McLaughlin key in creating fun fan experience at UNK games

SCOTT MCLAUGHLIN
Age: 55
Title: Media specialist/graphic display board operator, UNK Athletics.
Family: Wife, Tracie; daughters Lindsay of Kearney and Lauren Thurman of Houston; son, Adam, of Kearney. Lauren and Adam are UNK graduates.
Professional: Owner, Heartland Hosting of Kearney, 2002-Present.
Education: University of Nebraska at Kearney, multimedia advertising, 2001.

Scott McLaughlin

“I’m a Loper fan, and this has allowed me to meet a lot of great kids and their families over the years,” says Scott McLaughlin. “I get to be involved at a level most fans don’t get to experience. That’s a lot of fun for me.”

By TODD GOTTULA
UNK Communications

KEARNEY – He stands in the production booth, wearing the look of a man who is part message center operator, part Loper volleyball fan.

Up, down. Up, down. His eyes bounce rapidly from his computer screen to the action on the court.

He clicks the mouse once, twice, three times. Then again, and again. Followed by a quick glance at the display board across the arena flashing the graphic “Monster Kill.”

The message is loaded, and everything looks good. Then it’s back to the court, where the pace is fast.

By the time he displays one graphic onto the large screen, things have changed and he’s loading a new message.

Up, down. Up, down. His eyes never stop.

Under these conditions, you’d think Scott McLaughlin would untuck his blue UNK polo, join other Loper fans in the stands and walk away from the intensity.

Nope. He lives for this.

“I love putting peoples’ names in lights,” he says. “I love being involved and playing a small part in creating an enjoyable fan experience.”

As the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s media specialist and graphic display board operator, McLaughlin has helped with the fan experience at Loper athletic contests the past 10 years.

At Loper volleyball and football games, he’s the guy responsible for operating the message center that displays everything from player profiles and sponsor logos to statistics, in-game messages and other graphics.

His work also includes creating, loading and managing content that is used during Loper events, including message centers at soccer, basketball, wrestling and baseball games.

“On several occasions, visiting teams have made mention of how they are impressed with what we do to make it an event,” Assistant Athletic Director Shawn Fairbanks says. “Scott’s presence and involvement is the ‘icing on the cake’ they speak of.”

STAYING FOCUSED

McLaughlin works closely with Fairbanks, Associate Athletic Director Rich Brodersen and Assistant Athletic Director Peter Yazvac in creating and following game-day scripts.

“Scott is very talented. He brings the visual elements to the games that are so important to our fans,” Brodersen says. “He is quick on his feet and always right on cue. He really takes our game-day atmosphere to another level.”

McLaughlin claims running the display board takes no special skills.

“It’s pretty much watching the game, being attentive and knowing what should be up there on the screen at the right time. It’s really just going with the flow.

“If you watch what I do during the game, most of it is recognizing players after they make a big play. I just put their pictures up. Whatever happens, happens. I just react.”

But it’s not always that easy, insists Fairbanks.

“UNK is fortunate to have somebody of McLaughlin’s ability willing to volunteer so many hours. He has sacrificed many hours to support our athletes, and we cannot begin to express the appreciation we have as a department for his efforts.

“Scott’s continual contributions to Loper Athletics have made a difference in how people view our game-day operations.”

The biggest challenge for McLaughlin during games? Staying focused, he says.

“You get in the heat of the game watching the action and look up a minute later and realize, ‘oh crap, I forgot to turn the timeout slide off.’ You just have to pay attention to what’s going on and not fall into ‘fan mode’ too often.

“I’m constantly thinking ahead, trying to guess what might happen. If somebody scores a touchdown, I want to be able to put that graphic up immediately. It’s not very climactic if everybody is up on their feet cheering, the band is playing and there’s a blank screen up there.”

DEGREE IN TWO YEARS

McLaughlin first became involved at UNK in 1999, when he returned to school at age 42 to pursue a degree in multimedia and advertising.

“I attended UNO in 1979, but college wasn’t a priority. For 30 years, I made excuses why I never finished or went back. Out of everything I did in my life, I was most disappointed that I never finished school.”

McLaughlin quickly earned his degree at UNK, taking at least 21 hours of coursework each semester and heavy loads of summer classes to graduate with honors in 2001, just two years after returning.

“Nobody should ever do what I did,” he jokes.

While earning his degree, McLaughlin worked part time as a webmaster and helped develop the UNK Athletic Department website Lopers.com. That position evolved into his role today with the university’s Matrix boards.

“We got the first video board at Foster Field about 10 years ago, and nobody really knew how to operate it,” McLaughlin recalls. “To me, it just made sense to volunteer and help out. Everybody at UNK has always been nice enough to let me feel like I’m part of the team. It was that way then, and it is that way now.

NEW FRIENDSHIPS

In addition to his part-time position at UNK, McLaughlin owns Heartland Hosting in Kearney, which specializes in custom website design and maintenance, E-commerce, social media, marketing and other services such as domain management.

While running his own company demands a lot of time, McLaughlin said he’s never considered giving up his role with the Lopers, which includes a small amount of pay and is essentially volunteer work.

“I’m a Loper fan, and this has allowed me to meet a lot of great kids and their families over the years. I get to be involved at a level most fans don’t get to experience. That’s a lot of fun for me.”

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Writer: Todd Gottula, 308.865.8454, gottulatm@unk.edu

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