work all over the country and on all kinds of sporting and entertainment events. I have never run into another situation where such a large number of people are from the same school.
Is there a bond among the Ball State crew members and how does that express itself? For example, do more seasoned alumni help show younger alumni the ropes?
Honestly, if I know someone is a Ball State hard, I will offer extra help if needed. I have friends in the industry from all over but if you’re a BSU grad and you show initiative and skill, I’m all yours … for whatever that’s worth.
I saw that you also work as a technical director for Professional Bull Riders (PBR) and for NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Is that right?
Yes sir. Actually, the PBR takes more of my time than any other event. It starts in January at Madison Square Garden in Midtown Manhattan and ends in Las Vegas the first week of November with about 30 events. Indy Car, right now, is 11 event weekends. The two work well together with little overlap. When they do conflict, Indy Car wins. I was the technical director for the NASCAR truck series for several years. Because of industry changes (ESPN lost the NASCAR contract and couple years ago and NBC took over) today NBC does half the year and Fox does half the year. Because of cost-cutting and facility sharing between NBC and Fox I don’t do nearly as many NASCAR events as before, but I’m still on the NASCAR payroll. I do a handful of events for the Truck Series and the Xfinity series.
What is the best thing about being part of this crew? Is it more fun than stressful — or both combined?
The best part of the IndyCar Series is the people. We work together all day and then we hang out at night back at the hotel or dinner out somewhere. We do that from Wednesday to Sunday for between 11 to 16 weeks a year and then we all go do other stuff and can’t wait to get back to IndyCar. I think it’s like any other job really, sometimes fun, sometimes stressful, sometimes both … but I wouldn’t want to do anything else with any other people!
Alumni pictured in top photo: TCOM alumni posed for a group photo in September with the Indy Car Championship Trophy at the Sonoma Raceway before the final race of the 2017 season. From left are Jesse Ochoa, fiber tech; Courtney Terrell, ’03, director; Mike Crist, ’04, A2/jib ; Tim McClure, ’79, lead EVS (tape); Bryan Mattingly, ’91, technical director; Brian Neer, ’81, V2–video; Mike Pope, A1–mixer; Jeff Feltz, ’97, A2 -field/radios; Terry Lingner, ’77, producer; Lance Coler, ’93, EVS, Eddie Sharpe, ’92, camera operator; Kevin Rogers, ’89, robotic cam op; Rob Sweeney, ’92, EFX mixer; Kim Gratz, ’79, graphics, Julie Wark, ’86, graphics. Not pictured in photo: Kevin Lee, ’93, on-air talent; Katie Hargitt,’13, on-air talent; and Robert “Bud” Bray, ’79, graphics.