One of the greatest joys for me in doing these interviews is getting to interview young broadcasters like I had the opportunity to talk to today in Brendan Gulick. Brendan is the voice of NCAA DII Southeastern Oklahoma State University Savage Storm Athletics. and can be followed on twitter @brendangulick22
How long have you been in broadcasting? You played baseball in high school at St. Ignatius in the Cleveland area, what made you decide to give it up and pursue calling games? When did you know it was what you wanted to do?
This fall will conclude my sixth year behind the mic. I called my first game as a junior at Saint Ignatius when they opened the 2007 basketball season. I had always called the video games I played as a kid and I’ve been passionate about athletics (especially baseball) for as long as I can remember. I knew I wanted to work in sports some day, and as I got older and became increasingly good at communicating with people, I decided to try play-by-play. I started a broadcasting club as a junior in high school and it really took off; in fact, it has continued over the last five years to give other guys opportunities to pursue this in college too. From the moment I did my first game, I knew it was something I wanted to do.
I was a very serious baseball player in high school and many of my teammates (as well as guys I played against) played DI college ball or are currently in minor league organizations. I had always aspired to play baseball in college too, but when I visited JCU, things changed a little bit. Essentially, I chose to attend John Carroll because I could get on air right away. Originally, I was fairly set on going to Ohio University after I was admitted to the Scripps School of Journalism, but I knew that there had to be hundreds of other kids who wanted to do what I wanted to do. At JCU, Sports Information Director Chris Wenzler and WJCU GM Mark Krieger told me I could get on the air immediately. I moved on campus freshman year on a Wednesday and called our first football game the following Saturday afternoon.
How did it work out that you got the PBP gig at JCU as a freshman?
There were only a handful of other people who wanted to broadcast the games at JCU, which gave me a chance to get involved right away. I worked for both the radio station and the Sports Information Department and had chances to call games through both outlets, as well as call games on SportsTime Ohio (a cable network owned by the Cleveland Indians that reaches 45 million homes nationwide). The highlight of my freshman year came in the spring when our basketball team made the NCAA Tournament and I traveled with them to Guilford College in North Carolina to call both tournament games. It really didn’t take me long to know I made the right choice on where to go to school.
How did calling games at John Carroll in college help you get your first job with the Rockford Aviators straight out of college? What advice do you have for young broadcasters just starting out?
The most important thing about broadcasting at John Carroll was the number of reps I got on air. In my opinion, when you’re trying to start a career, it’s all about reps. No matter where you are, no matter what teams you’re covering, no matter if you’re paid or unpaid, you need to call games over and over and over again if you want to get better – and along with that, you absolutely have to listen to yourself. I also put a emphasis on networking during my time in school. I was guided toward Rockford through STAA and through Mahoning Valley Scrappers’ voice Tim Pozsgai, who had a good relationship with Jacob Wise in Rockford. Thanks to the nearly 200 games I called in college, I was ready for a chance to make the jump to pro ball. I continued to work hard and look for the right opportunity to land my first full-time job and when this opening at Texoma Broadcasting in Durant, Oklahoma became available, I immediately recognized it as what I wanted. I have been laser-focused on what I wanted in a first full-time job since the beginning of my senior year at John Carroll and I was patient enough for it to come to fruition. I’m really excited to begin calling D II football at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in three weeks.
You got to accompany the Blue Streaks to Ireland and call a blowout win, how great of an experience was that for you?
That trip was the trip of a lifetime. John Carroll traveled to Dublin last year during Labor Day weekend to play in the Global Ireland Football Tournament (GIFT), a tournament that featured 12 teams (10 high schools and our game). Double-header games were played at three different sites throughout Dublin thanks to a Texas-based organization called Global Football. John Carroll opened the season against St. Norbert’s College from DePere, WI (Midwest Conference) and won the game, 40-3, at Donnybrook Stadium (a historic rugby venue in the city). As someone of Irish decent, being able to travel for five days to Ireland was that much more meaningful. And to top it all off, I was able to share the trip with my parents, aunt and uncle too! We saw the cliffs of Moher on the west coast, drove across country to Dublin and stayed in the city of Dublin from Wednesday morning until Sunday night. We saw the Notre Dame vs. US Naval Academy game on Saturday (we played on Friday). I spent almost two full days touring the city with my family and with the team. Dublin is full of history! I can’t believe it’s been a year since we were there. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I think about that trip almost every day.
