Longhorn Sports Network Launch
UT Alum Stephanie Druley and the Longhorn Sports Network
By Deborah Hamilton-Lynne
It is history in the making. The Longhorn Sports Network, launched Aug. 25, in a 20-year, $300 million deal with the University of Texas and ESPN, creates a 24-hour network that will broadcast Longhorn Sports, including the football season opener Sept. 3 against Rice. Enter UT alum Stephanie Druley, who’ll head up the network as vice president of production – a prestigious appointment unusual for a woman. She will manage the overall production of the network, and her responsibilities include administering studio and remote productions, maintaining the look of all on-air content and handling the hiring of all network talent.
Druley earned a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from UT in 1989. A member of industry organization Wom- en in Cable Telecommunications, Druley successfully completed the Class 50 XVI Fellows program (2007- 08) in WICT’s Betsy Magness Leadership Institute, a distinguished yearlong educational program designed to elevate women leaders in the cable and telecommu- nications industry.
Druley was a senior coordinating producer in the studio production department of ESPN. She oversaw all NFL studio shows for ESPN, including the Emmy award-winning Sunday NFL Countdown, Monday Night Countdown, NFL Primetime and NFL Live. In addition to managing all content, planning, budget- ing and staffing for these programs, Druley was responsible for ESPN’s annual onsite coverage of the Super Bowl, as well as SportsCenter features during the NFL offseason.
Austin Woman caught up with the proud Longhorn fan eight days prior to the launch of the Longhorn Sports Network to get her take on this historic development.
AUSTIN WOMAN: How does it feel to be back in Austin launching the Longhorn Sports Network?
STEPHANIE DRULEY: It is exciting and chaotic. It is an opportunity to come back to Texas that I never thought I would have and I am thrilled to do it. Everyone is working really hard and has a great attitude. I am feeding off of that energy.
AW: As vice president of production, give us an insider’s perspective on your role and your vision for the network.
SD: The University of Texas, with the power of the brand and the success of the university academically and athletically, makes this venture possible. Our mission is to serve the fans. I am going to judge our success by the quality of what we put on television. I have set the bar very high. I put the entire production team together and was fortunate to have very talented people. We are starting from scratch with everything from content to what the network is going to look like. The reach and power of ESPN has helped – the creative services group, their technology, directing – it is an amazing team effort. We have a blueprint based on what ESPN has done and that is ingrained in us. As for things specific to this network, we have the chance to design it from the ground up.
AW: Would you care to speak about your journey as a woman in the male-dominated world of sports broadcasting?
SD: I started at ESPN in Connecticut in 1990 as an entry-level production assistant. There were some women there at the time, but there weren’t a lot. Today, the percentages are still slanted toward men, but that is really the nature of sports. I do not think gender hindered me in any way. When you are a female in a male-predominated environment, it puts the spotlight on you and you automatically stand out. It is up to you what you do with the spotlight. It gives you a lot of opportunity. If you do your job well, people take notice.
AW: How does your perspective as a Texas alum give you a leg up when you are planning the programming?
SD: No fan is more passionate than a Texas fan, and from that perspective, I know what people care about and what they want to hear. I know what might appeal. We did a show on traditions and my bar for that was whether or not I learned something from it. Most people who went to Texas think they know everything about UT, and I did learn some- thing, so it met my goal. We want it to be a network that speaks to Texas fans and feels familiar to them. Austin and Texas have their own unique culture and we are hoping to reflect that.