Leaving my TV job…never thought I would do that. However, I never thought I would get an incredible opportunity at an institution I love.
By now I am sure everyone has heard that I have accepted a position at the University of Evansville as the Director of Development for Athletics and Voice of the Aces mens basketball team. (that is going to be one long business card!)
UE is a special place to me. On February 27, 1982 my entire family attended senior night for what would be the first DI NCAA tournament Aces team. I was 10 years old. We sat at the top of the bleachers at Roberts Stadium for the game.
The Aces played Butler that night and as I recall UE crushed them. My dad bought me a program, and I got to meet Ace Purple. Ace signed my program. The stadium was jam packed. I learned the Aces chant, and I just had a blast.
And I was hooked…
The following years I went to every home game. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up. However, my dad was friends with a guy that worked at WROZ radio and he got us press passes to the games. We would use those at the gate and found a seat up top.
I attended Dick Walters basketball camp in sixth grade. Meeting the players in person had such an impression on me. I felt like I was big-time winning a trophy at camp.
As a kid I would scream and yell, and I would always lose my voice at games. At school the next day I was hoarse and my teachers and friends always knew why. I remember after we beat Purdue in ’84 I couldn’t talk for two days.
Then the Jim Crews era began. In his second year, the Aces were back, and really that 1987 MCC co-champion team with Loyola really spring boarded UE to the national scene.
I remember going to the pre-season games and getting the posters autographed by the whole team. Every year Aces fans knew they had a shot at a championship. By now we finally broke down and got season tickets. My dad, my uncle Eric and I went to every home game and several on the road. (St. Louis, Butler, Indiana State, Xavier, Dayton)
The Aces were lead by two transfer players: Marty Simmons from IU and Scott Haffner from Illinois.
Marty was the master at the pump fake down below the basket. When I would play basketball I would always copy that move. No Aces fan would ever forget Marty’s senior night performance. 1988 was an election year and my aunt Hope on senior night made a sign that said “Marty Four More Years”. As luck would have it, a newspaper photographer took a picture of me holding that sign and it was in the Courier. Pretty ironic now huh?
With all due respect to Marty, my all-time favorite player was Scott Haffner. His quick release three-point shot was a staple of the Aces championships. I was there when Haf scored 65 points in a single game against Dayton. I believe he had 30 at halftime and my uncle and I were just hoping he would get 10 more to make it to 40. It was one of the greatest sporting events in Evansville history. I remember the crowd not leaving after the game and chanting his name until he came back out of the locker-room and through the tunnel.
A sidenote about that game: it was a rare afternoon game. My dad was and still is a mailman in Newburgh. Because the game was in the day he couldn’t go and had to listen to the radio in his mail jeep. He was so mad he wasn’t there. Still to this day he gets mad at me if I bring it up. Ironically, through my entire TV career I have never interviewed Scott Haffner. I hope someday that Haffner and Simmons numbers 3 & 50 will be retired.
When the Aces played Oregon State in the 1989 NCAA Tournament, it was an early afternoon game. My parents signed a note to Castle High School letting me out of school that day to watch the game on TV. It was such an unreal moment upsetting the Gary Payton led Beavers. It’s still the only DI NCAA Tournament victory in Aces history.
During the 10-12 years, the Aces were among the national leaders in attendance. I believe UE averaged over 10,000 fans per game in that run. It was even more impressive because at that time UE had the second lowest enrollment of all Division-I schools.
UE was too expensive for me to attend, so I went to Ball State University. I quickly fell in love with the Cardinals, but I still kept close tabs on my Aces. Even in my dorm room I still had my Aces posters hanging up. As a Ball State student I traveled to Dayton to see the Aces play the Flyers. The Aces won that game, and I made sure to let every Dayton fan know as I left their arena. I was an obnoxious fan like that.
Landing my job at NEWS 25 out of college was a big thrill. It was rare to actually work in TV in your hometown. I was a photographer and wasn’t on the air. However, I would travel to Aces road games on my own time and not get paid. Marc Robbins was the sports guy at the time, and he would let me do on-air stories recapping the Aces. That is how I got my foot in the door.
