(April 8, 2019) When Zach Mackey learned there was an open play-by-play position at Montana State University, he didn’t wait for publication of a position description before applying. Good thing. Applications for the position were never solicited and Mackey is now Bobcats’ men’s basketball voice and football analyst.
The position opened in January when MSU and their previous football/basketball voice parted ways. Women’s basketball voice Jason Alvine will handle football play-by-play.
“In January [STAA] sent an email about not waiting to apply for a position that we knew was open,” Mackey recalls. “I sent my tape to the people at Montana State and to [Learfield IMG VP of Broadcast Operations] Tom Boman in January. The people at Montana State said that they were not going to look at the position until April, but three weeks later Tom Boman reached out and wanted to talk to me about the position before it was ever opened up.
“I appreciate that email [STAA] sent because I probably would not have applied until it was officially opened.”
Mackey is a 2018 graduate of the University of Iowa. He earned three Top 20 recognitions and an All-America honor in STAA’s annual ranking of the nation’s most outstanding collegiate sports broadcasters. Since 2017 he’s been the voice of Iowa baseball on the Learfield IMG Hawkeyes Radio Network.
MSU and Iowa are both Learfield schools, so Mackey will keep his job with Hawkeyes’ baseball.
“A big part of my decision [to accept the MSU job] was to still be able to call baseball and stay around a great group in Iowa, so I’m really happy everyone has agreed to let me do that,” Mackey grins.
Advice from Learfield IMG’s Boman pushed Mackey’s decision over the top.
“I have great respect for Tom, and MSU is a position that people have really enjoyed because of the fan support,” Mackey says. “It is also a situation that Tom thought was good for the next step in my career. When everyone agreed to the decision for me to also do Iowa baseball in the Spring it was the best of both worlds for me to get football and basketball experience while still doing baseball.”
Mackey believes that being a good people person also factored into him getting the gig.
“I have always enjoyed interacting with people. There are a lot of really good broadcasters out there, but to get hired you have to be able to interact with people and show them why they should choose you.”
It was through STAA’s All-America program that Mackey learned of STAA. “I knew that I wanted to apply for that award to see where I stack up and knew that STAA was a great resource.
“I used the free resources that STAA has in the beginning and found them very helpful. In 2016 I was an All-American for the Jim Nantz award. With that, I was given a couple of months free to STAA. After I had the full service I knew how helpful and informative it was and I have been a member since because of all the valuable info that [STAA] sends out.
“Someone just joining STAA should know that they have lots of info at their fingertips and make sure you read it all. There are constantly emails about different things that hiring directors are looking for and what is a good tip and what is something that you should avoid. The job leads are great and can help your career but so are the broadcasting tips to work on each week.”
Mackey says one of the toughest parts of the sports broadcasting industry is ways to set yourself apart. “There are a lot of really talented guys that could do the same job as you. I have tried to separate myself by trying to get more experiences and to meet and network with people in the industry.”
To that end, Mackey attended an STAA Play-by-Play Retreat in San Diego last summer.
Besides broadcasting baseball on the Hawkeye Radio Network, Mackey has called games for a summer collegiate team in Chillicothe, MO and broadcast various sports on the Big Ten Network’s Student U. His start in sportscasting came at Geneseo High School in Geneseo, IL.
“I think that gave me a head start before other people my age,” says Mackey. “[Instructors] Keith Kennitt and Jacob Beeth gave me an opportunity in high school to broadcast games. I approached those games like a major broadcast. That helped prepare me and give me a head start before college.”
Mackey didn’t wait for college to start sportscasting and he didn’t wait for an invitation to apply for MSU.
Sometimes, impatience is a virtue.
(Visit Zach’s website).