Layoff boosts DuPuis forward to legendary 580 WIBW

The three months after being laid off from his West Virginia radio station have been among the hardest of Spencer DuPuis’ life. “I was definitely sad, disappointed and angry,” he recalls. “But I used that to motivate me to continue my career in sports broadcasting.”

The place where DuPuis’ is continuing is the Kansas capitol city of Topeka and the legendary 580 WIBW. He’ll be co-hosting and producing an afternoon sports talk show.

The process

DuPuis learned of the opening in an STAA Job Leads email on November 24th. “Initially, I didn’t hear anything back. I saw it again in the job leads email on December 8th and sent a follow up email.” WIBW Sports Director (and fellow STAA member) Jake Lebahn called DuPuis four days later for an interview. Ironically, it was DuPuis’ birthday. “The next day, I did a Google Meets interview with the two other sports guys. On December 14th, I had an audition. I was offered the job on December 19th!

WIBW’s “two other sports guys” that DuPuis spoke to are STAA members Dan Lucero and Brendan Dzwierzynski. The station’s sports staff has been comprised exclusively of STAA members since 2014.

Staying busy

DuPuis describes his mindset following his layoff as interesting. “I know a lot of companies don’t hire much during the fall and winter. So while I was looking and applying, I kind of focused on finding a temporary job and working as much as possible to save money and pay my bills. I ramped up applying in mid-to-late November. I was able to have a few interviews with different places before the WIBW interviews.”

Being in Kansas will be the first time DuPuis has lived outside of the Virginias. He’s from Leesburg, VA, then graduated from Marshall University in West Virginia before landing his first job nearby. “After getting abruptly laid off, I knew that my job search would be far and wide. And at 26, I knew that the time was now to make the move and take the risk, so here we are!”

60 year-old Spinn spins age as a positive to land first full-time radio gig

Mark Spinn was amused by the first question asked by General Manager Steve Kaner when Spinn applied for a job at Kaner’s radio station. “He naturally wanted to know why a guy in 75-degree sunny Southern California would want to move to 22-degree snowy northwest Wisconsin to do small market radio,” Spinn grins. If Spinn’s willingness to move to the cold raised one of Kaner’s eyebrows, his age likely raised the other. Spinn is 60 – an unusual age in an entry-level job seeker.

Spinn assuaged Kaner’s concerns. Now, the STAA member is the new Morning Show Host/Sports Director at WRLS in Hayward, WI. Spinn found the opportunity through STAA.

“It had the combination of a non-sports on-air show position (morning drive host, doing local/regional news, weather, sports and music), plus play-by-play duties for local high school sports. That’s what I was looking for, as opposed to just a straight sports gig.”

Re-evaluating life

WRLS represents the payoff of a bet that Spinn made on himself during the 2020 pandemic. “Like many people, I reevaluated what I was doing, where I was living and what I wanted to do going forward in my professional life. The answer always circled back to radio.”

Radio is in Spinn’s DNA. Both of his parents were broadcasters. “They actually met at WTMA-AM in Charleston, SC, where my mom was the news writer/ad copy writer, and my dad came in from a Cleveland station to be the evening DJ.” Spinn smiles when adding, “I quite literally exist in this world because of radio.”

A new course

Spinn was working in PR and marketing when his 2020 life evaluation convinced him to go all-in on radio. “I took early retirement from my job in Charleston, moved back to my long-time home of Southern California, and enrolled in the year-long broadcast program at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo.”

Spinn’s instructors at Saddleback included former, longtime STAA employee Melodie Turori. His time on the South Orange Country campus was a game-changer. “I had great hands-on opportunities to do a live show, learn production skills/software, and call dozens of games in multiple sports for Saddleback College athletics.”

Spinn learned something else, too. “I quickly discovered there was a LOT to learn and a LOT of reps to put in before I didn’t cringe listening to an aircheck.” Investing hard work isn’t a problem for the former UC Irvine scholarship basketball player, and later, UCLA basketball walk-on. “I kept at it and jumped at every opportunity, whether filling in on-air, calling a game on short notice, or doing board op for a special event, etc.”

New job market approach

For Spinn, the trepidation of his life change came after entering the broadcasting job market. “I wasn’t initially getting much traction on landing a job. There was a bit of, to quote the Talking Heads, ‘My God — what have I done???’ It got to the point where I went back into a full time PR/marketing job for about nine months before I realized I had given up too soon. I registered for another broadcast class at Saddleback so I could continue doing my on-air show, call games, and continue to build my experience and marketability.”

