(August 26, 2016) Graduating college seniors are regularly told they won’t walk from campus into a Division I football play-by-play job. It rarely happens, but it’s happened for 2016 Jim Nantz Award winner Josh Appel. Appel, who won the award as the nation’s most outstanding collegiate sports broadcaster, is the new voice of Florida International University Panthers football.
“I’m definitely looking forward to being able to do play-by-play for a division one program close to where I grew up,” says Appel, who is from Weston, FL less than an hour from FIU’s Miami campus. “This is such an amazing opportunity. I’m also looking forward to working with my broadcast partner and former FIU quarterback Wes Carroll, the student-athletes, coaches and support staff.”
Appel learned of the FIU opportunity through a friend, who delivered Appel’s demo and resume to the athletic department. “After the early communication, I didn’t hear from anyone about it for almost a month, so I really didn’t think anything was going to happen,” says Appel. “Then, a couple weeks ago I heard from someone with FIU and we went from there.”
Appel is a recent graduate of the University of South Florida, where he was sports director and student radio play-by-play voice for football, basketball and baseball on Bulls Radio. He began his career calling football for his high school. Now, as he looks forward to the Panthers season opener September 1st versus Indiana, he’s more excited than nervous.
“I’m sure there will be some nervousness leading up to the first broadcast, but at the end of the day I’m going to be able to do something I love and there’s nothing to be nervous about. It’s going to be a blast and I hope those listening will feel the same,” says Appel.
“[Head coach] Ron Turner and FIU Football are building something special and I can’t wait to represent this team and this university.”
(August 24, 2016) Pat Strathman is a Kansan through and through. He grew up in the state, graduated from the University of Kansas, and worked his first two radio jobs in the Sunflower State. Now, Strathman is moving to a new job but staying in the state he loves. An STAA member, Strathman is the new Sports Director at KSAL-AM in Salina.
“Man, how often does a guy earn his first three gigs out of college in the same state they lived in all their life? This tall goofball gets to do what he loves in a state he adores,” Strathman says with a big grin.
After graduating from KU in 2013, Strathman accepted a sports director position in Atchison, KS. A year later, it was onto the largest AM station in the state, the legendary 580 WIBW in Topeka. For the past two years, Strathman has been doing high school play-by-play, hosting coach’s shows and working as a reporter and producer. However, it was the chance to do college play-by-play for Kansas Wesleyan University that motivated Strathman’s move to Salina.
“I always figured the next move would be to become a sports director or the play-by-play voice of a university,” he says. “KSAL gives me the opportunity to do both and that swayed me to this incredibly tough decision.”
In Salina, Strathman replaces his friend and fellow STAA member Mike Hammett, who accepted a job in Weatherford, OK. “Funny thing is I didn’t really know Mike Hammett all that well until a KBCA All-Star game,” says Strathman. “I needed a color analyst and Mike volunteered. Right before the contest, we had Cozy Inn burgers in Salina.”
Strathman and Hammett built upon their friendship. When Hammett accepted the Oklahoma position, he recommended Strathman as his successor. “Little did I know that I would be his replacement in the same town [where we ate] those burgers,” Strathman grins.
As excited as Strathman is about his new position, the decision to leave WIBW and Topeka was far from easy.
“I have never been through so much anguish. I flipped my decision every hour it seemed like. I truly love 580 WIBW. The relationships with the coaches, athletes, families and coworkers are something I cherish. For example, Washburn Rural football coach Steve Buhler put me in a headlock and told me I couldn’t go. That’s how special Topeka is to me. Ultimately, no matter how hard it was to hold back tears because of the thought of leaving, I had to set that aside and think about the next step.”
“I’m a Kansan through and through. That passion flows in every broadcast, update or show that I do and that won’t change in this new chapter in the same Sunflower State.”
(August 23) Change in his personal and professional life has led Logan Anderson to a career change. An STAA member, Anderson is joining 5-Star Communications in Yankton/Vermillion, SD. He’ll help in sports and sales, and will broadcast play-by-play for Vermillion Tanagers high school football and basketball.
5-Star owner Jeff Fuller found Anderson in the Talent Search on the STAA website, then contacted STAA to request Anderson’s phone number. Unbeknownst to Fuller, Anderson had recently been in touch with two other 5-Star executives regarding opportunities. One of them was fellow STAA member and longtime acquaintance John Thayer, Operations Manager and Sports Director for KVHT/KVTK. Both attended STAA’s 2016 One Day Ticket to Sportscasting Success Seminar. That is when Thayer notified Anderson of a potential opening.
