I think the hockey coach tape had been successfully converted to DVD…

(and why that matters)

Hi there! Let me open by saying that this post is for all you folks who are willing to go the distance with me, even if you’re not sure where we’re heading, even if you’re really, really tired of hearing about hockey coach tapes. I appreciate you all so much. For the several others who are 100% done with hockey and wish that I would get back to serving up red meat on Ron Tammen, please feel free to grab your things and go. I won’t be offended. Also, while I genuinely enjoy reading people’s comments, please note that I will no longer be approving comments from the naysayers on this matter, including “cynics, complainers, defeatists, downers, killjoys, misanthropes, sourpusses, gloomies, party poopers, and wet blankets.” Those comments don’t really help and they tend to ruin my day.

Besides, I think a girl who’s investigating what could potentially be a 70-year-long cover-up should be allowed to ask a few follow-ups now and again. No one said that this was going to be a stroll through the begonias.

What I’d like to discuss with you is why the Miami Hockey Coaches recording, which we now know for a fact exists, has me turning my rumply-coated, cigar-chomping self around seeking “just one more thing” before I hop in my jalopy and drive away.

First let’s discuss the overall protocol of how an Oral History Project (OHP) tape was made. The Oral History Project involved a ton of interviews with scads of people. As a result, organizers needed to establish a protocol that 1) followed a certain set of university rules and regulations, and 2) kept track of and preserved every recording as it made its way through the process. For every interview that had been scheduled, organizers had a lengthy checklist of things to do and forms to fill out. 

Here’s a graphic I created after distilling down the steps described in the OHP Program Associate Handbook to help us visualize how things generally worked:

On the day of the interview (at the top of our wheel), an important thing on the to-do list involved turning on a digital audio recorder at the same time that the video recorder was turned on. That way, each video would have a backup audio recording in case the video experienced technical difficulties. The OHP rep also needed to get consent forms signed and to fill out a documentation worksheet, which held important operational notes that would come in handy later when developing such things as opening credit slides, metatags, and so on.

After the interview, when the OHP rep returned to the office, they’d put the digital videotape, or DVT, in a box on the Oral History desk, and the consent forms and worksheets in a “to be entered” folder of sorts. The Program Associates Handbook doesn’t say what happened to the audio backup, but I’m sure it had a designated holding place too, just in case they needed it. They also added the date and title of the interview to the Progress Log as well as a Master Interview List, both housed on a shared drive.

The recording was now added to the data entry form on a designated computer, nicknamed Athena, which would assign the recording a tracking number and create a label. An OHP rep would carry the DVT and its tracking label to Digital Initiatives so that the tape could be finalized and converted to a DVD. Consent forms and the documentation worksheet were also moved into a folder indicating their recording was currently at Digital Initiatives.

After the recording was returned from Digital Initiatives, DVDs were examined for glitches and then distributed to various recipients, one being the university archivist, who would assign an archive number. Consent forms and documentation worksheets would then be moved into their respective “finished” folders, which were alphabetized according to a person’s name (consent forms) or the title of the recording (documentation worksheet).

There were other forms too, which we’ll discuss in a second, but in a nutshell, this was the protocol that was adhered to every single time. In the case of the hockey coach tape, we have the signed consent forms, but two essential components of the process haven’t been located among the records at University Archives: the documentation worksheet and the audio backup recording. 

Signs that the so-called Miami Hockey Coaches tape was successfully converted to DVD

The university’s explanation has been that the Miami Hockey Coaches recording wasn’t posted online because one of two tapes had been damaged. (The so-called “good” tape that I watched was in terrible shape, so I can’t wait to see the second damaged tape whenever it becomes available.) This would mean that the DVT had been irreparably damaged before a DVD could be created. When considering the above protocol, I can think of about four opportunities for damage to occur to the DVT: during the actual videotaping, during the trip back to the office, while being hand carried to Digital Initiatives, or during the conversion from DVT to DVD.

I’ve been told that bad things could happen during the conversion process in those days, especially if you walked away from the machinery and a mishap occurred while you were gone. Perhaps that’s indeed how the tape sustained its damage. But here’s my issue: it seems as though the tape had been converted to DVD. 

Here are the clues that the tape had been successfully converted:

First, the Miami Hockey Coaches are listed on what was referred to as the DVD cross-reference form. This form had three versions, one arranged by title, one by tracking number (aka the work panel number aka the accession number), and one by archive number. As I’ve mentioned in another post, I think that the tracking/work panel/accession number for the hockey coach tape was msv00110. The archive number would be assigned by the university archivist after he received the DVD.