How much time do you spend preparing for a broadcast?
It really depends on the sport. If you consider all of the hours I spent getting ready for a John Carroll game last fall, I was pretty close to 22 hours per week. Between going to practice, watching film, working in Sports Information to write media game notes, making my boards, conducting interviews and getting all of the production ready in the radio station (I was the Sports Director last year at WJCU), it was an awful lot of work. But honestly, it never felt like work because there is nothing else I would rather be doing. I really didn’t take a day off; on Sunday’s, I would cut some highlights and listen to the broadcast in our studio to critique myself. Since basketball and baseball games occurred more frequently, I couldn’t spend quite as much time preparing. I ended up spending close to 12 hours of prep-time on those games. I realize that’s a lot of time to spend getting ready for a broadcast, but I really wanted to make sure that I went into the broadcast knowing everything there was to know about the game…and if I didn’t know something that suddenly came up, I needed to be organized enough to know how and where to find it.
What sports do you currently broadcast and which is your favorite?
I called football, soccer, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, baseball and softball while I was in school. I think football, basketball and baseball are my favorites. Honestly, they are all so different from each other and they have their own unique challenges; I really enjoy doing all three the of them. By the time one season is over, the next one begins almost immediately. That’s part of the reason why I am so excited to begin my professional career (post-Aviators) in collegiate athletics. I have a natural schedule built in and I don’t have to worry about where I am going to call each sport, each season.
Who are/were the people you look/looked up to in broadcasting?
On a national platform, Jim Nantz and Bob Costas have always been my two favorites sportscasters. I was fortunate to have grown up in Cleveland as well – listening to Tom Hamilton call Indians games, Joe Tait call Cavaliers games and Jim Donovan call Browns games … I felt spoiled! Those guys are all very good and I really miss listening to Joe since his retirement. If I could call one game with any color commentator, I think it would be really fun to call the Rose Bowl with Kirk Herbstreit – he is my favorite color commentator on a national level.
Is there anyone you emulate, and if so in what way?
I have tried to develop my own style, but at the same time, I am also of the opinion that everything has already been “said.” It’s virutally impossible to say something and be the first to do it. I prefer to use a more conversational style than an “announcer’s style”. I aim to be “easy on the ears”, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get excited when it’s necessary. I strive to develop a personal connection with a listener. I don’t want someone to listen and feel like I’m talking to an audience … I want each person to feel that it’s just me and him/her.
One of the biggest things that a lot of broadcasters talk about it getting that “break”, what would you say yours was?
My first big break came a couple of weeks ago, actually. This job with Texoma Broadcasting was offered to someone else. I don’t know who it was and I probably never will. I don’t know why he chose to go a different direction, but I sure am thankful he did!
What is your favorite on air story you can share with us?
Earlier this summer, Jacob Wise and I were calling an Aviators game that wasn’t exactly going Rockford’s way. When I checked my twitter handle, <i>every single tweet</i> either mentioned or hash-tagged “Sharknado.” I had no idea what that was, and I was really thrown for a loop for another reason. Before the start of every game I broadcast, I always pick a couple of words to challenge my vocabulary – this is something I take fairly seriously, so when one of our producers told me before the game that I should incorporate “Sharknado”, I just laughed it off. I thought he was trying to stump me and making fun of my challenge. Imagine my confusion when I checked Twitter! After a routine ground out, and with Rockford trailing 15-4, I said on air, “Jacob, I know this has absolutely nothing to do with our game, but what in the world is Sharknado??” Over the course of the next ten minutes, while never missing a pitch, we discovered how the Sci-fi movie swept the nation that night! It was some of the most hilarious “radio” I had ever been a part of. So what’s the lesson? As a broadcaster, you have to be an informed person! Clearly, while I was relateable by talking about something on air that the whole country seemed to care about, I was clearly uninformed!
If there is anything else or any stories you really want to share please feel free to do so.
I was very proud to be recognized by STAA the last two years in its annual collegiate All-American Sportscasting Competition. As a junior, I finished 13th in the country and I placed 10th as a senior. Both times, I was the top-ranked collegiate sportscaster from Ohio and I ranked in the top three in both years among students from NCAA DIII schools. It was such a blessing to share that honor with everyone at John Carroll University. JCU will always hold a very special place in my heart and I look forward to representing the Blue Streaks wherever my career takes me!
Thanks again Brendan for being such a great interview. Congratulations on all of your success and best of luck in the future.