His Saddleback instructor Turori suggested Spinn also join the company she spent many years helping build – Sportscasters Talent Agency of America.

“STAA was of great benefit to me,” Spinn recalls. [Owner Jon Chelesnik] pointed out the advantages of highlighting my age/maturity and my interest in settling at a small market station. I’d kind of danced around the ‘vintage age’ part in earlier applications to various jobs. Jon reminded me a lot of small market stations get tired of having to hire another 24-year old right out of college every year because last year’s hire moved up a rung in market size. So I reworked my cover letter to freely admit my stage in life and express the advantages for the station in hiring a guy with a genuine desire to stick around.”

Another habit Spinn started to set himself apart was calling employers to introduce himself and reiterate his interest.

“I know these things are like pulling teeth for a lot of people, but in my opinion, these two actions greatly boosted my chances.”

Spinn’s chances were further enhanced by the clever way he learned to spin his age (pun intended). “As a guy of that ‘vintage age,’ I bring stability and life experience to the job market. My goal wasn’t to climb the market ladder every 12-18 months and end up on ESPN Chicago or whatever. I wanted to be part of a ‘live and local’ station and be part of the community. I think that kind of desire settles in as we become more ‘vintage.’ It did for me. And small market radio provides those kinds of opportunities.

“[WRLS] was a perfect fit. When the offer was made during my visit, it was an immediate ‘yes.'”

Marty Czekala hired as CRSA Sprints Announcer

PRESS RELEASE — The A-Verdi Storage Containers CRSA Sprints will have a new voice when they open their nineteenth season in 2024. STAA member Marty Czekala has accepted the position of Media Director and Announcer.

Czekala is no stranger to 305 Sprint Cars. He has filled in on several occasions as pit reporter and as lead announcer at Land of Legends Raceway, including announcing an event featuring the “Future Stars of Sprint Cars” this past season. The Batavia, NY media member spent 2022 and 2023 following the RUSH Racing Series, supporting social media efforts and serving as a No. 2 announcer.

The new CRSA front man has been a fill-in pit reporter for Land of Legends Raceway TV since 2021. He also serves as host of RSN Trackside on the ROC Sports Network, covering local motorsports and NASCAR.

Announcing is a passion for Czekala outside of racing as well. He has been the play-by-play voice of the SUNY Brockport Golden Eagles since 2018. Czekala’s voice has also been synonymous with the NJCAA Championships for the past two seasons.

Czekala follows the outgoing Steven Ovens. “Steven Ovens is a good mentor and friend, and I’m honored to succeed him,” Czekala states. “I have big shoes to fill as he is one of the best in the business. I can’t wait to begin the journey!”

Burrall achieves college play-by-play goal

David Burrall has earned play-by-play awards, worked in a Top 5 market and led sports programming for a seven-station cluster. But he’s never been the voice of a college sports program, until now. An STAA member, Burall is the new sports director for i3G Media in Jamestown, ND.

“It gives me the opportunity to not only call high school sports, but also to be a college sports broadcaster, something for which I have longed for over three decades,” Burrall enthuses. “My duties will include play by play of Jamestown High School and the University of Jamestown. [Jamestown] is an NAIA program for this season and next before a scheduled jump up to NCAA Division II in 2025-26.”

Burrall’s broadcasting background is extensive. Since graduating from the University of North Texas in 1989, he’s worked in Wheatland, WY and Dallas, TX. Since 2020 Burrall has been the sports director for a radio station cluster in Pierre, SD. His new employer found Burrall in the STAA Talent Search database.

“That’s how [i3G GM] Lynn Lambrecht found out who I was,” Burrall explains. “She made it clear that she needed someone with experience on the air and with administrative tasks and with strong play by play, not to mention someone who is willing to be in this position for a long period of years, which I am.”

Burrall has been an STAA member since 2022. “I really like the access to good opportunities and the ability to share thoughts with fellow broadcasters.” He continues, “I’m certain that I have this opportunity in large measure due to STAA.”

Burrall admits to one major frustration in his long sportscasting career. “In a word: impatience,” he admits. “That was especially true when I was younger. But I stuck with this business, even at times when I considered doing something else for a living. That would have been a difficult decision for me, as I am now 58 and have never done anything else. I’m glad I stuck it out.”

Sparks eager to serve listeners in Wisconsin

Cory Sparks strives for one thing each time he goes on the air. “It is my goal for an audience to have the best time of their day when they consume my work.” Listeners in Beaver Dam, WI will have that opportunity. Sparks is joining ESPN Beaver Dam and 95.3 WBEV.

