ESPN to air Children's Hospital, Missouri School of Journalism commercials

Friday, October 2, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The MU-Nebraska football game will be the only televised college game on Thursday evening, and that means the spotlight will extend well beyond Memorial Stadium.

ESPN has announced it will feature two other facets of MU — the Missouri School of Journalism and Children’s Hospital — during the broadcast. The hospital will get a 30-second commercial slot, said Whit Babcock, MU senior associate athletics director.

ESPN will produce the Journalism School spot. Babcock said several MU journalism graduates work for ESPN, which added to the appeal of featuring the school.

“The Journalism School was a no-brainer, but the athletics department’s partnership with the Children’s Hospital was a draw for them, too,” he said. "There are so many areas of this university that could've been featured — we are grateful for ESPN's coverage of these two great aspects of MU."

The featured slots are in addition to the typical university spots that accompany a nationally televised college game, Babcock said.

“It’s added exposure because we’re still getting general Mizzou commercials during the game,” he said. “It’s great visibility for the university on all levels.”

Babcock said the athletics department has worked hard to educate fans and the community on the logistics of the first midweek game at MU in 17 years.

“We know it’s going to be a bit of a hassle with a weekday kickoff as opposed to a Saturday kickoff," he said. "We have had a 20-person campus task force working diligently to spread the word and educate our community, students, faculty and staff. ... We hope that folks can forgive the slight inconveniences for a day to benefit the entire institution.”

Babcock encourages alumni and fans to go to for more information on the game, parking, traffic flow and tailgating.

MU Health Care spokesman Matt Splett said the Children's Hospital is recognized in mid-Missouri as a leader in pediatric care. The hospital is consolidating its services with Columbia Regional Hospital, which will create mid-Missouri’s only stand-alone health care facility for pediatric patients. Phase one of the plan is scheduled for completion by next summer, Splett said.

“We were flattered to be chosen because any time we can get exposure, especially on a national level, it’s an added benefit,” he said.

Splett said a previously used advertisement for the hospital will run in the allotted slot.

Splett said the hospital partners with the athletics department to host various events in the community, including the “Miracles for Kids” radiothon taking place this week, . The radiothon, which is sponsored by Children’s Miracle Network and Zimmer Radio Group, raises money to improve treatment and to benefit children with various health issues. MU athletes and coaches are frequently seen in the hospital volunteering their time.

“Athletes volunteer with the phone bank, answering calls and also visiting patients on the floors,” he said. “Nothing uplifts the spirit of those kids more than seeing an MU Tiger or coach they’ve seen on TV.”

The hospital also pairs with the MU gymnastics team in January for a “Pink Out” meet to raise money for breast cancer research. In February, the women’s basketball team hosts a game from which the proceeds go to cardiovascular research.

Babcock said ESPN is sending T-shirts to patients at the hospital and also hopes to have on-air personalities visit the children on Thursday. He said the athletics department is thrilled MU will be featured on a national stage.

“A lot of people will be watching the game and hopefully it draws them to Mizzou in some form or fashion,” he said.

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