The IU Sports Student Media Column
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who see opportunity and chase it, and those who sit back and squander it.
I am the former and that is why I’m here. That’s why we’re all here. We, being the IU Sports Student Media. Someone should come up with a better name.
We don’t do it for the fame. Most of us are seen as amateur. We’re the secondary option to the ‘real guys’.
We don’t do it for the money. Most of it is voluntary. If we’re lucky, we’ll get $10 an hour, or $10 per story. Or we’ll get reimbursed, at a snail-like pace from the school.
No, we do it for the experience. This tremendous, once-in-a-lifetime experience. The opportunity to cover the teams at our own school. Many graduates often tell us we’ll never have it this good again. They say to embrace every moment.
Because, yeah, it’s a whole lot of fun.
This is the IU Sports Student Media group in a nutshell. A group of friends, colleagues, classmates, who have the chance to participate in several organizations and gain practical experience during their four or so years at Indiana University. 80% of us do it because this is what we want as a career. 20% of us do it because, let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to have the chance to be at a press conference starring Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller?
I started this whole thing as freshman. It was the fall of 2011. I had a drive, a purpose, a mindset that I was going to make sports media a major part of my IU career. And now here I am, four years and countless slices of free Papa John’s pizza slices and barbeque sandwiches later, about to be on the outside looking in. My, does that sound scary. As it stands, I’m the last remaining student who was a media member for the famous IU/Kentucky game in 2011. It’s a dying breed.
It can be a very competitive group. Sadly, it’s not cut out for all. Some experiment for a couple semesters and realize it’s not for them. They see the late nights in a media workroom when there’s a project due tomorrow in a class that has nothing to do with sports or media. They go to the weekly meeting and see 30 other students who have more experience, more ‘credibility’, and wonder if they’ll ever get their chance to shine.
There’s a lesson here: This industry isn’t for everyone. Not everyone makes it professionally. So if you’re going to learn it, it’s better that you learn it in college.
For those who stick with it until end, each will tell you that it’s been worth it.
I like to think that I’ve come a long way since the beginning. I still remember my first time on the air. It was the halftime show of an Indiana/Michigan women’s soccer game my freshman year for WIUX. If you had told me then that I’d be traveling around the Big Ten and other parts of the country with that team as their official radio voice three years later, I would have laughed.
We all remember the formative years. We all hear it, but it only resonates once you go through it:
“If you want to be on the top, you have to know what it’s like to be on the bottom.” – Booker T. Jones, IU Commencement 2012
I had some great mentors along the way. We all need them. Dan Karell and Kyle Vail were the two sports directors at WIUX when I joined. I didn’t look up to them because of their broadcasting abilities, although they had the goods in that aspect. Rather, it was because they showed me what commitment was. What leadership was. What hard work and setting the bar high for yourself was.
Leadership for the student media organizations changes annually, if not by semester. Sometimes leaders fall short of their predecessor. Sometimes they keep status quo. If you’re fortunate, you get one who sets new standards. Regardless of those three directions, each leader is important. Their guidance plays a crucial role in the development of future talent, sometimes as much as the IU staff.
For me, I was lucky enough to come across Galen Clavio (IU Faculty and former student media member) and Jeremy Gray (IU Athletics) early on. If you go through your time here and never meet these two fine gentlemen, I’m not really sure what you’re doing. Between the two, their determination to make the student media experience at IU the best it can be is truly admirable. They’ve opened doors for several over the last few years. They’ve been accessible, kind, and the most knowledgeable.
It all culminates in a network. It might turn out that the most valuable connections we make over the course of our career were found right where it all started. That’s a blessing.
In order to get those around to like you, to go to bat for you, and to willingly work with you, you need to have the right attitude. We’ve seen students come in and be cocky, outwardly envious of other’s opportunities, or not gracious. I don’t know what kind of system we have in place at IU, but it always tends to work out where students get the opportunities they deserve. I think part of the ‘problem’ is that there have been younger and younger leaders over the years. People expect the ‘paying your dues’ period to be short. This is different than when I started. The best gigs and the most responsibilities went almost exclusively to the upperclassmen. I was not expecting myself to have a quick rise. I just did whatever I could. It’s important to show respect to your colleagues. Just because one is the same age doesn’t mean they can’t be wise beyond their years.
And I’m not saying doing everything right results in professional success. Coming from someone who is job searching, I can say that even a strong resume offers no guarantees. And heck, sometimes I’ve seen people get jobs and internships and wondered how. But that’s not the point of this column.
The opportunities are only growing and getting better for the current and future students. I mean, literally. My first baseball radio broadcast was outside in the open air at old Sembower Field. The wind that day made it hard to keep a handle on my notes. We’ve upgraded from that. The Big Ten StudentU program has grown tremendously. We now have veteran students working in the production roles to put together high-quality broadcasts. As I’m writing this, I see a highlight as the #1 Top Play on SportsCenter with that StudentU logo in the right corner. I wish they captured Will Chukerman’s audio, however. There was the live BTN basketball broadcast from this fall that the folks in Chicago entrusted with us. I’ll remember that one.