Among many duties, Sparks will host an on-air shift and broadcast play-by-play. “It allows me to do a little bit of everything. My primary love of calling games is included, as I get to call a variety of high school sports on an ESPN affiliated station. Along with this responsibility, I am hosting radio shows, conducting interviews, putting together daily SportsCenter reports, writing online stories, learning the sales and marketing end of broadcasting, community relations and so much more.”

Embracing opportunities

Sparks is a 2023 graduate of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. He’s said yes to numerous opportunities over the past four years, from broadcasting various play-by-play to serving as sports director for the campus TV station. Sparks’ proactivity prepared him for the Beaver Dam opportunity. “I was proactive in volunteering to broadcast games at the NCAA level, going after college leadership positions in radio/tv/newspaper, getting an internship in the Northwoods League as a play-by-play broadcaster and so much more. I diversified my skillset and am a go-getter. That’s what got me to where I’m at today.”

While proactivity has been a strength for Sparks, an occasional challenge has been receiving critiques of his work. He admits, “While critiques are necessary in broadcasting, I’ve caught myself being too negative and letting constructive criticism turn to pessimism. Through positive affirmation, more and more structured research, and remembering that I do this because I love it, I have been able to overcome that hurdle.”

Referred to STAA

Sparks joined STAA two months before graduating this year. “My professor at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Wendell Ray, introduced me to the Jim Nantz Award. From there, I did some research and learned what STAA was about and how I could use it as a resource in my broadcasting journey.

“I was a little hesitant about joining STAA when I didn’t know fully know what benefits came with joining it. However, just like with anything else, I did my research and learned that this could be a phenomenal opportunity as I transition from college into the professional world.”

ESPN Beaver Dam and 95.3 WBEV is another phenomenal opportunity for Sparks, who loves to learn. “[This job] allows me to learn everything about sports broadcasting. By gaining a broader scope of the industry, I’ll have more insight when doing the specific aspects I love most.”

Being on-air also provides Sparks the opportunity to make his listeners’ days a bit more pleasant. “At the end of the day, it’s my job to tell a story and leave a lasting impact on others.”

Vaillancourt back in the game as voice of UNO hockey

When family priorities led Mike Vaillancourt to step down after six seasons as the voice of Clarkson University hockey, he wondered if he would ever again broadcast his favorite sport. Three years later, the answer to his question is a resounding yes. Vaillancourt is the new voice at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

He can hardly be more excited. “UNO is all-in on hockey,” Vaillancourt gushes. “The administration is very dedicated to the success of the program, which is a focal point in the community. The Mavs were 4th in the nation in attendance last season and the people in Omaha love their team.”

Weighing the options

UNO was one of three options for Vaillancourt. Together with his wife Hillary, Vaillancourt carefully weighed all three. “We each took time to research each individually and together, and Omaha was the top choice for several reasons. She was very excited that Omaha came through.”

Fortuitous timing started the ball rolling for Vaillancourt at UNO. He cold-contacted the athletic department, not knowing there was an opening. Vaillancourt picks up the story from there. “Fast-forward two months. I let my coach at Clarkson know what all has been happening and he made a call to [UNO’s AD for hockey] without my asking.” Vaillancourt then adds with a grin, “Lesson: always be in good with coach. A few days later, I had my first interview, followed by a panel and a phone conversation with the color analyst.”

Vaillancourt also had some inside help. “UNO’s equipment manager and I were road roommates at Clarkson for a season. So, there is a familiarity walking in. He gave me a great reference without my knowledge.”

Relevant relationships

Maintaining good relationships with Clarkson’s coaches after he left was important in Vaillancourt advancing his career. “It was my choice to leave in support of other family needs, but I remained in constant conversations with the coaches. When my wife said it was okay to get back to hockey, they helped a ton, even making calls to programs on my behalf without my asking. It’s so, so important to develop and keep great relationships with your coaches and administrators if you cover a team.”

Vaillancourt first joined STAA in 2014. “For me, STAA is about community. We can all learn from each other whether it’s sharing spot charts, collectively trying to solve tech issues, or handling tough challenges with relationships. Being with STAA allows us, who often compete for the same jobs a way, to help each other and make each other better.”

Leaving Clarkson was difficult for Vaillancourt. Fear of the unknown made it worse. “I was frustrated that I may have left behind my first love in hockey and might not have a chance to return. But, by keeping good relationships and networking, doors opened.”

DeBock takes unusual road to Corpus Christi

Danny DeBock’s path to the Corpus Christi IceRays hockey play-by-play team was unusual. DeBock’s degree is in Information Technology and Administrative Management. He was hired after previously being turned down. He was hired in a role for which he didn’t apply, and he did the job-clinching Zoom interview from the U.S. Open tennis tournament.

