Watch out, ESPN. BHS students thinking outside the box

Burnsville High School seniors use independent study to produce sports debate show


Burnsville High School senior Coudjo Amegbleame (second from right) gets animated while discussing who should win this year’s Heisman Trophy during a taping of “Outside the Box,” a sports debate show produced by seven seniors at the high school. From left: Clay Hurlbut of Burnsville, Michael Brown of Savage, Amegbleame of Burnsville and Jason Dorow of Burnsville.

By ALEX HALL | Posted Dec 8, 2012

ESPN pundits Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless may want to start looking over their shoulders, because a handful of Burnsville High School seniors are gunning for their jobs.

Seven students at the school have come together to produce “Outside the Box,” a weekly debate show that focuses on the hottest topics in the world of sports. The show is the brainchild of Burnsville resident Clay Hurlbut, who is aspiring for a career in broadcasting.

Hurlbut serves as host and producer of the show, and is joined by panelists Coudjo Amegbleame of Burnsville, Jason Dorow of Burnsville and Michael Brown of Savage. Thomas Lidholm of Burnsville serves as technical director/stat boy (a lá Tony Reali of “Pardon the Interruption”), Cole Wilkie of Savage is the cameraman and Anthony Sweats of Burnsville serves as the audio/graphics specialist.

Growing up a fan of sports debate shows such as “Pardon the Interruption,” “Around the Horn” and “First Take,” Hurlbut came up with the idea for the show last year. He proposed it to his group of friends, and they all coordinated their schedules so they would have an open hour together to produce the show for school credit as an independent study.

“I think that’s the most impressive part of this,” said teacher Tyler Krebs, who oversees the independent study and teaches the video production class that precedes it. “Kids always talk about doing something, but they really put the work in and did it.”

The show airs at the school after “Blaze Weekly,” a news magazine that Krebs’ video production class started producing last year. “Outside the Box” will also soon air on public access and can be found on YouTube. The group will produce the show for the rest of the school year.

Hurlbut said that once he knew he wanted to put together a sports debate show, the next step was finding the right people to make it work. “I tried to surround myself with people that were talented to make the show run well,” he said.

“Instead he got us,” joked Wilkie.

Each week the group comes up with a set of topics on Monday, then heads home to do research and gather statistics to bolster their arguments. They come back on Tuesday and talk about the stands they’re going to take on the topics and find video highlights that will coincide with what they’re talking about. Then on Wednesday, they shoot the show.

“I think it’s definitely showed us how much work goes into doing a show,” said Dorow. “We’re working every day in class, doing research, finding highlights. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work.”

It may be a lot of work, but they don’t ask for much help from Krebs. “I’m pretty much hands-off,” he said. “They do it all themselves.”

Learning from their predecessors, Hurlbut and the panelists have tried to develop signature personalities in attempt to brand themselves, much like the aforementioned Smith and Bayless.

“Coudjo and myself are kind of the brash, talk a lot, smart [aleck] kind of guys, and him and I really go at it,” said Hurlbut. “Then you have Michael and Jason, who are very analytical, have great statistics to provide. I think the great thing about it is that everybody has their own role.”

The arguments can get pretty heated at times, whether talking about the lack of black coaches in college football or the performance of Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder, but the kids insist that the clashes are all in good fun.

“People often assume that Coudjo and I don’t like each other,” Hurlbut said, “but we’re all good friends outside of here. But when you’re on the show, you’ve got a job to do, and our main thing is to express yourself … Don’t hold back at all.”

In fact, it’s those heated arguments that drive the show.

“We talk about each topic, and if we all agree on it, we don’t do it,” Hurlbut said.

“Nobody wants to see everyone going ‘yes, yes, yes, yes’ and agreeing with each other,” Amegbleame added. “I mean, it’s a debate show.”

The group has learned a lot about how much work goes into producing a TV show, and they also think the experience will help them in their pursuit of broadcasting careers.

“It’s a huge resume builder,” said Wilkie.

Hurlbut thinks the experience will propel him toward accomplishing his goal one day: hosting his own TV show.

“If I can do this and create my own television show in a class with my buddies,” Hurlbut said, “then I think I can accomplish just about anything.”