Shane Beamer’s squad is getting the Hollywood treatment.
The Gamecocks are being featured on a five-part ESPN documentary series entitled “Welcome Home: South Carolina Football.”
The State chatted with Bo Mattingly, the show’s executive producer and president of Sport & Story, about how the series came to be and what viewers can expect from the final four installments — the next of which airs at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length
Ben Portnoy: First off, can you elaborate a little on how this documentary series came to be?
Bo Mattingly: “Yeah, I think South Carolina had a desire to showcase the football program and the way that it is now under Coach Beamer. There’s a lot of positives in terms of who he is, how he runs his program. I think we saw that on the field last year. There was a desire to really showcase that.
I’ve got a background of being able to work with schools and networks — mostly ESPN — to help bring something like that to life. So we just started the conversation and started talking about what that might look like, what the process is. We just reached out to ESPN and met with South Carolina to talk about what it would look like. There was mutual interest and we were able to put a deal together that works for everybody.
The access has been tremendous. Coach (Beamer) has been tremendous. The athletic department, everybody there, it’s just been awesome to deal with. I think you probably saw in the first episode the access and what it looks like, but the idea is to show you what it looks like to play football at South Carolina under Shane Beamer.”
BP: You kind of touched on it there, but why was South Carolina the program you wanted to do this kind of project with?
BM: “I think there’s a lot of intrigue around Coach Beamer. He’s been around for a long time. Sort of a well-known coach and then he took a job in South Carolina. The energy and the part where you maybe have heard about this guy, but you don’t really know as much about him as maybe some other coaches — there’s an entry to ‘OK, who is this guy? What is he all about?’
Then you’ve got Spencer Rattler, who’s obviously one of the most high-profile names from a quarterback perspective in college football. Then you have some players coming back and you’ve got characters.
South Carolina is an SEC program that feels like it’s on the rise. It’s not just your average, everyday story. Any football program — like a major college football program — you’re gonna be able to find and tell great stories. But this just felt like it had some really intriguing edges to it. And then when you get in there and you start talking to them, it just becomes clear that that’s true.
It’s been fun just to see how they operate and the sort of the uniqueness of the program.”
BP: And then in terms of actually putting this documentary together, what does that look like in practice?
BM: “Normally we’ll have a crew of two or three people — not a huge crew. It just depends.
We had more people at the spring game. We had a lot of guys mic’d up. But then (USC creative media director) Justin King and his staff at South Carolina are as good as anybody in the country when it comes to creative and video and storytelling.
Most of their work is for social (media) and the way that social video gets edited is different than long form. There’s all this footage that they’ve done a great job with from day one, since Coach Beamer has been there and even before. And then you really just sort of marry those two things and build it for what’s appropriate for this setting, this long form, documentary setting.
From a crew size standpoint, it’s not overwhelming. And because South Carolina is so good at what they do, it makes it even a better project, in my opinion.”
BP: Now that the first episode has aired, what’s the reception been like so far?
BM: “We’re just getting started. You kind of lay the groundwork. Some of the characters on the team — and everyone on the team is a character — but in a TV series, you can’t feature every person. There’s a handful of characters that we’ll get to know better as the series goes on.
And then we’re going to show sort of behind the scenes — what you don’t get to see every day as a fan. You see them play the game. You might see him practice. But you don’t really know what goes into all the work behind the scenes and the attention to detail, the conditioning, the nutrition, the science of what they do. And then the planning — the strategy from the coaches on how they’re going to attack a practice. We’re gonna get that.
Then, really, you’re gonna just sort of go through fall camp and see the grind of fall camp, what it’s like to go through all that. And then we’ll go through that first game week and that’ll be the final episode that will come out after the first game (against Georgia State).”
BP: In that vein, what can people expect from the last four episodes?
BM: “What I hope is that we’re able to show things that you haven’t seen before if you’re a South Carolina fan, or you’re a college football fan.
I don’t know that we’ve ever seen eight guys mic’d up in a game like we did in the spring game. You’re literally watching and hearing the conversation. When you watch a game, it’s just cool to hear that, right? Because normally you’re watching and you kind of wonder what somebody’s saying. You kind of feel like you’re inside the game.
And then off the field, we want to show who these guys are as people. They’re people. I feel like we’ve lost this a little bit, is humanizing these athletes. They’re just people. They just happen to be really good at football. They wear a face mask and you don’t really get to know them. I feel like when you do (get to know them), you just watch games differently. You’re sort of invested in their story, who they are — especially if you’re a fan. You’re rooting for them in a more authentic and meaningful way.
I hope that we’re able to show that and I genuinely think a lot and have a lot of respect for Coach Beamer — who he is, how he runs programs, his character and the kind of guy he is trying to build guys beyond just football, which is so much more sustainable than the few years that that he’s gonna have them there. Hopefully, people see that.
But, also, it’s real storytelling. It’s the good and the bad. Not everything’s roses. And you see the grind and that it can be tough, and there’s some adversity. Hopefully, those are some things that come out.
Not only is it something that I think is great look at the South Carolina football program, but the impact that football, or sports in general, can be positive. I think that’s going to come out in this series.”
BP: To that end, what are one or two things you want people to take away from this series in its entirety?
BM: “That’s a good question. I think, for me, it would just be getting to know what it’s like to play major college football better — seeing the work that goes into it and the rewards that can come out of it.
And then what it’s like to play college football for Shane Beamer and the South Carolina Gamecocks. Whether you’re a fan, whether you’re just somebody who enjoys college football, or if you just want to see how this works, those are things that I think people will get out of the series.”
When: 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Sept. 7
Stream: ESPN app
Length: 30 mins