CHARLOTTESVILLE — That man high in the sky looking down on Virginia football practices and games, camera at the ready?
Chances are it’s Luke Goldstein, the indomitable video coordinator for UVa’s football program.
VirginiaSports.com likes to check in with members of the athletics department who play vital roles while generally operating outside of the public eye. Our guest today is Goldstein, who made the short walk from his McCue Center command post to University Hall to talk about his responsibilities at UVa.
Starting point: Goldstein came to UVa in the summer of 2002, not long before the start of training camp. He’d been working for a computer company, providing support for digital video editing software, and Goldstein and his wife, Lisa, wanted a change. “We were living in New Hampshire and miserable,” he recalls. He spent 2 ½ months living at the Cavalier Inn after arriving in Charlottesville.
Family: The Goldsteins live in Albemarle County, near Darden Towe Park, with their two daughters (Gracyn and Reeve) and two sons (Nathan and Kase). Gracyn is 9, Nathan is 6, and Reeve is about to turn 4. Kase is 20 months old. Lisa, who has a master’s in midwifery from the University of Southern California, is an adjunct professor in UVa’s nursing school. During the season, Goldstein says, he likes to get his kids on the school bus before heading to work. He usually arrives at the McCue by 8 a.m. He’s back home by 9 p.m. most days.
Roots: Goldstein, a big-time Yankees fan, grew up in Woodstock, N.Y., a two-hour drive north of New York City. Woodstock — the music festival — was held in 1969 about 60 miles away in Bethel, N.Y., but Goldstein’s hometown was a haven for musicians, too. At Oneonta High, where he played golf and tennis, his classmates included the son of Rick Danko, bassist for The Band. Goldstein’s junior prom after-party was at Band drummer Levon Helm’s house.
Education: Goldstein graduated in 1994 from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications with a bachelor’s in television, radio and film production. At Syracuse, he worked in the school’s health center his first two years, then took a job in the athletic equipment room. “My dad suggested I look for something else, so I went to the video director [in the athletics department]. at Syracuse,” Goldstein recalls. In the winter of his senior year, he was assigned to Orange men’s basketball and men’s lacrosse. That spring, he shot the ‘Cuse’s 15-14 overtime loss to UVa in the NCAA lax semifinals at College Park, Md.
Out in the real world: “My goal coming out of college was to work for ESPN, which I did,” Goldstein says. He was working as a video engineer for that network when he got a call from a former SU colleague, Mike Perkins, who’d been named video director for the NFL expansion team in Jacksonville. “He says, ‘I can’t hire an assistant yet, but I’ll keep you in mind,'” Goldstein recalls. “So it’s February and I’m back at ESPN and he calls and says, ‘I can’t hire you. You don’t have any football experience.’ An hour later he calls me back and says, ‘I changed my mind.'” After three seasons with the Jaguars, Goldstein moved to sunny Southern Califonia to become director of video operations at USC.
L.A. story: Goldstein liked working at USC, but his wife is from New Jersey, and “we realized we couldn’t raise a family in Los Angeles living in a 600-square-foot apartment over a garage,” he says. “We wanted to be back East, closer to home.” So he accepted an offer to become director of league video operations for the new XFL. After that league folded in May 2001, Goldstein went to work for the computer company, but the contacts he’d made in football eventually paid off. When Al Groh started looking for a new video coordinator in 2002, Jimmy Dee, who holds that position for the New England Patriots, recommended Goldstein.
At work: Goldstein’s “staff” consists of nine students. “I can’t do anything without them,” he says. Six students are at every practice, along with Goldstein, who’s also responsible for selecting the music that blasts out of the loudspeakers surrounding the fields. Groh wants Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” played twice each practice, and “every once in a while he says, ‘Today is a Bruce Springsteen day,’ or something like that,” Goldstein says, “but otherwise it’s up to me.” Sure to be heard at least once at every practice is a certain band with local ties. “I’m a huge Dave Matthews fan,” Goldstein says. During the season, Goldstein also produces the “Luke Video” — a motivational film, with movie clips, music, football highlights, that’s shown to the team on Friday nights.
Back in the day: When he started at UVa, Goldstein says, many ACC schools still physically exchanged game tapes. “I used to drive down to the Hardee’s in Chatham,” he says. “That was the exchange point with the Carolina schools.” Before games against the Hokies, he’d meet a Virginia Tech representative at White’s Truck Stop off Exit 205 on Interstate 81. Now, however, schools exchange video over the Internet. That’s not the only way Goldstein’s job has changed. “Everything used to be tape-based,” he says. “If you shot 15 minutes of tape footage, you’d have to capture it into the computer system in 15 minutes of real time. Everything was real time. On an average day, we shoot 75 minutes of footage [from practice]. It used to take us real time two hours to get everything ready for the coaches. Now we shoot on hard-drive cards. Now it takes three minutes to get 15 minutes of footage into the system. By the time the coaches get off the field and shower, they can watch every bit of practice.”
In the library: All practices and games are saved on a hard drive, Goldstein says. Each play from practice is labeled on the screen with the personnel group, play call, defensive scheme, etc. Each play from a game includes “another 15 things,” Goldstein says, including score and down and distance. That information allows coaches to search for specific game situations.
Game day: When the ‘Hoos play at Scott Stadium, Goldstein sets up high on the west side (above the press box) around the 50-yard line. A student shoots from the ‘Hoo Vision videoboard tower. At the end of the third quarter, a police car drives some of Goldstein’s student assistants back to the McCue Center, where they begin editing the video. At game’s end, to beat traffic, he pedals his bicycle back to the McCue. “I’ve just found it’s the easiest way, and it’s fun,” Goldstein says. “Students drive my car with all the gear in it.”
Living the dream: Goldstein, who’s president of the College Sports Video Association, likes being able to work in sweats and a T-shirt and spending a few hours outside every day during the season. That’s not all. “I love being around the players and my students, because I feel it keeps me young,” Goldstein, 37, says. “I’m not gonna say hip, but it keeps me in the flow of things.” His children know the players, too, and enjoy spending time at practice and at UVa sporting events. Over the years, Goldstein has formed close friendships with many players, Chris Long, Marquis Weeks, Ryan Sawyer, Jon Copper and Clint Sintim among them. So, which former Cavalier studied the most film? “I’d probably say Copper,” Goldstein says. “He was in every single night after practice, eating dinner and watching film.”
— Jeff White