ESPN will air the first game in its history featuring an all-deaf school Thursday at 8 p.m. (ET) when California School for the Deaf’s (Fremont, Calif.) football team takes on Woodland Christian (Woodland, Calif.).
The game will air on ESPN2 as part of the GEICO ESPN High School Football Showcase.
“This is a game that we’re all really excited about,” ESPN Director of Programming and Acquisitions Brent Colborne said. “It will be unique in terms of how fans are going to view this game and how our production team is going to handle it.”
The telecast will highlight the parallels and non-parallels of an all-deaf football program. The national anthem will air prior to kickoff and will be signed by the California School for the Deaf’s cheerleaders.
The idea to televise the game stemmed from last year’s E:60 special Silent Night Lights, which profiled California School for the Deaf.
“It was one of the best features I’ve personally ever seen our company do,” Colborne said of the documentary. “They inspired us to take it a step further and get one of their games on-air. It really allowed us to continue to tell their story in a different way.”
The telecast will feature interpreters, but the focus, according to ESPN producer Chris Damiani, is “for this to air just like any normal game.”
“The only difference is that we’ll have the interpreters there,” Damiani said. “We’re gonna interview the coach just like we do at a normal game, we’ve got some parents lined up who have had multiple students play at the school and we’ll be in the locker room with them at halftime. Our goal is to show this school off to the country because the way they play the game is remarkable.”
The Eagles have certainly proved that with their play this season, posting a 9-1 record and outscoring opponents 377-78.
“They’re a really good team,” Colborne said. “They play the Oregon style, no-huddle offense. We went out and scouted one of their games earlier in the year and their offense really moves. We’re excited to give these guys a chance to showcase their skills to a national audience.”