There’s a new media school coming at IU. My hope is that this encourages even more collaboration with academics and extracurricular organizations. I don’t think there’s any telling how far it can go. There needs to be more faculty in place that have experience in sports media. There needs to be more of an acceptance from administrators to make it part of the curriculum. While it’s easy to be cynical, I’ll remain optimistic.
To the say the least, I’ve been appreciative of all I’ve been able to do with media here. It’s exceeded every one of my expectations. When people ask me why a kid from New Jersey would even consider coming out to the Hoosier State, my answer isn’t very hard to give. I got to meet coaches, players, and fans of a Big Ten athletic program. I got to travel to NCAA Basketball Tournaments, 100,000-seat football stadiums, and the Mecca. I was able to meet and interact with some of the top broadcasters of ESPN, CBS, and the Big Ten Network. I hosted a radio show for four years. I broadcasted games. I learned something new almost every day. And I made friends who searched for jobs and internships with me, pushed me, humbled me, had my back, and grabbed a beer with me.
What could be better than that?
I wanted to acknowledge some of the people whose work I’ve enjoyed over my four years. This isn’t a consensus. There was no poll. Just my eyes and ears. And if you’re not on here, please don’t take offense. We just happen to be surrounded by excellence.
Best Beat Writer – Jordan Littman
Jordan has been terrific over the last four years. As a sports journalist, he’s accomplished a lot for an undergrad. I first started reading Jordan’s work in Spring 2012 when he was one of the Little 500 beat writers for the IDS. I was shocked to learn he was a freshman doing that. Not knowing how the beat process worked at the time, I would have thought it would go to someone older. He then blossomed into the football beat writer that fall, eventually a sports editor, then made the jump to covering IU basketball for Inside the Hall. Jordan’s writing is that of neutrality. As a student media member who covers IU, I know how tough that can be. His writing is informative and thorough. With internships completed at major city newspapers, I believe Jordan has an excellent future ahead of him.
Best Broadcaster – Scott Agness and Greg Murray
With some of these, it became too hard to just pick one. Scott had incredible broadcasting skills for a student while he was here. He was a senior when I was a freshman so we didn’t get to interact much. I first heard him do a game in November 2011. It was IU basketball at Evansville. That game just so happens to be the last time IU played an out-of-conference road game outside of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. No, I’m being serious. It’s inexcusable and deplorable. Back to Scott, though. I was in the WIUX studio as an engineer for this game and I remember thinking, “man, I have a long way to go to get to this level.” He has a great voice, which is important, and he has a consistent rhythm to his call. Scott now works as the official play-by-play man for Indiana State women’s basketball while also being an Internet reporter for the Pacers.
Greg is also so talented. I had the pleasure of broadcasting alongside Greg for the 2013 basketball game between IU and Ohio State. This was the infamous “Cutting the Nets” game followed by the 1am post-game press conference. One of the perks of being in charge of assigning talent is being able to do favors for yourself. I wanted the opportunity to do a game with Greg before he graduated. His preparation is second-to-none. Jeremy Gray gives some comparisons to a young Jim Nantz with his smooth and unflappable broadcasting style. As a student, Greg was the official volleyball broadcaster. Greg also spent a couple summers broadcasting minor league baseball before returning to Bloomington last year to take over as the official voice of the baseball and women’s basketball teams.
Best Video Reporter – Tricia Whitaker and Samantha Dewig
These two seemed inseparable as IU students. They were both likable reporters for IUSportCom and BTN StudentU. In addition, Tricia spent some time reporting for the Pacers and Fever as an undergrad and Sam hosted a locally distributed telecast called “This is Indiana.” They often get credited for being a couple of the pioneers that got IUSportCom rolling. They mixed a great passion for IU Athletics with a strong work ethic in order to attain their professional goals. Tricia is now a sports reporter for CBS Indianapolis and Sam works in the Georgia Tech Athletic Department.
Best Columnist – Avi Zaleon
Avi was the IDS Basketball columnist during the 2011-2012 season. Having this honor during any season is a privilege, but this season in particular was unforgettable. Avi was the perfect fit for this position that year. He was honest, critical, praising, and unique throughout the course of the season. It was important for me to pick up the IDS whenever I could. Here are two of my favorite articles from Avi. First, his column following IU/Kentucky Part I, and a feature on Maurice Creek, who sat out the year with an injury. Avi is now chasing his sports journalism dream in Texas.
Best Story – Evan Hoopfer’s “Gamechanger” http://www.idsnews.com/article/2014/04/gamechanger
Naturally, Tracy Smith did end up leaving Bloomington just a couple months after Evan wrote this piece. Evan is an IDS guy through and through. From beat writer to columnist to sports editor to editor-in-chief, he’s had quite the career in Ernie Pyle Hall. I enjoyed this in-depth feature on Tracy Smith, the manager of the IU Baseball team as recently as last year.
