How Louisville's creative team helps build the football program from behind the scenes
Upon finishing the Halloween video that he'd been looking forward to since early October, JB Allen was anxious.
After holding the finished product for a week, he was ready to release it and see how people would react to his latest creation. In the creative world, the excitement of putting together content you love is followed quickly by the anxiety of putting it out for others to see — and judge.
It was the same for Allen, a multimedia content producer for the University of Louisville. His spooky video for the Louisville football team’s Twitter account also acted as a uniform reveal for the Cardinals’ Halloween Black Out against Virginia Tech.
With the help of Ian McFarland, a graphic designer, and Tyler McEntire, Louisville's recruiting coordinator, Allen's general idea for a Halloween video turned into a spine-chilling shoot at the widely-known, and supposedly haunted, Waverly Hills Sanatorium. It was Allen’s favorite project and it was received well with more than 128,000 views.
But the impact of those three men is seen well beyond the impressions a video or graphic get on social media.
Scott Satterfield is in the midst of his second season as the Cardinals' head coach and is still in the process of building the program into what he wants it to be. Recruiting is a key piece, but there’s more to getting high school players on your team than pitching your record or success getting players to the NFL.
Social media has become a crucial instrument for programs across the country to not only widen its recruiting scope, but broaden its fan base reach. Satterfield understands that.
“In today’s recruiting world, our recruiting team has done a great job in creating a brand that celebrates our program, the student-athletes and everything our university has to offer,” Satterfield said. “We are in a social media environment, and it’s important that we have a strong presence in that realm to help attract the 18-22-year-old student-athletes that we want to be a part of our program.”
That’s why even though McFarland, Allen and McEntire might not get any publicity and they aren’t doing the in-depth coaching work that leads to on-field success, they still leave an important imprint on the program.
“It’s crazy, other people in this building are coaching football and I’m sitting here playing in Photoshop and taking pictures of cleats on the field,” McFarland said. “It’s two completely different disciplines, but they both play their role in the overall success.”
A Halloween video for the ages
At the beginning of every week, Allen, McEntire and McFarland have a brainstorming session about videos, graphics and everything they can do for the Louisville football social media accounts.
But the idea for a Halloween video dated back to early October. Allen told the group that he wanted to do a Halloween video, but he didn’t have the plans nailed down. It was McFarland who later had the epiphany of using Waverly Hills Sanatorium, Allen said.
“I was like, ‘You all know that place is actually haunted, right?’” Allen said.
Neither McEntire nor McFarland are from Kentucky, but after Allen revealed the sanitorium's sinister past, they watched videos on its history and were sold.
McEntire knew wide receiver Justin Marshall would love the idea. McEntire told the Georgia native how creepy the place was but left out some specifics — that Waverly Hills was home to patients who suffered from tuberculosis before there was a cure, and it was more so where people went to die instead of survive, the historical society states on its website.
After it closed, Waverly Hills quickly gained a reputation for being haunted. And many volunteers working on the building's restoration reported hearing ghosts, the sound of slamming doors, seeing apparitions in doorways and being touched by invisible hands.
"I didn’t get into all the tuberculosis and the body chute and all the spooky stuff because I was afraid nobody would want to go, but Justin was all about it, he loves that stuff,” McEntire said.
Everybody had a plan, and they were in agreement about one crucial aspect.
"We were dead set on going in the middle of the afternoon,” Allen said.
So the four of them went to Waverly Hills on a rainy, gloomy afternoon, which actually helped the video's Halloween feel.
The video and editing process went flawlessly, with the exception of a worker there scaring McEntire toward the end of the shoot.
Allen recorded the video, McFarland and McEntire took photos and Marshall was the star in the shoot. The editing was done that night, and then they just waited for the release.
Once it did, there was overwhelming love for the video by Louisville fans and media and even others outside of the Louisville circle.
“That was the most fun I ever had on a project,” Allen said.
The men behind the camera
The ironic thing about the team Louisville has built with McFarland, McEntire and Allen is that none of them expected to be in their role years ago.