“At that point they had already given an offer to another candidate. At the 11th hour the other candidate decided to stay where he was and that’s when I got a call,” says Anderson.
Anderson moves to Yankton from Aberdeen, SD, where he’s worked for Dakota Broadcasting for the past five years. A desire to live closer to his fiancee Sara is part of what motivated the change. The other part was Dakota Broadcasting losing the play-by-play rights for Presentation College, for whom Anderson broadcast football and basketball.
“I was going to have very few opportunities to call football games of any kind. With this new opportunity I can keep making progress towards my goals while being closer to the important people in my life,” says Anderson.
In addition to sportscasting, Anderson runs a popular industry website, SayTheDamnScore.com. He’s been an STAA member since 2014. “STAA’s coaching, direction, resources, and encouragement have been absolutely invaluable in growing as a broadcaster,” he says.
(August 18, 2016) Patrick Creighton has a new sports talk radio show in Houston, Nate & Creight, co-hosted by Fox 26 morning sports anchor Nate Griffin. It airs daily from 1 to 3 pm on 1560 SB Nation Radio (formerly Yahoo Sports Radio). Two hours. Monday through Friday. Short but sweet. Cut and dried.
Creighton’s path to the opportunity, though, has been anything but simple. It is with both excitement and relief that he says, “I’m very excited to finally get a shot at a full-time show.”
Creighton’s mixed emotions are understandable. His has been a long, long road.
In the mid 2000’s, Creighton thought he was on the fast track to a sports talk career. In a contest hosted by WFAN in New York to find the next great host, Creighton finished runner-up three straight times. “It was a running gag each year how I would make it to the finals and then somehow lose. I was the Buffalo Bills of WFAN,” Creighton smiles.
Creighton’s reward after the third year was to host a show on the station during Christmas week. “I thought having a tape from WFAN would help me land a job pretty fast. Apparently I also would have bought the Brooklyn Bridge at that time because I couldn’t have been more wrong. One tape is nice but in the grand scheme of things, if you’re being considered for a full-time role, you better have a good amount of demo material.”
After struggling to parlay his WFAN experience into a full-time gig elsewhere, Creighton accepted an opportunity to volunteer as a co-host with Marc Ryan in Atlanta. One thing he learned there was that his accent wasn’t going to fly in other markets.
“Coming from New York, I had a very heavy accent to people in Atlanta,” Creighton says. “Plus, I spoke too fast. People weren’t even listening to what I was saying. They couldn’t get past ‘Who is the blasted Yankee on my radio!?’
“I began working to soften my accent and slow down the pace at which I spoke. Within two months, listeners had accepted me as much as any northerner could be expected to be accepted. I’m still me — I still get riled up and energetic. I still crack jokes on everything, but just working on my sound a little bit made a huge difference in how I was perceived.”
After six months in Georgia, Creighton earned his first paid sports radio work in March 2013 at 610 KILT in Houston. It wasn’t full-time, but finally getting paid for his efforts was worth it. Creighton worked as a host, anchor, reporter and producer. He would love to have stayed at KILT indefinitely. However, the station has a deep, veteran roster and Creighton eventually realized that his opportunity to host a daily show would have to come elsewhere. Hoping to stay in Houston, Creighton contacted programmer Craig Larson at Gow Media.
“I had reached out to Craig early this year about the idea of adding the Nate & Creight show to Gow Media’s other station in the market in the 2-4 pm time slot,” says Creighton. “We had a great discussion and things just progressed from there. Eventually, they weren’t able to offer us the spot on the other station but they really liked our show. They proposed doing the show on 1560 from 1-3 pm.”
One of the most important things Creighton has learned through his sportscasting journey is the importance of budgeting time and money.
“You have to be very judicious and disciplined with your time. Juggling multiple jobs can be a tedious task but a necessary one. Plus, your station is going to call on you unexpectedly sometimes, and you need to be able to answer the bell when your name is called. The more you step up, the more chances you will get, so be prepared at all times,” says Creighton. “You can’t be prepared if you aren’t disciplined and managing your day properly.
