3 takeaways from the firing of Wake Forest’s broadcaster

Last week, I was asked on a sports talk radio show if I thought that coaches would be less trusting of broadcasters following the Tommy Elrod incident at Wake Forest. My reply was a definitive “no.”

Hundreds of thousands of sportscasters have served on the broadcast teams for high school, college and pro teams. Elrod is the first we’ve ever heard about sharing information with opponents. Just because one person betrays us doesn’t mean we stop having friends.

The Elrod incident started me thinking about three questions regarding the broadcaster-coach relationship.

Why do coaches share inside info in the first place?

The more that coaches help their play-by-play guys, the more likely the broadcasters are to help coaches by painting their team in a positive light. Also, some coaches share info out of respect. They know, like and trust their broadcasters and want to help them do their jobs well.

How do you know what info is safe to use on the air?

This one’s easy. If you would be willing to say what you know to the face of an opposing coach or player, or with the mother of a person you might be talking about, then you can feel safe sharing it with the masses.

How can a broadcaster still benefit from info he knows isn’t acceptable to use on air?

Anticipation. If a coach tells you he has a fake punt he’s ready to use if he’s near midfield in the fourth quarter of a close game, you won’t be caught off guard.

Context. If someone is having a bad game and you have inside info that he is playing hurt, you can soften your comments about his poor performance.

If you are a play-by-play voice who has had a challenging relationship with a coach, I’d love to hear about it. In the comment section below, please share what the coach did to make life difficult and what you did to work around it. I’m curious to read your comments!

2 Comments. Leave new

  • We are fortunate in that we have great coaches at Central Michigan that are a pleasure to deal with.

    They understand that as the network representing CMU, we are looking out for their best interests even though we have to give a fair account of the game to our listeners.

    There is a clear understanding what is for public consumption and what isn’t. That builds trust.

    Talk to your coaches about setting some ground rules about sharing information, and remember in most casesyou either work for the school or some entity representing the school.

    Don’t ever share any information you have been given on air or otherwise unless you know they are comfortable with releasing it.

    Have a great Holiday!

    • Hi Don — thank you, as always, for your reply. You nailed it when you said, “we are looking out for their best interests even though we have to give a fair account of the game to our listeners.”

      Common sense is a great guideline. The challenge for some people is suppressing ego and ignoring the temptation to share everything they know.

      Happy holidays, Don!


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