And he’s never broadcast hockey.

DeBock’s passion and energy, though, overcame all of it.

“This opportunity is a platform to give back to my friends, family, and mentors who’ve supported me since Day 1,” DeBock states. “I hope I can pay back those who helped me by devoting my time and energy to help the next generation of broadcasters achieve their goals. It’s also an opportunity to support the great community of Corpus Christi.”

DeBock’s title is Game Operations/PR & Marketing Coordinator. And broadcaster. STAA member Ryan Zagrzecki will broadcast home games; DeBock road contests.

Winding path

DeBock’s unlikely journey started in December when he accepted his diploma from Central Washington University. He’s broadcast football, basketball, volleyball, soccer and rugby, but never hockey. It is part of the reason he didn’t hear back when he applied for an Ice Rays broadcasting/media relations opening in June. “When the job listing resurfaced in August, I hesitantly reapplied. My broadcast plans seemed to be already set in stone, with plans of calling club hockey and high school sports in Washington. Then again, I thought, ‘what do I have to lose.'”

What DeBock lacks in hockey broadcasting and media relations experience, he makes up for with passion. “The IceRays liked the passion and energy I brought in my [first] interview. Since they also had a void in the game operations position, the [idea] was to have me in charge of game operations for home games and to broadcast road games.”

The time the IceRays chose for a second Zoom interview happened to be when DeBock was at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York. “My mentor I went with got us courtside seats for one of the matches with the time for the interview approaching,” DeBock recalls. “When it came time, I left my front row seat and frantically looked for a place to Zoom in. It just so happened that there was one open seat on a picnic table. I darted to the seat, mounted my phone on the table’s umbrella, and it was there I accepted the job.”

Joining STAA

DeBock had been with STAA for just two months when the IceRays gave their position description to STAA to share with members. “This lifelong Washingtonian would not be making a move to the Southwest without the help of the STAA,” DeBock declares. I’m grateful for [STAA Owner Jon Chelesnik’s] guidance, for providing insight and encouragement through my sportscasting journey.”

DeBock still gets excited when recalling his emotions upon being offered the job. “It felt surreal, being hired to call a sport I had no prior experience in calling. But the main emotion that poured out was gratitude to so many people who invested time in my personal growth.

“I look forward to what’s in store next!”

Owen Gund named South Carolina Stingrays hockey voice

PRESS RELEASE — STAA member Owen Gund is the new Director of Communications and Broadcasting for the South Carolina Stingrays.

The Stingrays are the ECHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals.

Gund is a recent graduate of Boston University. He was co-sports director for the student radio station and called games for the five-time national champion BU men’s ice hockey team. This year, Gund broadcasted the Terriers’ run to the Frozen Four. Gund also called Massachusetts high school hockey games.

Gund will oversee communications efforts for South Carolina and will be the team’s primary play-by-play voice.

“Owen comes from a school with a rich hockey background. He is passionate and knowledgeable, and I can’t wait for our fans to meet him and tune into the Stingrays broadcasts,” says Stingrays President Rob Concannon.

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Gund is a lifelong hockey fan who grew up attending Boston Bruins games at TD Garden.

“This is a dream come true for me. I could not be more excited to join this organization and meet our great fans,” Gund said. “I know there is a strong tradition of hockey in this community, and I look forward to helping this franchise move toward the ultimate goal of bringing a fourth Kelly Cup to the Lowcountry.”

Clippers hire ’23 Nantz Award Winner Carlo Jiménez as their radio voice

When the Lakers hired Spero Dedes as their radio voice in 2005, many broadcasters hoped it would open the door for other young voices to get NBA jobs. Dedes had graduated college just four years prior. The next similar hire, though, didn’t happen until 2019 when the Clippers hired Noah Eagle to be their radio voice, just months after Eagle picked-up his college diploma.

Now the next domino is falling and it is again the Clippers who are giving an opportunity to an exceptionally talented college grad. The team has hired Carlo Jiménez, USC class of ’23, as their broadcaster.

Carlo Jiménez hopes to inspire

Jiménez was this year’s recipient of STAA’s Jim Nantz Award, recognizing the nation’s most outstanding collegiate sports broadcaster. He hopes the Clippers hiring of him, and of Eagle before him, changes the way that pro teams view broadcasters who are recent college grads.

