For many pursuing a career in sports communication, the dream of being a play-by-play voice or analyst has probably crossed their minds.
Until recently, that was not an avenue students could follow at Marist College, but now things have begun to change. As of this spring, students now have the ability to call Division I games on campus.
Sports communication students are broadcasting games on ESPN + and the Red Fox Network, working with their peers, and building a reel for future employers. The ability to cover Marist sports in a new light is an opportunity that was provided when Marist Athletics extended an olive branch a few months ago.
“We wanted to partner with [sports communication] and see if we can put students in a place where they can build their portfolio,” Harrison Baker said. Baker wears many hats, serving as the associate athletic director, director of external affairs and chief diversity officer for Marist Athletics.
Baker says that the desire for students came from a position of need for Athletics. Due to a small staff, they have been unable to cover baseball and softball in the past. Changes in technology with robotic cameras and streaming services have helped speed up the process and open up several real-world opportunities for students.
“We had a huge student base, and we wanted them to have the ability to learn as much as possible,” Director of Athletic Multimedia Nick Skidmore said.
Student involvement was crucial in the process, as they had a strong desire to fill the positions. Baker says that WMAR, Marist’s student-run radio station, reached out in January about getting back up and running. The station made its return to sports broadcasting for Brian Giorgis’ final home game on Feb. 25.
The return of WMAR led Baker to revisit the idea of utilizing the television platform. Baker saw the value of television and how it can be more effective than radio.
“We were looking for people that want to do it and know the value of it,” Baker said. “It takes those people who are dedicated to the craft and want to get better at it.”
Sophomore Dan Aulbach, writer and editor for Center Field, and senior Matt Spirio, producer for the Red Fox Report, were involved in bringing students back to broadcasting games. Aulbach did not know what it would look like initially, but after talking with Baker, he was confident in where the process was heading.
Spirio also saw the value in broadcasting and how it would be a nice change from the normal activities in the Sports Communication major.
“It’s good for the program,” Spirio said. “This year’s focus has been getting more people on air and broadcasting.”
“It was daunting, but I was like, this is how we get things started,” Aulbach said.
Senior Zak Musso has also helped spearhead the charge for students looking to broadcast games. With anyone welcome to try their hand at broadcasting, Musso has utilized spreadsheets to organize each game slot.
There have been 10 students who have broadcast games this semester, covering sports ranging from lacrosse to softball. The number will go up, as another 16 students scheduled to broadcast games.
Aulbach remembers his first game and the nerves he had going into it. He had no prior broadcasting experience, but he prepared heavily, looking for storylines and statistics. Aulbach remembers when the producers were doing the countdown, and his hands were shaking, but then he settled in and remembered that it was just a conversation.
“I was really nervous,” Aulbach said. “Over the past two years, I’ve gotten better with public speaking, and it’s helped me be more confident in my own voice.”
Spirio had a similar experience, and he experienced nerves before his first broadcast. He agrees with Aulbach that preparation is the most important thing, and he reinforces how nerve-wracking it is. Once Spirio was settled in, he enjoyed the experience of calling a game.
“It was a lot of fun,” Spirio said. “It was nice to get out there and find your groove.”
Baker and Skidmore are pleased with the effort of student broadcasters this semester. They feel that everyone has gone smoothly, especially with students taking on both play-by-play and analyst roles.
“They’ve all been awesome, and I have no complaints,” Baker said.
“It’s a lot more patience, and it’s fun to see them grow game by game,” Skidmore said. “It’s fun to give opportunities to kids and see how they thrive in it.”
The approach from the athletic department has been hands-off, and Skidmore and Baker have tried to let the students figure it out on their own. Baker has brought in Dean Darling (the voice of Marist men’s basketball) and Geoff Brault (the voice of Marist women’s basketball and football) to help grow advertisements and to work with the broadcasters.
They stress the importance of the students critiquing themselves and working through their problems.
“I try to put people in the right place to be successful and then just let them go do it,” Baker said.
“If there’s stuff that I can help out with, I do, but it’s important for them to critique themselves,” Skidmore added.
The ability to learn from mistakes has been crucial for Marist students. Aulbach has learned a lot during his broadcasts, and he has benefited from the hands-off approach.
“When I did women’s lacrosse, there was so much that you don’t even realize, like people talking in your ear and telling you what to do,” Aulbach said.
The time spent broadcasting games has led to fun memories for the students. Aulbach’s favorite experience was doing color commentary for men’s lacrosse with Mike Ferraro, who is an assistant athletic director and sports information director for Marist Athletics. He enjoyed working with Ferraro and finding his groove with an experienced broadcaster.
“When I listened back to it, I was really proud, and I felt that I was making an impact,” Aulbach said.
For Spirio, it’s the simple fact that his family gets to hear him speak on television.
The value of the new opportunities for students to broadcast games is high, and it is important for the future of the sports communication major. Aulbach and Spirio feel that this is a step in the right direction for the program and will offer new opportunities for students.
“It’s huge that we now have this, and it puts us up there with other top programs,” Spirio said.
Baker also underscored the importance of reaching out if students are interested. He stresses that students should communicate with their peers and get involved if they want to broadcast games.
Marist Athletics has plans to expand on this in the future. They are looking to broadcast every sport, while also preparing students for the real world. Skidmore stresses the importance of every student leaving with a quality reel and the experience needed to be successful.
“We want to get these broadcasters prepared for real-world situations, and we’re using this as a tool to expose our brand,” Baker said.
Edited by Andrew Hard and Luke Sassa
Photo from Jonathan Kinane