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Al Miles
WAER's Sport Casters
WAER’s Adam Chez ’02, left, Adam Kuperstein ’02, Andy Jones ’02, and Howard Chen ’02 broadcast an SU basketball game from courtside in the Carrier Dome.

Once upon a time, “sportscasting” referred to not much more than coverage of the hometown teams, a “big game” on the weekend, and the daily roundups that came with the local news. Over the last two decades, however, the proliferation of cable television, along with the rebirth of AM radio as a “talk” medium, has transformed sports broadcasting into a 24/7 communications business whose audience just can’t get enough. Media companies of every size—from national TV networks to small-town radio stations—are caught up in the sports infotainment boom, putting them on the lookout for play-by-play announcers, color commentators, sports anchors, talkjocks, and production personnel. To a remarkable degree they’re finding that talent at Syracuse University.

Syracuse has gained a unique national reputation for the quality—and quantity—of outstanding sportscasters it has educated over the years. For decades the University has attracted students who are passionately driven to the vocation, despite the fact that no major or special program in “sports journalism” is offered. “We think the training we provide in broadcast journalism is precisely what any would-be professional sportscaster needs,” says Dean David Rubin of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. “If you are a good reporter, you can be a good sports reporter. Our outstanding broadcast journalism curriculum, arguably the best in the nation, and several elective courses we offer in sports journalism have produced results that speak for themselves.”

Courtesy of athletic communications
group photo Some of SU’s most prominent alumni sportscasters gathered at Lubin House in New York City in 1999. Among those in attendance were (front row, from left): Len Berman ’68, G’70, Sean McDonough ’84, Mike Tirico ’88, Ian Eagle ’90, (back row, from left) Marty Glickman ’39 (now deceased), Hank Greenwald ’57, Dave Pasch ’94, Andy Musser ’59, and Marv Albert ’63.

Evidence supporting Rubin’s position is, quite literally, all over the dial. An informal—and certainly incomplete—survey yielded a list of approximately 100 Syracuse alumni occupying positions in every aspect of the profession on both radio and TV. They include play-by-play announcers in the professional leagues (e.g. Ian Eagle ’90, New Jersey Nets) and the colleges (Bill Roth ’87, Virginia Tech), station sports directors (Len Berman ’68, G’70, WNBC-New York), desk anchors (Brent Skarky ’97, KOCO-Oklahoma City) and call-up radio hosts (Mitch Levy ’89, KJR-Seattle). Some have stayed close to campus (Kevin Maher ’97 of WTVH-Syracuse); others have gone far afield (Steve Moore ’89, Sports News TV-Singapore). Jeff Neubarth ’97 produces events for the USA cable TV network; Seth Everett ’96 does baseball via satellite subscription radio for Major League Baseball.

AP/Wide World Photos
Hank Greenwald Hank Greenwald ’57 spent many years in the broadcast booth calling games for the San Francisco Giants.

Chris Bolt ’89, G’95, news director at WAER, has been with the campus radio station since 1995. Each fall he is swamped with student applications for a limited number of openings in the sports department. “I see three factors that have made Syracuse an important breeding ground for sports broadcasting,” he says. “First, there’s lineage. No other school has produced as many greats in the field, and all those famous names bring people here from all over the country. Then there’s the program itself. While students get top-flight academic training at the Newhouse School, they receive a realistic, hands-on, industry-oriented experience at WAER. Both Newhouse and WAER have become ‘brands’ that employers know they can depend on. Finally, there are the unequaled opportunities to cover big-time college sports.”

Rubin agrees. “We have been particularly fortunate that the athletics department has permitted WAER the right to broadcast SU’s football, basketball, and lacrosse games in competition with the commercial stations that carry them. They didn’t have to do that; most schools don’t. But as a result, our students get chances to broadcast college athletics at the highest level. No Ivy League school can give you the opportunity to broadcast a Final Four NCAA basketball game or a major football bowl game. We can, and we do.”

Steve Sartori
Mike Tirico

ESPN sportscaster Mike Tirico ’88 meets with a Newhouse class last semester.

Basketball on the Radio? Impossible!

Steve Sartori
Marty Glickman
Marty Glickman ’39

Emmy Award- winning broadcaster Bob Costas ’74 credits the late Marty Glickman ’39 with “laying out the geography of the basketball court” for succeeding generations of sportscasters. Indeed, Glickman was at the mike for the very first basketball game ever to be broadcast, a 1943 all-star benefit for the Red Cross war effort.

In a 1998 interview at Lubin House for the Newhouse School’s oral history collections, which are housed at Bird Library, Glickman explained that it had previously been believed that basketball was too quick and complicated a sport to be broadcast. Glickman, however, said he overcame those problems with a combination of schoolyard slang and his own original terms.