“Also understand the economics,” he advises. “You are not getting rich in your first job. It’s important to understand that whatever money you make in your first job isn’t likely to be all that much. You will need to network, make relationships, do other things to supplement your income. I have been doing play-by-play for high school and college sports to add income for a long time. I love doing it, but that extra income was really important too.”
Creighton encourages sportscasters to take pride in every assignment, regardless of how unimportant it might seem at the time. “If it has your name on it, make it representative of how great you want to be,” he says.
Creighton is grateful for many people who have helped shape his journey. He especially appreciates Mark Chernoff, Mike Francesa and Steve Somers at WFAN, Ryan and Chad Potier from Creighton’s time in Atlanta, John McClain and Marc Vandermeer in Houston, and ESPN sportscaster Adam Amin.
“I’m very grateful to Adam for referring me to STAA when I met him calling NCAA Elite 8 softball in Virginia,” he says. “STAA has not only helped me get better organized and prepared for job searches and how to present myself to employers, but they’ve provided valuable resources that I still use for both hosting shows and doing play-by-play. [CEO Jon Chelesnik] has even served as mentor/therapist for me more times than I should admit. STAA has been a big part in helping me get where I am and keeping faith in myself when I became overly frustrated. For everything, thank you.”
(August 16, 2016) Pete Carroll, the most decorated coach in the history of USC football, was not the Trojans first choice. Mike Hammett also wasn’t the first choice of his new employer, but like Carroll, Hammett is a great choice. An STAA member, Hammett is the new Sports Director at Wright Radio in Weatherford, OK, and the new voice of NCAA Division II Southwestern Oklahoma State University.
Hammett finished runner-up for the position last month when it was awarded to fellow STAA member Adam Hildebrandt. When Hildebrandt left for a sudden opportunity at Oral Roberts University, Wright Radio Operations Manager Todd Brunner called Hammett.
“I received a phone call on Friday afternoon, shortly after I saw the STAA post about Geoff Haxton moving on from Oral Roberts to Texas Tech. When I saw the call was coming from Weatherford, I knew either another opportunity had come about for Adam, or a telemarketer was playing a cruel joke on me,” Hammett smiles.
As soon as Hammett heard Brunner’s voice on the other end, he knew where the call was headed. “He asked if I was still interested in the position, and gave me the weekend to talk to my wife to make sure she and our two kids were still on board with making the move. It was probably an easier decision for them than it was for me. KSAL, Salina, and Kansas Wesleyan mean a lot to me, and it’s hard to leave it behind.”
Hammett has been Sports Director at KSAL and the voice of Kansas Wesleyan University for five years. Ironically, it was another job market disappointment that motivated Hammett to initially apply with Wright Radio. He had been considered for a Division I play-by-play job. The university liked Hammett, they liked his work and they liked his intangibles. They didn’t hire him, though, because he hadn’t broadcast above the NAIA level. Hammett knew he needed an intermediate step to give him his best chance at a DI job.
“Play-by-play is my passion, and the next step was Division II. I definitely wanted to get the NCAA level of experience on my resume,” says Hammett.
While in Salina, Hammett has focused on improving all aspects of his sports broadcasting. “I have used several of the different broadcasting tips offered [by STAA] to improve everything from my play-by-play, to interviews, to my talk show. The live chats and live chat archives have been particularly useful when I need an idea to try something new.”
While leaving Central Kansas is difficult, Hammett is ready.
“I love Salina and Kansas Wesleyan University, and I hate to leave right before the new season begins. However, the chance to gain NCAA Division II experience was too good to pass up.”
(August 15, 2016) Two weeks ago, Adam Hildebrandt was doing high school and small college play-by-play in Moberly, MO. He is now onto his second job since then. Hildebrandt is following fellow STAA member Geoff Haxton as the basketball and baseball voice for his hometown Oral Roberts University Golden Eagles.
“My family and I are excited to get back to Tulsa and ingrain ourselves in the fabric of the Oral Roberts University community. I’m excited to continue the professionalism of the ORU broadcasts and bring my personal flair to it,” says Hildebrandt.
Hildebrandt will also call ORU women’s basketball, when schedules permit.