I remember the first time I interviewed Coach Crews. UE was going on a road trip, and Robbins sent me by myself to the airport to track him down before they left. I was pretty nervous, but I was super prepared and I tried to ask questions that would impress him.
Coach Crews had a reputation of being tough with the media, but he was great to me. He always treated me with respect, and I always admired his work. When he left for Army I did all positive stories on him that night in my sportscasts and what he meant to the program. I never thought Crews got the credit he deserved when he left. I got a great phone call that night from Scott Shreffler. He thanked me for doing positive stories on Crews and he said that our station was the only one who did so. We talked on the phone on how much Crews did for UE and the city of Evansville. Shreffler and I became good friends, and I am now thrilled I will be working with him in the broadcast booth.
The next year, I begged my bosses to go after the Aces coaches show. Steve Merfeld had been hired, and we quickly worked out a TV deal with UE. It was excited being the official station of the Aces for those seven years.
You could walk this earth for your whole life and not find a better human being than Merfeld. I know that Aces fans were disappointed with his record, and rightfully so…that comes with the territory.
Traveling with the team for seven years got me even closer to the program. I became good friends with sports information director Bob Boxell and then radio play by play announcer Adam Alexander. Those road trips didn’t produce a lot of victories, but we made the best of them. I don’t know how many of you have gotten to know Adam. Do you have that one person that can make you laugh hysterically about anything? Well that is Adam for me. He had me in tears so many times on those trips. I was so thrilled Adam got that huge job at TNT sports.
When Coach Merfeld left it was hard. I had never seen that brutal side of the profession so up close and personal. Merfeld wanted to win as bad as anyone. I wish it would have worked out for him here at UE. I am still very close to Steve. I talk to him often, and I consulted with him before taking this new job.
Now it is the Marty Simmons era. How about my life coming full circle? I was so excited for him. I covered his SIU-Edwardsville team when they advanced to the Elite Eight. I rooted for Marty and I was thrilled he was back at UE.
Marty is Evansville Basketball. No one embraces the tradition of UE like Simmons. He has treated me unbelievable. He and his staff are incredibly hard workers. I am talking day and night trying to improve the team and preparing for the next opponent.
Coach Simmons always deflects attention from himself and onto the players and the program. He always promotes the team, and puts the Aces first.
When Marty called me about this job, I knew I wanted to make it work. I would run through a wall for the guy.
The final piece for my job at UE was meeting with new UE President Dr. Thomas Kazee. I did not know what to think when I climbed the stairs to go to his office. He did not know me. I was really unsure what to expect. Dr. Kazee blew me away. He was so down to earth and I felt completely myself around him. I didn’t have to tell him what I thought he wanted to hear, I could just be honest with him. He had the exact same vision of UE that I had previously stated to athletics director John Stanley and Vice President of Development Jack Barner. Dr. Kazee wants UE and Aces Athletics to go to another level, and I could not wait to jump on board.
There are a lot of thank yous for this opportunity. Thanks to athletics director John Stanley for being a great ally in the process. Thanks to my new boss Jack Barner for offering me the job! I cannot wait to learn under Jack and the entire development team. Thanks to Brandon Gaudin for starting this whole process. Brandon and I are best of friends. He and I have worked together a lot. I have the utmost respect for Brandon and I wish him well at Butler, although I hope the Aces beat their brains out.
Thanks to Bob Boxell who I will be working with very closely…especially on the road. Thanks to Aces fans Jim and Glenda Ralph, as well as, Tim and Liz Otte for their support.
Thanks to my first boss Lloyd Winnecke for his guidance. Also a big thanks to others I leaned on through this process: Mike Goebel, Ryan Lemond, my friends at NEWS 25 and many others who I know I am forgetting.
Thanks to everyone at NEWS 25. It was a job I loved for over 17+ years. They are true pros and I wish them all the best.
Thanks to my wife Kim and my future Ace Cal! They can’t wait to have me home at night for the first time in our life!
Also to the rest of my family, my mom and dad, grandma, aunt and uncle, and in-laws!
I grew up listening to Bob Buck describe Aces games. It is now an honor I will be doing the same for Aces fans everywhere. It may take me awhile to get into a groove and a style for radio, but I promise you I will work hard and I will be an unapologetic Aces homer!