JACK BRICKHOUSE ’37 HON ’90 was the first of many young sports broadcasters to come out of Peoria. At one time the connections to Bradley and sports broadcasting were as close as they come with the likes of Chick Hearn, Tom Kelly, Lorn Brown, and the late MORT CANTOR ’49.
Before universities sold exclusive rights to broadcast athletic events, three Peoria radio stations competed for ears listening to Bradley hoops broadcasts. There was a time in the 1980s when turning the dial to sports broadcasts in Los Angeles meant there was a good chance of hearing someone who launched a career in Peoria, either at Bradley or covering Bradley basketball.
And then there are Bradley’s graduates. Some of the alumni with careers in sports broadcasting are featured here. Soon, they will have competition from fellow alumni, who will be trained specifically in sports delivery.
The Department of Communication announced last year it will offer a sports communication concentration beginning this fall. “It is gaining traction as an academic discipline,” said Dr. Paul Gullifor, chair of the communications department. “Suddenly, journals are popping up devoted to sports-related themes and communication. Panels and conferences are being organized. There’s suddenly a level of scholarship in sports communication. We are responding to the need for professional communicators in the context of sports.”
To be clear: It’s a sports communication concentration. It’s more than just broadcasting play-by-play. The unique program — developed over six years by Gullifor, associate chair Dr. Greg Pitts, and associate professors Dr. Ron Koperski and Dr. Chris Kasch — includes course subjects in broadcasting, print and digital journalism, international issues and ethics, and promotion and publicity.
One of the largest and fastest growing industries in the United States, the sports business industry made $213 billion last year, according to Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal. “Just look at the incredible emphasis put on sports in this culture,” Gullifor said. “It seems today — with the number of channels available through the Internet, cable, and satellite — almost every athletic contest finds its way on the air anymore.”
While other sports comm programs exist, Bradley’s is unique. The architects of the program built it from the ground up with five new courses. In addition, local professionals in radio, TV, print journalism, marketing, and promotion have shown an interest in contributing. The Peoria Chiefs (Class A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs), Peoria Rivermen (AHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues), and Bradley’s athletic department have shown interest in providing internships. “I’m almost overwhelmed by the community’s support,” said Gullifor, who has seen interest in this type of program ever since he came to Bradley 21 years ago.
The response from students — current and potentially future — is equally impressive with more than 80 applying for admission to the program. “I think this program will set us apart nationally,” said DAVE SNELL ’76, the voice of Bradley men’s basketball for 30 years. “Pretty soon, instead of saying, ‘Oh, you went to Syracuse,’ it’ll be, ‘Oh, you went to Bradley.’ ”
CHARLEY STEINER ’71
RESUME: L.A. Dodgers broadcaster on KABC-AM and KCAL-TV and FSN Prime Ticket.
CONCENTRATION: Speech, journalism and political science triple major
NOTABLE: Arguably the most nationally recognized sports communicator from Bradley, he worked at ESPN from 1988 to 2002.
“Whether it’s happenstance, harmonic convergence, or serendipity, the sheer number of sportscasters who have come out of Peoria or Bradley is astonishing. And it’s such a high-profile industry. It’s one thing to have a great engineering school or business school, and there are just a handful of schools around the country that can make that claim. Here’s a chance for us to play with the big boys at our own level and, in many ways, define our own terms.”
BRAD JOHANSEN ’84
RESUME: Sports director at WKRC-TV in Cincinnati, Bengals play-by-play at WCKY-AM, Xavier University play-by-play at Fox Sports Ohio.
CONCENTRATION: Speech production management and broadcast journalism; theater minor
NOTABLE: He was the first pentathlon national champion at Bradley.
“I was one of those freaks who knew from third grade on that this is what I wanted to do. I was interviewing kids with a shovel in the sandbox and taking tape recorders on family trips in the station wagon, interviewing my family and driving people nuts. I didn’t necessarily want to be one of the athletes, but I knew I wanted to be interviewing the athletes.”
KATRINA HANCOCK ’00
RESUME: Reporter/weekend sports anchor at WDIV-TV in Detroit, host of Sports Final Edition on Sunday nights at WDIV.
CONCENTRATION: Electronic media
NOTABLE: Her major was pre-med for five years before completing a communications degree in one year.
“DAVE SNELL ’76 had interviewed me and knew me as a basketball player. He came up to me after a game and asked what I was doing with my life. I told him I had taken the MCAT and was getting ready to apply to medical school. He suggested I do sports broadcasting. I took all my classes concurrently, I graduated, and three weeks later I had my first job in Wyoming.”
RALPH LAWLER ’61
RESUME: Television and radio broadcaster for the L.A. Clippers on Fox Sports, KTLA-TV, and 710 ESPN Radio.
NOTABLE: He transferred from business administration to communications in his junior year and credits HENRY VANDERHEYDEN ’50 MA ’51, associate professor of communication emeritus, for his career, which has included 30 years with the Clippers.
“That city and that school, for reasons that no one can understand, have turned out just an extraordinary number of people who have gone on to professional broadcast careers.”
DAVE SNELL ’76
RESUME: Bradley Braves men’s basketball radio broadcaster on WMBD-AM
NOTABLE: Worked his 900th consecutive Bradley men’s basketball radio broadcast on January 6.
“The Midwest is a real fertile ground for outstanding broadcasters, because outside of Chicago, Midwesterners have no accents. You don’t have to worry about southern accents, or sounding like you’re from Boston, New York, or the West Coast. I think that has a lot to do with Peoria’s rich history of broadcasting legends. And the success of the basketball team, transcended over the decades, made this a great place to come.”
