A shortcut to a DI play-by-play gig

Neil Price’s recent move from women’s basketball and baseball voice at the University of Kentucky to the football and men’s basketball job at Mississippi State is part of a developing trend:

Doing baseball and men’s or women’s basketball at a Power 5 can be a shortcut to a Power 5 football and men’s basketball job.

MSU is the third university in 12 months to hire a voice who was not doing football at their prior school.

The other two:

  • University of Toledo. Hired University of Iowa women’s basketball and baseball voice Brent Balbinot.
  • Georgia Tech. Hired Andy Demetra, who was doing men’s basketball and baseball at South Carolina.

These events prompted a friend to ask me two questions…

What gets me closer to a DI football/basketball job, doing those sports at an FCS school or women’s basketball and baseball for a Power 5?

It is easier for someone to get a major college gig if they are doing women’s basketball and baseball at a Power 5. I started noticing it might be true many years ago and my conviction has solidified in the past year.

One reason is that the basketball/baseball voices are developing major conference connections that can help them. The MSU AD who hired Price is the ex-baseball coach of the UK team that Price covered.

The second reason is it’s easer to sell a new voice to the alums when that voice is coming from a major university. MSU fans don’t care that Price was calling women’s basketball. It is enough for them that he is coming from the University of Kentucky.

With so many games now on TV and online, are athletic directors placing less emphasis on football experience for their radio broadcasters?

Schools still value football broadcasting experience. However, many now value a big name employer even more.

Calling the basketball/baseball path a shortcut isn’t entirely accurate. “Viable alternative” is probably a better name. Price was in that role at Kentucky for 12 years. Same for Balbinot at Iowa. I call it a shortcut because the bar for getting a DI women’s basketball and baseball gig is much lower than it is for a football/men’s basketball job. Talent is still mandatory but less experience and polish are required.

2 Comments

  1. Don Chiodo

    May be a shortcut in some places but considering football is the major revenue generator for every school, having experience calling football at the FBS/FCS level is very valuable. Fans will care more about the quality of call than what school the broadcaster comes from. MSU case was different because AD was an ex baseball coach. If you are worried about the size/conference of the school somebody is coming from rather than the experience and talent of the broadcaster you are making a mistake in my eyes. That being said, I think all the broadcasters mentioned in your post are great, and more than deserve their new opportunities.

  2. Randy Scovil

    I think what Jon is getting at is something that was articulated to me a few years ago – this is the reality. People are focusing more on whether or not you have Power 5 (or to a lesser extent FBS) experience because it’s an easy sell. (Being an alum appears to be given some weight as well.) I agree football is huge and if you’re coming from a name school it’s implicit they have football and it’s possible the candidate was involved with it even if only tangentially. This isn’t the best news for people who have been going the route of doing all sports at lower levels, but I think it’s something people ignore at their peril. You might have go lateral/back (especially financially) to meet your long-term goals.

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