“Unlike football and baseball, basketball is a fluid game and there’s constant change. I spread the terminology of the city game to the radio: the top of the key, the elbow of the foul line, one-handed jump, two-handed set, and so on. I spoke in the vox populi. I developed a technique—the style known as ‘following the ball.’ I could always speak rapidly and I knew the game. It was easy for me and I enjoyed doing it. Later on, other broadcasters would request tapes to see how I did it.”

For an account of Glickman’s pioneering career in sports broadcasting see his autobiography, The Fastest Kid on the Block (Syracuse University Press, 1996).

—David Marc

The Great Chain of Sportscasting

The story of sports broadcasting at Syracuse University really begins in the radio age with Marty Glickman ’39. After scoring two touchdowns in a 1937 victory over nationally ranked Cornell, the star tailback (and member of the 1936 U.S. Olympic track team) accepted an offer of $15 per show to host a weekly sports review on WSYR in Syracuse. Returning home to New York City after graduation, Glickman became the voice of Big Apple sports for 60 years, calling every kind of contest from the city’s major league teams to track meets, harness racing, and even the rodeo (from Madison Square Garden, of course).

Syracuse has been training the voices of the big-time broadcast booth ever since. Major league baseball announcers include Hank Greenwald ’57 (San Francisco Giants) and Andy Musser ’59 (Philadelphia Phillies), both of whom recently retired. Marv Albert ’63 caught his proverbial “big break” when his mentor, Marty Glickman, got stuck in a snowstorm and asked him to sit in at the mike for a Knicks game. Dick Stockton ’64 is among the deans of the profession, holding the rare distinction of having covered all four major professional sports on network television, as well as the Masters golf tournament and dozens of other blue-chip events. Bob Costas ’74 got his first radio experience as a freshman at WAER. Like many before and after him, he turned professional in the Syracuse market while still an undergraduate, in his case to call Syracuse Blazers American Hockey League action on WSYR. More recently, he anchored the 2002 Winter Olympic Games for NBC Sports.

In a 1984 article, Sports Illustrated characterized SU as the “incubator” of American sportscasters, lauding the University’s “dazzling record” of turning out not only the most, but the best in the business. Among the readers of that article was a high school senior named Mike Tirico ’88. Did it influence his choice of colleges? “Not really,” says Tirico. “I’d already decided. My reasoning for wanting to go to Syracuse was Marv Albert, who was the voice of my favorite teams while I was growing up. In his book Yesss!!! (1979), Albert pointed out that he went to Syracuse because he wanted to follow his idol, Marty Glickman. That got the bug in me, and I was determined to do the same.”

It worked out well. Tirico’s career path took him from WAER to a student internship at Syracuse’s CBS television affiliate, WTVH. After graduating with a dual degree in broadcast journalism and political science, he became WTVH’s sports director for several years. This opened the door to ESPN, where he blossomed into one of the sports network’s most popular and knowledgeable on-air personalities.

Tirico has also done his part to keep up the tradition that brought him to the Hill. Like Costas, Albert, and other SU alumni, he makes no secret, on the air or off, of his ties to Syracuse. That message got through to Newhouse student Marty Greenstein ’05 of Carson City, Nevada, who describes sportscasting as his “dream job.” When asked about his choice of SU, Greenstein replied, “I especially admire Mike Tirico because he does such a great job for ESPN. I think coming from his school will help me establish credibility right off the bat.”

On a trip to campus in February to cover Big East basketball, Tirico gave most of his day to visiting classes and talking to students before heading for work at the Dome. “I love coming back to this place,” Tirico said, gesturing down a hallway of the Newhouse School. “The people I found at WAER were particularly driven: no pay, no course credit. I especially remember those Friday nights. You’d see other people going out on M Street, but we’d all be up there—fourth floor, Newhouse II—working on the Saturday pregame show.”

That February night, no fewer than seven Orange voices described the Syracuse-West Virginia game to fans around the country: Tirico on ESPN television; Dave Pasch ’94 and Dave Ryan ’89 on WAQX-FM and the 22-station SU commercial radio network; Tony Caridi ’84, the voice of Mountaineer basketball on WVU’s 46-station radio network; and last but not least, Kelly O’Donnell ’02 and Dave Friedman ’03 on WAER. Friedman, incidentally, was not only competing for listeners against Pasch, but taking a sports broadcasting course with him as well. “Face it,” says Friedman, “this is the Mecca of sports broadcasting.”