ANDY MASUR ’89
RESUME: San Diego Padres radio broadcaster on XX Sports 1090-AM
NOTABLE: He started as a top 40 DJ in Peoria, then a morning-drive traffic reporter in Chicago before landing in sports broadcasting.
“When I first started at Bradley in ’85, you had to get creative within your major to make it work. We didn’t have the Global Communications Center at that point; we didn’t have the concentration. They have really grown, and I’m happy to see that.”
JIM KELCH ’80
RESUME: Director of broadcasting for the Louisville Bats, triple-A baseball affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds; fill-in broadcaster for the Reds; radio broadcaster for University of Louisville women’s basketball.
NOTABLE: The first radio broadcaster for the Peoria Chiefs from 1984 to 1986, he made his major league debut with the St. Louis Cardinals when he filled in for his childhood idol, Jack Buck, in the early 1990s.
“Sports broadcasting back then, you had to do it on your own. I would take a tape recorder to games at the Field House, sit in one of the corners and call games into a tape recorder. Back then it was very difficult to get into the business, but now, even with more jobs out there, a ton more people want to do it.”
FRANK BUSSONE ’64 MA ’66
RESUME: Bradley men’s basketball television broadcaster for Peoria/Bloomington-area Comcast channels.
CONCENTRATION: Speech communication
NOTABLE: His career stops include covering Bradley basketball games for WMBD-AM, WIRL-AM (with MORT CANTOR ’49), WTVP-TV, WHOI-TV, and WEEK-TV, where he broadcast Bradley’s seven-overtime loss to visiting Cincinnati which stands as the longest game in NCAA history. He also covered Illinois high school boys basketball state championship games for WGN-TV and was inducted into the Bradley Athletics and Illinois Basketball Coaches Association halls of fame for broadcasting.
“There have been many young people over the years who have called me, wrote me, or stopped me to ask how you get started in broadcasting. I think Bradley will be pleasantly surprised at the number of young people interested in these career paths.”
RICH DRAEGER ’87
RESUME: Part-time high school sports broadcaster for 96.5 FM ESPN Radio in Peoria. By day, he works in development for the Salvation Army.
CONCENTRATION: Broadcast journalism
NOTABLE: He broadcast his first game for WTAZ-AM in Morton when the lead play-by-play broadcaster fell ill. Eager for a chance behind the microphone, he was given the opportunity to work the Friday night contest. The next Monday he was named the color commentator for the remainder of the season.
“It’s great that they’re going to involve several different areas. When I started in broadcasting, you couldn’t go out and do the one thing. You can’t go to a small station and say, ‘I want to be your play-by-play guy.’ They’ll ask what else you can do, like sales or production. In my case, I did news. If you have a well-rounded curriculum, it does give you a more realistic approach of what to expect when you get out there.”
JOSH SIMON ’98
RESUME: Sports reporter and fill-in anchor/producer at WEEK-TV in Peoria.
NOTABLE: He started as a part-time video editor and held positions as part-time photographer, and full-time news photographer before landing in current role. “I’m kind of the do-it-all utility guy,” he said. “I was able to show sports is my passion, and it helped me obtain this position.”
“Look at the list of sports broadcasters who have gone through Bradley and Peoria. To be included in the discussion is kind of ridiculous to me. It’s a huge honor. Chick Hearn, Jack Brickhouse … my name doesn’t belong in the same sentence. It probably won’t be, but if it’s in the same article, that’s a nice touch. That comes from being a part of Bradley.”
CHARLIE MARLOW ’04
RESUME: Sports reporter/producer at KTVI Fox 2 in St. Louis.
CONCENTRATION: Radio/TV; history major
NOTABLE: He came to Bradley with an academic scholarship and to play baseball as a walk-on.
“The business is changing. They’re looking for people who can wear a lot of hats. At the station now, I produce, edit, report, and anchor. You need people who can do everything. The days of the anchorman who comes in to just read the news are over. The next big wave is the video journalist.”
BRIAN BEDO ’07
RESUME: Peoria Chiefs’ assistant director of broadcasting/ media relations
CONCENTRATION: Electronic media; marketing minor
NOTABLE: He has attended Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings the last two years to network and find employment with a team.
“I’ve always wanted to do this since I was a kid. I grew up listening to Harry Caray. He was a little older at that point, but you could tell just how much fun he had and how much a part of the game he was. He changed a lot of people. I guess I wanted to follow in those footsteps.”
MATT WETTERSTEN ’08
RESUME: Sports anchor/reporter at WLFI-TV in West Lafayette, Ind.
CONCENTRATION: Electronic media
NOTABLE: He interned for a year and was a part-time sports photographer at WMBD-TV in Peoria while earning a bachelor’s degree.
“The sports world is incredibly dynamic and interesting. There are a lot more jobs in sports than just athletes, from the people who work at the stadiums to the people who build the stadiums to the people who make uniforms and fan gear, to the people who work in corporate communication with sports teams. A lot of people working in sports aren’t even sports fans. It’s a huge industry.”
What makes up the sports comm concentration?
• COM 160 Sports, Media and Society
• COM 260 Sports Writing and Announcing
• COM 265 International Issues and Ethics and Sports
• COM 360 Digital Journalism
• COM 460 Sports Promotion and Publicity
Visit com.bradley.edu for more information.