McFarland was an entrepreneurship major, McEntire, who worked with Satterfield at Appalachian State, wanted to be a football coach and Allen was an exercise science major.
"It’s hard because you really do fall into a role like this,” McEntire said. “... You find a role and you just kind of work you butt off and that’s it.”
Allen, though, is the only one with deep ties to Louisville. He went to Louisville for undergrad, but after his freshman year, his mom told him he needed to find scholarship money somewhere or he was going home to attend Northern Kentucky University.
Luckily, he found a job filming practice for the football team. At the time, Louisville was offering quarter scholarships for people who started out working for the program, which increased each year they stayed.
By his third year, he was given a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera to shoot highlights at practice. Then Allen found his love. He had a few mentors help him learn Adobe Premiere and when he graduated, he went to the United Soccer League to shoot video for six months before he saw a job opening at Louisville that was too good to pass up.
He returned a few days before last year’s season-opening game against Notre Dame.
"Before I started working for Louisville, I had no idea where my life was going to take me, I didn’t have a set career path, I was an exercise science major and didn’t have a feel where I wanted to go,” he said. “Working for U of L was the first step and that was leaps and bounds to where it took me.”
The same goes for McFarland, although his journey was a little bit different. An entrepreneurship major a University of North Texas, McFarland had no idea the direction his career was taking him when he saw a graphics job positing.
He had an Instagram page he hadn’t used in years that was made for some graphics he created as a kid, just messing around in Photoshop. But that interest led him to the job with the football program.
With the college football world changing and moving to social media more to reach recruits, the director of recruiting at North Texas told McFarland there might be a job for him in that field. He ended up at Notre Dame for a post-graduate internship before seeing the job opening at Louisville. He joined McEntire just before Louisville’s hiring freeze in April.
McEntire is the leader of the pack, but takes no credit for the success Louisville has had with its graphics or videos. He instead passes it to Allen and McFarland who made the best out of the circumstances they were given in undergrad and parlayed changes in their career paths into the perfect job for them.
"Those two guys make my job easier. I can’t take credit for any of the stuff that is going out,” he said. “I don’t know what they went to school for and I don’t really care.”
The importance of graphics
One of the things McFarland enjoys so much about working at Louisville is the freedom he’s given to be as creative as he wants.
When he and McEntire talk about their plans for the week, McFarland is pretty much given the green light to do many of his ideas. That also comes from Satterfield, he said.
But it’s not just one graphic that McFarland does a week. On top of the photo shoots Louisville does, McFarland and McEntire push out anywhere from 10 to 15 custom graphics each week. That doesn’t include the different versions of the same graphic Louisville puts together.
Take recruiting for example. Louisville has a list of high school players it is recruiting for the 2021, 2022 class or any other. Each week, they’ll take one or two templates and edit each of them for a long list of recruits.
“It’s probably 400 of those,” McFarland said.
Then there are what McFarland and McEntire refer to as “one-offs,” which are specific designs for one recruit. They'll do a few of those a week.
While that might not look like a big deal to the naked eye, those graphics act as ways for Louisville to not only show interest in a recruit, even after they have verbally committed, but also show off Louisville's prowess in some ways.
Beyond those, they work on daily and weekly graphics that go on the Louisville Twitter page and do general work around the office if somebody needs a graphic done.
Allen, though he doesn’t work with Photoshop, keeps himself busy on the video side not only working with football, but also the women’s basketball team and anywhere else the department needs him.
Louisville’s football program is going to be known for the product it puts on the field. The wins and losses, the accolades and the things the coaches and players achieve are what grab headlines. But as the program continues to grow under Satterfield and his staff, there’s an important focus on social media.
Between recruits and fans, social media is one of the most influential tools a program has to project its brand.
And Louisville’s team hasn’t taken that responsibility lightly.
“The way we put out our content, we just show you what’s happening,” Allen said. “We aren’t flashy. We just want to show people what’s going on a weekly basis.”