Dan Hoard ’85, like Tirico, credits Marv Albert’s book for bringing him to the Hill. While still in school, Hoard called Syracuse Chiefs baseball on WSYR, and has since gone on to become the radio voice of University of Cincinnati sports on WLW-AM as well as television host of pregame shows for Reds baseball on FOX Sports. “A Syracuse education gives you the building blocks—especially the writing courses—necessary to become a journalist of any kind,” he says. “Meanwhile, if you really are dedicated to becoming a sportscaster, you get out there and use WAER, WJPZ [the newer campus FM station], or UUTV [SU’s closed-circuit television station] to get practical experience. But there’s another, less tangible, element: the chance to just hang out with people who you can see are already well on the way to becoming part of the profession. We all owe each other something and we love running into each other at the World Series, the Super Bowl, or any of the big national sports events.”

A Tradition Unbroken By Change

Andrew Siciliano ’96 belongs to the new generation of sportscasters who entered the industry during its tumultuous boom of the 1990s. Heard coast-to-coast daily on FOX Sports Radio’s Tony Bruno Show, Siciliano is anything but shy in his opinions, even when recounting fond memories of his college days. “WAER is, frankly, as cutthroat as it gets,” he says. “There were probably 60 kids my freshman year just trying to get writer’s shifts! But it’s that competition that makes people succeed. Originally, I was a newspaper major and I wrote for the D.O. But WAER made me want to be a radio guy. Now I feel I can do both, which is becoming increasingly important in this industry.”

“The process at WAER forces you to be challenged,” adds “Prime Time” Adam Schein ’99, who was assistant sports director at the station. Like Siciliano, he is one of the rising stars on the contemporary sports-talk radio scene. Just weeks after receiving a bachelor’s degree from the Newhouse School, he was hosting his own show on WHEN, one of Syracuse’s two “all-sports” radio stations. His frank but knowledgeable style caught on quickly, and the program was picked up by a regional network serving several upstate cities. Last winter, less than three years after graduation, Schein went national with his own show on FOX Sports Radio.


Sadler on Sports

Carol Sadler ’77, WAER’s first female sports director (1975-76), made a habit of being first throughout her sportscasting career. After leaving Syracuse, she was the first woman to report or anchor sports at television stations in New Bedford, Massachusetts; Beaumont, Texas; Greenville, South Carolina; and Tampa, Florida. "At my final stop, WTVT-TV in Tampa, I covered major league sports, a Super Bowl, and achieved my goal of working for the number-one station in a top 20 market," she says.

In 1985, she left broadcasting, and today she works as an information coordinator for juvenile justice programs.

Dreaming of SU

“I’ve known I wanted to be a sportscaster since fourth grade. When I had to do a class report on a state, I picked New York because I knew SU was there.”

David Friedman ’03, WAER


“In researching colleges, I found out about all the famous sportscasters who had passed through Syracuse. It definitely drew me east. I’m from Chicago originally, so going to Northwestern would have been the easy thing to do. But I decided to take the leap and follow my dreams to SU.”

Andy Demetra ’02, WAER


“I knew I wanted to be a sportscaster since I was 8. The only school I wanted to go to was Syracuse, and I applied and was accepted, early decision.”

Adam Schein ’99, sports radio personality, WHEN-Syracuse and FOX Sports Radio


“In high school in Laurel, Maryland, I told my English teacher [Jennifer Steinhouser G’87] I wanted to be a sportscaster. She told me I should go to Syracuse, and I did.”

Andy Pruitt ’99, sports director, WETM-TV, Elmira, New York


“Once I hit the seventh grade I realized I wasn’t going to attain my goal of becoming a professional athlete—as many undersized Jewish kids realize at that age. So I decided to be a sportscaster. I did my research and found that Syracuse was the place to go. The reasons were simple: Costas, Albert, Glickman, Stockton, etc.”

Jon Bloom ’97, sports radio personality, WDFN-Detroit


“It’s all there: the Newhouse curriculum, WAER for experience, and a great local broadcast market that will open the door for qualified newcomers. My first job was with WTVH. For sportscasting, you’ve got to think Syracuse.”

Mike Tirico ’88, ESPN


“In high school I had aspirations of becoming a sports broadcaster. I knew Syracuse University was one of the few schools in the country that taught broadcasting at that time.”

Hank Greenwald ’57, longtime radio voice of Giants baseball, now retired

On The Air: SU Alumni in TV and Radio Sports
(This list was not printed in the magazine and is only available on our web site.)

Click on this link to see a list of play-by-play and color commentators, station sports directors, reporters, analysts, personalities, talk show hosts, interviewers, and production personnel, both current and retired, in the professional sports communications field. Last known affiliations are included as well.