A remarkable series of events started unfolding for Hildebrandt on July 20th when he accepted a job as Sports Director for Wright Radio in Weatherford, OK and voice of Southwestern Oklahoma State University. On August 6th, shortly after he started in Weatherford, Haxton was hired away from Oral Roberts for the basketball and baseball job at Texas Tech. Hildebrandt’s name was mentioned to administrators at ORU. They contacted him, interviewed him and offered him the job.
Landing the Oral Roberts job represents a homecoming of sorts for Hildebrandt. Though he graduated from Oklahoma State, Hildebrandt and his wife Carissa’s families both live in Broken Arrow, OK, less than 15 minutes from the ORU campus. The couple has two children.
(August 12, 2016) During his eleven years as the basketball and baseball voice at a mid-major university, Geoff Haxton often wondered if a major college opportunity was in his future. The more time passed, the more he wondered. Haxton stayed faithful, though, and his optimism has paid off. An STAA member, Haxton is the new men’s basketball and baseball voice at Texas Tech University.
“This is what I love. I couldn’t give up on what I love,” says Haxton. “When I think about the investment I’ve made in this career, there’s just no way I can give up the dues I’ve paid. I also think my kids will have an even better childhood. They’ll get to enjoy some things I think most kids don’t have a chance to experience.”
Haxton and his wife Jen have an eight year old daughter and a four year old son. They live near Tulsa, OK where Haxton has been broadcasting for Oral Roberts University since 2005.
“Family always brings an interesting dynamic,” says Haxton. “I’ve had jobs I could go for, or even get, that I didn’t approach because of family situations. Family can keep you in one place for a decade. Or, it can lead to you taking a jump and following your dream. I’ve had both. In this case my wife has been incredible. She’s been supportive and encouraging. She’s been willing to risk her career for mine. Without her backing and toughness recently, none of this gets off the ground.”
At Texas Tech, Haxton replaces Brian Hanni who recently moved on to the top job at the University of Kansas. Ironically Haxton’s road to Lubbock began before Hanni knew he was leaving. It was in April. The play-by-play job at the University of Toledo opened. Haxton thought his lack of Division I football broadcasting would preclude him from consideration. He applied only after a friend suggested his talent and personality might outweigh his resume. Haxton ended up in the final three and put himself square on the radar of Tom Boman at Learfield Sports, the broadcast rights holder for Toledo and Texas Tech. When Tech opened, Boman immediately thought of Haxton, an STAA member since 2009.
“I don’t get myself involved in Toledo without STAA,” he says. “Then my STAA Talent Page did so much work for me in Lubbock. Every corner of the campus I went to, the fine folks at Tech had listened [to the demo on my Talent Page]. A few clicks let them judge whether they liked my sound or not. I felt like the page paved the way for me before I arrived. It was a real blessing to have that link.”
After being invited to interview in Lubbock, Haxton had an unexpected challenge to address. His wardrobe. Haxton’s luggage was lost on his flight from Oklahoma to Texas. With just 12 hours until his interview, Haxton raced to Wal-Mart and bought what he calls “a $9 shirt and a $25 pair of slacks.” He felt better about his attire the next morning when Tech AD Kirby Hocutt walked into the room wearing the same shirt.
In addition to calling all Red Raider baseball and men’s basketball games, Haxton will be involved with the daily “Red Raider Update” radio show at the start of football season, and other duties as assigned.
Haxton has received numerous broadcasting honors throughout his career, including Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters Best Non-Metro Newscast (2003), and Oklahoma Broadcast Educators Association, two-time first place winner of the play-by-play broadcast of the year (2000, 2001).
“Bottom line for me. I know I’m blessed” Haxton smiles. “God has blessed me beyond belief. I want to thank Kirby Hocutt and Texas Tech for bringing me aboard. I’m absolutely ecstatic to go to work for the Red Raider family and in the Big 12.
(August 10, 2016) Many college graduates struggle for a job offer. For Clayton Collier, the struggle was deciding which offer to accept. An STAA member, Collier has chosen to join the sports team at KFYR TV in Bismarck, ND as a sports anchor/reporter.
Collier graduated this Spring from Seton Hall University in New Jersey. The excellence of his work in both TV and radio earned him 2016 STAA All-America Honorable Mention honors.
Upon graduating, it wasn’t long before Collier was fielding job offers. His first was from a station in a market smaller than Bismarck. While flattered, Collier had already interviewed at KFYR and was hoping they, too, would extend an offer. Collier consulted with several career mentors. They debated accepting the offer in-hand or declining, then hoping for the opportunity in Bismarck. The offer from KFYR came during this decision-making process and Collier accepted.
