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Meek School Magazine: Big Game Coverage

David Dillard at the Pavilion. 

David Dillard sits comfortably in his control room in the Intercollegiate Athletic Offices at Ole Miss giving instructions to his switchboard operator and the announcers in the Pavilion while listening to the multiple conversations happening between his crew. If it sounds chaotic, that’s because it is. But Dillard is content in his element, unaffected by all the commotion.
Dillard compares his duties to those of a symphony conductor, making sure everyone does his or her part. He is a beacon of calm to his crew, directing and guiding them in the right direction. The employees who work for Dillard express how reassuring it is to have him managing behind the scenes.
Dillard, a 1989 graduate of the University of Mississippi, says coming to school in Oxford was a “no-brainer.” His family lineage had a strong representation here, and he says there was no other option. Once he got to campus, former University of Mississippi Professor of Journalism Jim Pratt had a huge impact in getting Dillard involved in the department.
Another professor who had a big impact on Dillard was Gary Grigsby, now at the University of Missouri, who oversaw the nightly newscast produced in the Student Media Center when Dillard was in school. He even aided Dillard in producing an Emmy-winning documentary about catfish farming in the Mississippi Delta in 1989.
Dillard and technical director Josh Hinkle work a broadcast of the SEC champion Ole Miss women’s softball team.

After receiving his degree in journalism, Dillard moved to Tupelo and started working full-time for WTVA, the NBC af liate there. Dillard’s work with Grigsby and his work directing weekend newscasts at WTVA gave him a great footing for his career in productions.
A few years later, Dillard founded Total Production Services LLC and is now under contract with the University of Mississippi to produce sporting events on campus. He is in charge of broadcasting shows on air to ESPN’s standards while directing his employees to get the perfect shot at the right moment.
His job is to sift through all the noise and make split-second decisions about replays and graphics while being sure to relay those decisions to the appropriate channels. He has to think ahead and tell his team what should come next while staying in the moment and not missing anything important.
In the midst of the action, Dillard says he sometimes has to pinch himself. Looking back to his time as a student at the university and coming full circle to his work producing sporting events for it today, he feels very fortunate.
“I am very proud to be an Ole Miss graduate and am even more proud to be able to work for the university and contribute to things happening on campus,” said Dillard.
Some of the monitors Dillard watches during the game.

Shane Sanford, the manager of creative services for Ole Miss Sports Productions, has worked with Dillard since their time together at WTVA starting in 1999. At WTVA, the pair enhanced how election coverage results were delivered on-air and improved the Friday night high school football shows the station produced.
“David Dillard is one of the smartest people I’ve worked with in the industry and an extremely hard worker,” Sanford said.
Although Dillard took a quick detour from campus during his time in Tupelo, his work with Total Production Services ensured this apple did not fall too far from the Grove.
Total Production Services has only one other full-time employee, Rodney Gray, an engineer who recently rebuilt the control room from scratch. He and Dillard wanted to ensure technical proficiency in the control room.
Will Kollmeyer is one of the play-by-play announcers currently working with Dillard. The two worked together for years at WTVA where Dillard pro- duced and directed Kollmeyer’s weeknight sportscasts. The chemistry they developed back then has carried over to their broadcasts at Ole Miss.
“It is an absolute pleasure to work with David … although there are stretches of time when I hear his voice in my ear more than my wife’s,” Kollmeyer said jokingly.
Dillard has produced more than 6,000 shows in his career, yet he claims to have never had a perfect show. With all the unexpected elements of a live sporting event, Dillard must anticipate a variety of situations and react quickly.
Fortunately, when things do go wrong, Dillard has the unwavering support of his wife Rosemary and daughter Mary Payne. He and Rosemary recently celebrated their 25th anniversary and his daughter is currently a junior at Ole Miss majoring in biology with plans to go to optometry school after graduation. Because his biggest priorities are his wife and daughter, Dillard knows that life is too short to stress over a missed replay or a mistimed graphic.
Dillard doesn’t just watch the sports he’s broadcasting. He’s a coach of his own. Before the start of every show, Dillard watches game film by streaming video from his camera crew to adjust angles and frames prior to airing. He has his graphics team show him all the images they have lined up for the run of the show to check for inaccuracies and other problems. Dillard even does a quick run-through of the opening to check the sound level and give the announcers a chance to work out any kinks.
After he has completed all of his pre-show checks, Dillard enjoys a much-needed but brief rest before the game of cially starts. If anyone has learned to find comfort in the calm before the storm, it would be Dillard.
“If you never think of me when you watch one of our live shows, then I have done my job,” he said.
As he orchestrates live sporting events, he knows the support of his family and a great crew makes it possible for him to do everything he does for the university.

By Hannah Fields. Photography by Timothy Ivy.

The Meek School Magazine is a collaborative effort of Journalism and Integrated Marketing Communications students with the faculty of Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Every week, for the next few weeks, HottyToddy.com will feature an article from Meek Magazine, Issue 5 (2017-2018).

For questions or comments, email us at hottytoddynews@gmail.com.

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