Courtesy of NBC Sports            Courtesy of ESPN
Bob Costas and Beth Mowins
Courtesy of ESPN                    Courtesy of ESPN
Vera Jones and Dave Ryan

Few professions have been as male-dominated as sports broadcasting, but Syracuse women have been helping to change that. Leading the way was Carol Sadler ’77, who won appointment in 1975 as WAER’s first female sports director, and continued blazing trails as the first woman at the TV sports desk at stations in four states. Other pioneers at the mike include Vera Jones ’88, G’91, Beth Mowins G’90, and C.J. Silas ’90, all of whom were also college athletes. Jones helped the Orangewomen to their first Big East basketball title in 1984, as well as their first two invitations to the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. Her 1,113 career points make her the team’s 7th all-time leading scorer. In her senior year she became the first Syracuse student ever to be named the Big East Women’s Basketball Scholar Athlete of the Year. While starring on the court and in the classroom, she managed to find time to do radio programs on both WAER and WJPZ. Since completing a master’s degree in television-radio-film, she has gone on to a career in sports broadcasting that has included such top events as the NCAA women’s basketball tournament on ESPN and WNBA games on the MSG Network.

Mowins, also a basketball player, came to the Newhouse graduate program from Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, where she was a three-time all-conference star and still holds records in career assists and three-point shooting percentage. Since joining­ESPN in 1994, she has done play-by-play and reported on a variety of sports, notably NBA and WNBA basketball, the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, and college football.

Silas, a Los Angeles native, chose Syracuse for the opportunities it afforded her in track as well as broadcast journalism. She remembers struggling with old prejudices in the broadcasting booth. “Things were less than perfect at WAER,” she says. “By senior year I’d done everything that everyone else had, but hadn’t been given a chance to do play-by-play. I went to the general manager and he agreed. It made some of the guys very unhappy and they even had a meeting to try to get the decision reversed. But the g.m. stood by me and I did the West Virginia game. It was tough, but looking back I also know that in terms of career preparation, WAER was the best thing that could have happened to me.” Silas was hired by ESPN before graduation and has since hosted sports-talk radio at WQAM-Miami and KJR-Seattle. “I’m also doing a music program,” she says. “It’s my first since my reggae show on WAER.”

Courtesy of The Beat, 95.7 FM, Seattle
C.J. Sila
Newhouse graduate C.J. Silas ’90 talks on her morning radio show in Seattle.

In 1997, Jamie Seh ’98 became WAER’s second woman sports director. She is currently sports anchor with WTTI-TV in Watertown and also handles play-by-play of SU sports events covered by Syracuse Time Warner Cable. “I learned everything from broadcast performance to writing skills,” she says. “Most importantly, I learned how to be a professional.”

Charlie Pallilo ’87, G’88, who talks sports in Houston over KILT-AM, seemed to echo the sentiments of many who survived the SU/Newhouse/WAER gauntlet and now find themselves in successful sports broadcasting careers. “Talent attracts talent, and there are times when the system is perhaps a tad harsh or even cutthroat for a bunch of 18- to 22-year-olds,” he says. “Not everyone is going to make it; the competition yields Darwinian results. And once you’re out of school you’ll see that SU has no monopoly on sports broadcasting. What we do have is an excellent curriculum, unsurpassed facilities, and the best-known national brand name in the field. With those things, we’ve carved out a pretty nice chunk of the market for ourselves.”

Alternative Routes From the Hill to the Booth

Steve Sartori
Don McPherson
Don McPherson ’87

 While the majority of professional sportscasters to come out of SU have followed the tried-and-true formula of majoring in broadcast journalism or TV-radio-film at the Newhouse School while battling their way to the microphone at WAER, others have made it into the business using other campus resources. Here are some examples:

• Michael J. Crowley ’00, a broadcast journalism major, is sports director at KODI-AM, Cody, Wyoming, and winner of the 2001 Wyoming Association of Broadcasters Award for Best Sports Show. He got his student experience as sports director at WJPZ, SU’s “other” campus station, which features SU women’s basketball on its schedule.

• Mike Dardis ’89 majored in speech communication at the College of Visual and Performing Arts. In 1994 he became a sports reporter at WPHL-TV in Philadelphia and was recognized twice by the Associated Press for the Best Sportscast in Pennsylvania. He recently left the sports desk to become the station’s primary news anchor.

• Tim Green ’86, G’94 was an English major and an All-America linebacker for the Orangemen. Along with an NFL career with the Atlanta Falcons, he earned a law degree from SU. Now an attorney and novelist, he does television color commentary for the NFL on FOX and is heard on National Public Radio.

• Daryl Johnston ’89 is the partner of Dick Stockton ’64 on FOX TV’s “all-Orange” NFL broadcast team. He played fullback for the Orangemen while majoring in psychology and economics, and went on to an NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys.

• Don McPherson ’87, a psychology major, does college football commentary for BET Sports. The former Orange quarterback, who was a Heisman Trophy runner-up, played professional football for seven seasons. He is an associate director of Athletes Helping Athletes, a program that works with high school student athletes, and lectures on the subject of combating sexual violence.

• Andy Pruitt ’99, sports director at WETM-TV, Elmira, New York, majored in broadcast journalism and volunteered at a Fulton, New York, radio station.

—David Marc

 
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