Collier is grateful for his time at Seton Hall and the sports broadcasting opportunities made available to him. He said on Twitter, “I can’t say enough about what they did to prepare me for this opportunity. It was an invaluable experience.”
In addition to his work at Seton Hall, Collier was a production assistant and former intern at Sportsnet New York. Now, it’s on to North Dakota’s capitol city.
(August 8, 2016) When Aaron Brodie was three years old, he was given a toy microphone. Since then, he’s wanted to be a sports talk show host. His dream is now a reality. An STAA member, Brodie is joining ESPN Radio in Fayetteville, NC as Assistant Operations Manager and afternoon sports host.
“Working the last 15 months in the ultimate entry level on-air position in Lubbock, TX broadcasting mainly newscasts, the chance to move full-time into hosting a sports talk show is a blessing of epic proportions,” Brodie says excitedly. “Beyond that, the administrative duties that come with being the Assistant Operations Manager will make me well rounded.”
Brodie’s job in Texas was with Lubbock’s Sports Leader 1340 The Fan is where he cut his chops and strengthened his work ethic as a fill-in host. “I’ve often been required to take on sole responsibility of crafting and executing an entertaining yet informative sports talk show that suits the passionate sports fans living in West Texas. Sink or swim, feast or famine, it was always up to me to maximize the opportunities I was given.” Later he adds, “Fayetteville, NC is about to see the fruits of that labor.”
“We are excited for Aaron that he is getting this new opportunity,” says Rob Snyder, News & Sports Operations Manager for Townsquare Media of Lubbock. “When I first interviewed Aaron a year-and-a-half ago, he made his career goals clear and I am happy he is getting to move into day-to-day hosting.”
When Brodie joined STAA in February he admits he knew very little about the sports broadcasting job market. In fact, it was Snyder who pointed Brodie in STAA’s direction. “Jon Chelesnik has done a great job at helping those involved in sports radio move up to the next level in their careers,” says Snyder.
“There may not be a better candidate to vouch for the services of STAA than myself,” Brodie smiles. “I was clueless as to what employers are looking for or how to find openings in sports radio. I just knew I wanted to be a personality. Jon [Chelesnik] and his team have not only made the impossible possible by presenting members with job leads, but they also teach you how to craft your demo and set yourself apart from other candidates.
“To steal a line from legendary Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, ‘you can put it in three- inch headlines,’ — I would not have gotten this job without STAA.”
In an industry where many job seekers see a scarcity of opportunities, Brodie saw the glass as half full. “Thanks to the near daily job leads I receive from STAA, I’ve learned how deep the job market is. Everyone may have their own personal ‘dream job’ but excellent opportunities open up everyday in the USA. With a willingness to re-locate which almost feels like a pre-requisite in this industry, your next big break is closer than you ever thought possible.”
(August 4, 2016) In his new sportscasting job, Seattle native Curtis Calhoun will be covering teams for which he grew up cheering. An STAA member, Calhoun is joining hometown radio KOMO-AM as a sports anchor.
“It’s the perfect situation for me right now,” says Calhoun, a recent Washington State University graduate. “Local, in a big market covering all of major sports teams in the Seattle area. I grew up watching the Mariners and Seahawks, and the fact that I get to cover them in my first job in this business is incredible.”
When Calhoun learned of the opening through STAA, he jumped on it. “Initially, I was pretty set on leaving the state due to how the job market presented itself. There weren’t a lot of great local options before the KOMO position popped up. My preference all along was to stay close to home for my first job and it ended up working out.”
Calhoun’s passion for radio took root during his time as a student at Washington State. “I really grew both as a broadcaster and as a person through working in radio and I felt I enjoyed myself the most doing it. While I did do a lot of television work as well, I felt that radio was the best fit for me to really pursue my long-term goal of being one of the best sports broadcasters of all time.”
Upon graduating, Calhoun wanted a job that would provide personal happiness and professional growth. “There were a lot of times since I graduated when I felt like giving up and jobs that I wanted just weren’t available, but the fact that I stayed persistent ultimately is what landed me a job in the end and I couldn’t be happier.
“I couldn’t have done it without STAA’s help and guidance. Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me.”