“Noah’s ability to do a fantastic job with the Clippers out of college is really the reason why I was even considered for this job,” Jiménez states. “He opened the door for the Clippers to take a look at my resume and seriously consider me as a 22 year old out of college. Noah has proven that people who are recent college grads can have success broadcasting on the biggest stage. I hope to continue Noah’s work and demonstrate that recent college graduates can be excellent broadcasters.”

Carlo Jiménez uncommon determination

Some might call Jiménez an overnight success story. His story, though, has been many years in the making. One summer several years ago, Jiménez dedicated himself to calling one play-by-play broadcast from TV every day. In his college years, Jiménez called USC football, basketball, baseball and other sports. He also called summer collegiate baseball on both coasts. He expedited his growth by seeking mentorship and critiques from sportscasters across the country, including several of the industry’s biggest names.

Jiménez joined STAA his freshman year at USC. “Since I got my membership I have sent a tape to the monthly group critiques provided by STAA almost every single month I’ve been a member. This was incredibly helpful in getting to learn from not only my own critiqued tape but others as well.”

Social media star

If elite play-by-play skills and a relentless desire to constantly be improving is half of Jiménez’ secret sauce, the other half is his social media skills. He has nearly 64 thousand TikTok followers and occasionally gets recognized in public.

The Clippers also noticed.

“Social media was one of the prominent topics talked about throughout my interview process with the Clippers,” Jiménez recalls. “They were very curious about how I started my social media, what I have learned from doing it and how I would apply it if I were with the team. At one point in the process they asked me to provide some of my own social media ideas for the Clippers.”

Jiménez tries to post semi-regularly and to come up with ideas that take his audience behind the scenes in sports broadcasting. “I also try to provide some tips that I’ve learned from other people that have helped me when I broadcast. Furthermore, I try to explore new editing or storytelling ideas when I do my social media videos. I get a lot of inspiration from accounts that I like and then see if I can implement their strategies into my own videos.”

He continues, “During the pandemic STAA had a video call (the Sportscasting Summit)  in which they mentioned the importance of building your own brand. This in part was a reason I started my own social media and has helped me stand out in every single one of my job applications.”

Jiménez hopes that his hiring by the Clippers serves as inspiration to collegiate sportscasters as to what is possible through uncommon determination, discipline and hard work. “One of my biggest fears once graduating was hearing about the time it often takes to get a full-time job out of college. I hope my journey shows young broadcasters that this isn’t always the case.”

Flexibility helps Wistrcill to full-time DII play-by-play

When J.T. Wistrcill was in 5th grade, he didn’t play a sport. His parents wanted him to do something active so they placed him in karate. “I realized to be good at karate you have to be flexible, so I quickly went back to football and basketball,” Wistrcill laughs. Ironically, flexibility is what has led Wistrcill to his new position as Assistant Director of Broadcast and Video Services at Catawba College.

Catawba is an NCAA DII college in Salisbury, NC. When they needed to fill the position, they contacted STAA.

Jack of all trades

Wistrcill will serve as the play-by-play voice for Catawba, and create content for the athletics teams and social sites. His flexibility to call many sports, and to move from Utah to North Carolina, earned him the position. “Working multiple jobs around the sports field and calling a variety of sporting events,” Wistrcill grins. “I’ve been a student intern inside a university athletic department, assisted in PAC-12 broadcasts and have experience calling several sports. Being versatile and able to take on multiple things at once has allowed me to land this opportunity.”

Wistrcill’s university athletic department internship came at his alma mater, the University of Utah. He attended from 2019 to 2022. During school, Wistrcill started broadcasting football, basketball and baseball games for KSL Sports Rewind in Salt Lake City. Since graduating, he’s called basketball, soccer, volleyball and baseball for Salt Lake Community College and hosted the Locked On Utes podcast.

Wistrcill has even created a high school football recruiting and rankings website. Again, flexibility.

He joined STAA this year on the suggestion of his friend and fellow STAA member Spencer McLaughlin. “[STAA] has allowed me to learn more about what it takes to be successful in this field. Without it I would not have this opportunity at Catawba.”

Challenges

Even though Wistrcill is a sports media jack-of-all-trades, the sportscasting job market has presented it’s challenges. “Dating back to April of this year, I’ve applied for over 100 sports media jobs,” Wistrcill recalls. “I didn’t land any of the main ones I was hoping for but finished near the top of a few searches. That gave me the confidence to keep going, even if that meant another year of staying in my old jobs. The last job I applied for was Catawba, so after nearly six months I found the opportunity I was hoping to land.”

Though Wistrcill lacked sufficient flexibility to land a high kick, he is plenty flexible to land his first full-time job broadcasting NCAA athletics.