Although the Program Associates Handbook doesn’t state when a recording would be added to the form, it would make sense that it would be added when the DVDs had been returned from Digital Initiatives. After all, it’s called the DVD cross-reference form—it’s literally the first word in the title.

Second, the consent forms for the hockey coaches were filed in the folder with the “finished” interviews, which would indicate that they’d made it all the way through the process.

Third, according to the Progress Log, Digital Initiatives had been fully caught up on all of its conversions by May 1, 2009, and their turnaround time was approximately 1-2 weeks after receiving a DVT. By the date of the hockey coach interview, May 19, 2009, there was only one other DVT in the queue: the Marching Band Directors. There was no reason for OHP reps not to forward the hockey coach tape to Digital Initiatives as soon as possible. This was especially true since the big Bicentennial Reunion Weekend was fast approaching—June 18-21 that year—and they were attempting to have as many recordings posted online by then as possible.

Fourth, in a July 2009 narrative report, the hockey coaches were touted as one of the latest interviews conducted by the OHP team. Based on the Project Log’s overall timetable, with one exception, it was taking roughly 28 days between the date of an interview session and the date when that interview had been provided to the university archivist, which means that it was essentially ready to be deployed online. The hockey coach tape should have been successfully converted to a DVD or irreparably damaged—whichever—by June 16, 2009. For them to mention the hockey coach tape in a July report indicates that there were no mess-ups during the conversion.

Fifth, an archive number appears to have been assigned to a recording that corresponds with the timing of the hockey coach tape. That archive number is 10F-4-129. If an archive number exists for the hockey coach tape, we can conclude that it had been successfully converted to DVD. 

Sixth, when I submitted a public records request for the audio backup recording, Aimee Smart, of the Office of General Counsel, provided this lengthy explanation: 

“We do not have a responsive record. The Oral History project originally intended to back-up the interviews with multiple tapes, dvds, etc. However, they made adjustments to the original plans as the project and the budget evolved.  In the case of the audio recording, time and digital storage capacity constraints forced them to only archive the final video file rather than the secondary media on the audio device. Eventually, the memory cards would have been reformatted and reused, recycled or otherwise disposed of as well as the cassette tape.  The original plan also included multiple DVD copies of the final videos for archives and complimentary copies for participants. They felt that it became impractical due to cost and time and because the DVD media proved to be less reliable than they had hoped. Accordingly, they reduced the number of physical copies being made and mostly ceased providing complimentary copies altogether. Instead, they focused more on archiving the final video files online for eventual streaming.” 

I believe the most important words occur in the fourth sentence: “In the case of the audio recording, time and digital storage capacity constraints forced them to only archive the final video file rather than the secondary media on the audio device.” 

In my opinion, if the DVT of three legendary hockey coaches had been damaged prior to its being converted to DVD, they wouldn’t have destroyed their remaining audio backup, despite the time and digital storage capacity constraints. Only after the DVD had been created would they destroy the audio.

What I’m getting at here is that, although the university claims that the hockey coach recording made it as far as step 3 of our wheel and went no further, there are signs that it successfully had achieved step 4 and was nearly ready for posting.

For this reason, I’ve submitted several additional public records requests to try to understand the situation a little better.

One request I submitted over two weeks ago is for the ArchivesSpace screenshots for accession number msv00110. As you may recall, ArchivesSpace is the University Archives’ database for tracking all of its accessions. Here’s what I’m hoping to learn:

  • If the screenshots confirm the accession number msv00110 pertains to the hockey coach recording, that would be consistent with the other OHP records. It would also be telling, since I’d given the university this accession number on August 9, 2022, when they were still trying to locate the recording. Under this scenario, they should have found the tape well before September 14, 2022, when they informed the Court of Claims of its existence.
  • If the screenshots also happen to mention an archive number for the hockey coach recording—such as 10F-4-129, for example—that will indicate that the tape had indeed been converted to DVD.
  • And if ArchivesSpace doesn’t have any records for accession number msv00110? That would mean that there had been a tape labeled msv00110, as assigned by Athena, but they ostensibly don’t have that tape anymore. 

The last option would obviously lead us to ask what was the title of that tape and what happened to it? 

And of course, there’s this pachyderm in the parlour: If the hockey coach tape had been successfully converted to DVD, then why are we messing around with the damaged tapes at all? Where’s the DVD?

See what I mean? More questions.

2 thoughts on “I think the hockey coach tape had been successfully converted to DVD…

  1. Well I’m here for the long haul, rooting for the one in the rumpled trench coat to figure it out! Every time I see a new post is up in so excited to read it.

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