Thursday, January 15, 2004When officials at East Tennessee State University decided they wanted their own sports network, it was obvious they could not do it alone. With the focus on health and fitness in ETSU's Athletic Department, finding someone to partner with them was easy for university officials. All they had to do was look down the street at their community healthcare system. The Mountain States Health Alliance Buccaneers Sports Network will kick off Saturday and will include radio and television broadcasts throughout the basketball season. From the Thursday evening coaches' shows to the pre-game analysis all the way through to the post-game wrap-up, the network will be broadcasting nearly seven hours of Buccaneers sports information and live games a week. Listeners from Rogersville to Grundy, Va., and even Rural Retreat, Va., will have access to the programming through the 12-station affiliate network. "I think it is really an exciting partnership for us," ETSU Athletics Director Dave Mullins said of the joint network. "We feel like this takes us to the next level." In past years, ETSU games were broadcast by WJCW with part of the proceeds going back to the school. But this year the university decided to create its own network by buying time on 12 different affiliate stations and handling all the programming as well as advertising responsibilities itself. To make that work, ETSU realized it needed a partner who understood the impact athletics have in the lives of students and other members of the community. So it turned to Mountain States Health Alliance. "We feel like this is a real natural tie-in," Mullins said. For the healthcare system, joining the broadcast network was a chance to be a part of the university's accomplished athletic program by giving it the ability for continued growth. "This is an opportunity where we can come in and help East Tennessee State University in its path toward continued excellence," said Ed Herbert, MSHA vice president of Communications and Marketing. "The already close relationship between Mountain States Health Alliance, ETSU and the medical school is now being drawn even tighter." MSHA believes in the value of athletics in education. By supporting the Buccaneers Sports Network, MSHA hopes to encourage present and future student athletes and promote the success of the entire program. "We understand the important role these athletes play not only on the court, but in our community," Herbert said. "The student athletes are role models and leaders. This year, for example, the ETSU men's and women's basketball teams have both chosen the Children's Hospital at JCMC as their civic project. They have come by and visited the kids in the Children's Hospital on a few occasions already during this school year. We are glad to give them our support and join with them in this effort." The health provider's dedication to the network will encompass more than just a name, said ETSU representative Michael White said. "By taking on the name, MSHA is going to partner itself with every aspect of the broadcast and its relationship to athletics here," White said. Breaks during broadcasting will have occasional information about Mountain States Health Alliance and the part the healthcare system plays in the community. The Buccaneers Web site will also have a link to MSHA to give further information to those using the Internet. "It's very valuable to us," White said of the partnership. "The future of ETSU athletics took a huge step forward with this agreement." The Athletic Department at ETSU focuses on more than just winning games. Student athletes are involved in health-related programs such as drug and alcohol education as well as working on community projects. This year the men's basketball team at ETSU adopted the Children's Hospital at the Johnson City Medical Center as its project. White said with the creation of the joint network, Mountain States Health Alliance is showing its support of the university's sports program. "It shows MSHA's confidence in what they see us doing over here in educating student athletes," he said. Mountain States Health Alliance facilities include: Johnson City Medical Center, North Side Hospital, Johnson City Specialty Hospital, James H. & Cecile C. Quillen Rehabilitation Hospital, all in Washington County, TN; Sycamore Shoals Hospital, Carter County, TN; Johnson County Health Center, located in Mountain City, TN.; Indian Path Medical Center and Indian Path Pavilion in Sullivan County; TN; Blue Ridge Medical Management Corporation - operating the First Assist Urgent Care centers, ValuCare Clinics and numerous primary care offices.
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