Virginia continues search for new sports voice

Courtesy Charlottesville Daily Progress

Virginia Cavaliers

(June 11, 2008) When Virginia entertains Southern Cal the last Saturday in August, all eyes will be on the new-look Cavaliers.

All ears, however, will be tuned into the new Director of Broadcasting for Virginia Sports Properties.

For now, the play-by-play voice describing the game’s activities on the airwaves throughout the state remains unknown.

That is expected to change later this month as the methodical search process that included over 100 applications comes to a close.

“We have gone through an exhaustive search and have utilized an organization called STAA [Sportscasters Talent Agency of America],” said Doug Paschal, Vice President and General Manager of CBS Collegiate Sports Properties. “We have utilized their help in gathering an enormous amount of interest via that organization’s connections with talent.

“We have gone through our initial look-through at a variety of people and are fast approaching [a hire], trying to narrow it down to a manageable group.”

The pool of finalists is expected to be four or five individuals that CBS Collegiate Sports Properties “think fit the bill for what we are looking for and what we would expect the University of Virginia and its athletic department would expect, as well,” Paschal said.

At least one radio talent that drew early support from a portion of the fanbase will not be included in that final in-person process.

Jed Williams, 28, the former play-by-play voice of Virginia women’s basketball, a sideline reporter for Virginia football and the original host of WINA’s “Best Seat in the House” program did not have five years experience handling the play-by-play for college or professional football, an original job requirement when the vacancy created by the resignation of long-time announcer Mac McDonald in May.

Being excluded last week during one of the final cuts did not sour the process for Williams.

“This caught everybody by surprise when it opened up, and these jobs don’t come along very often and they are very significant and very special,” he said. “I absolutely was flattered to be a part of the process with my alma mater and I am a Virginia guy and will always be a Virginia guy.

“I will certainly be absolutely supportive of whoever they choose and it sounds like — while it will be a difficult decision — it will be an easy decision in the sense that they will be selecting from a number of qualified guys.”

Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage said officials in his department have been thoroughly pleased with how CBS Collegiate Sports Properties, previously known as Viacom Sports, has handled the search. CBS Collegiate Sports Properties has served as the marketing rights partner with UVa since 1998 and inked a 10-year contract extension with the school in 2006.

“We have trusted the work that CBS Sports Properties does and feel that over time that this relationship will continue to grow as it has in the previous years that we have been with them,” Littlepage said.

“We are very enthused about the manner in which they have carried out the area of their responsibility, and know that there are a lot of good people out there that might have had an interest in the position and feel very good about what it is that will come out with as a final selection.”

Littlepage also pointed out that it was important to remember that the hiring itself amounts to more than an act of sports journalism during games.

“I think from a department of athletics standpoint and a university standpoint, it is not just the voice of the football team and the basketball team, but the voice of Virginia athletics,” Littlepage said. “In a sense, it almost becomes the voice of the University of Virginia, as well.

“Whether it is strictly what they do as a play-by-play person or what they do with some of our special events in terms of emceeing events and so forth, and for obvious reasons, this is a very important position and one that is held in high regard.”

While a timetable was not given to have the new play-by-play voice in place, the ever-approaching football campaign set a de facto deadline for the start of July.

“I would say that based on the start of the season being just a couple of months away and wanting to make sure that there is a good period of time for an orientation preparation for the season that that sort of timing would make sense,” Littlepage said. “It is not as easy as sitting down in front of the microphone and talking about what you see, but there is a lot of background work and research that is done in terms for a season, let alone preparing for an individual game at some point and time.

“You need weeks of preparation so the [July 1] timeline would make sense, but I don’t know the precise timeline myself.”