Best Radio Host – Michael Norman
It was the Thursday Evening Power Hour. Often imitated, never duplicated. Michael had a knack for being on the radio. He had an engaging personality not only with his co-hosts, but also with the audience. The two hours would fly by each week. He knew how to construct a radio show by using audio clips, setting up interviews, and even taking his show on the road a couple times to increase exposure. The show broadcasted at Bloomington restaurants Opie Taylor’s and BuffaLouie’s several times and those were fun nights. Norman now works in production for the Big Ten Network and the Chicago Cubs.
Most Innovative – Robby Howard
Robby was passionate about IU sports, robviously. But where he shined the most was in March and April, during Little 500 season. Robby went from broadcasting the race as a sophomore to covering it for the IDS as a junior, to taking it to the next step as a senior and beyond. He started his own website dedicated to the Little 500, 33to1.wordpress.com. I give him credit for showcasing just how big of an event this is. Some students get caught up in thinking that just basketball matters here and that it’s the only way you can make a name for yourself. If you have an interest, you can make your name by doing just about anything. Robby now is a sports reporter for the Goshen News is northern Indiana.
Best Social Media – Joshua Bowles
Some know him solely as @Hoosier43. Josh is always up on the current social media trends and is very interactive. Josh was most heavily involved with IUSportCom while he was at IU but made his presence felt the most with his own personal brand. Now a PhD student at Tennessee, Josh remains a must-follow for sports and IU fans alike.
Biggest Rising Star – Sam Beishuizen and Ben Wittenstein
Both of these guys are currently sophomores. I think they’ll have good stories to write by the time they’re done.
Sam has done more than perhaps any IDS writer I’ve seen in just two years of service. I’ll have to be honest and say I wasn’t a fan of the baseball hat and sport coat look that Sam donned while covering IU women’s basketball games last year or his love of racecars more than horses or people. But he’s grown on me. He’s already covered men’s basketball, football, and been a sports editor. Kent Sterling of Indy sports radio has taken notice by having him as a regular guest. Sam will be one of those guys who grows up too fast and is taken away by one of the professional websites that cover IU sports. And by the way, he’s also a business student.
Ben has great potential as a broadcaster. He’s found a home at WIUX but will continue to grow as a broadcaster for BTN StudentU. Some students are offered the opportunity to be the main guy for one of the IU Olympic Sports. Ben should be one of those guys (attn.: jfgray). He’s mature, works hard, leads by example, and has skill. Some question his ability to use humor on Twitter, but let’s give the kid a break.
Best All-Around – Jimmy Pierce Cavanaugh IV and Alex K. McCarthy
Jimmy stands out at meetings. He has interesting sports takes while rocking the jorts. Jimmy had a successful career while at IU. He became one of the managing editors of IUSportCom. He was the voice of IU Volleyball and Softball. And whenever I needed someone to broadcast in a big spot at WIUX, I turned to Jimmy. His personality allowed him to make friends and no enemies. No one speaks negatively of Jimmy. Now that he’s graduated college, he’s taken quite the alternative turn and is studying in Colorado to become a full-time priest.
Alex is still in Bloomington. He’s often confused as a student. Maybe it’s because he’s still involved in student media. But that’s ok. He covered several sports at the IDS, was a sports editor, made several guest appearances on IUSTV, and hosted a successful radio show on WIUX in the latter years. Alex is a strong writer and is also a very nice guy. He now has a fake Twitter account, the ultimate sign of endearment. I have no idea who runs it, but it’s hilarious. Alex now covers IU basketball, football, and “other hashtags” for Inside Indiana.
Best Organization – WIUX
Bias? Sure. But I believe it to be true. At WIUX, there is truly a spot for everyone. Some make WIUX their priority for media involvement. For others, it’s a supplement to other work. Everyone is welcomed. Between radio shows (20 hours of weekly content), live broadcasts (covering 5 IU varsity sports), writing opportunities, social media, and podcasting, there are ways for students to grow in various mediums. I am so proud of the work we do at WIUX. With student involvement in the sports committee ranging between 35-60 members and an on-campus station house, it has become a community as well.
10 Honorable Mentions: Tony Adragna (IUSportCom, BTN, WIUX), Kevin Bowen (IDS, WIUX), Will Chukerman (WIUX, IUSportCom, BTN), Sarah Gurian (IUSTV, BTN), Dan Karell (WIUX, BTN), Connor Killoren (IDS, WIUX, Peegs), Sean Morrison (IDS, WIUX, Inside Indiana), Sean Nash (WIUX, IUSportCom, IUSTV, BTN), Sam Rumpza (WIUX, BTN), Kyle Vail (WIUX)
And to everyone else who I’ve worked with, gotten to know, or viewed their work: thank you. You’re all capable of so much.
Email: email@example.com, Twitter: @AdamCohenIU