“You guys are farther along than I was when I was in college – you’re farther along than I am now,” laughed Mark Gross ’88, a Senior Vice President and Executive Producer at ESPN, as he addressed a standing-room only crowd of students in the Park Auditorium.
Gross was one of 12 Ithaca College alumni who returned to campus for ESPN Day on Friday, April 15. His sentiment was echoed by nearly all of his colleagues, who were impressed by the level of skill and professionalism displayed by the students they met.
The alumni arrived on a Thursday and met to discuss the broadcast capabilities for the college’s new Athletics and Event Center. The Ithaca College alumni at ESPN have undertaken a fundraising campaign to expand these broadcasting capabilities. After the meeting, they sat in on ICTV’s live broadcast of Newswatch and Sports Final, providing feedback to the students. “I wish you’d come every night,” Jodi Eisenberg ‘11 explained to commentator Karl Ravech ’87 during a luncheon for the alumni and students the next day. “The show was almost perfect! I think having the alumni here made us really step up our game.” Something else that stuck out in the minds of several ESPN panelists was the level of female involvement. “At one point last night, the entire control room was female. That’s awesome,” recalls Julie Mariash '83, Content VP.
In addition to the luncheon, the ESPN alumni spent the morning visiting classes while commentators Karl Ravech and Kevin Connors ’97 met with aspiring sports journalists to critique their clip reels. ICTV’s green room was filled with students dressed in suits and dresses, eager to take advantage of the opportunity to network. The first student to meet with Ravech was Phil Stafford ’11, a senior who’d gained experience through the Ithaca College Los Angeles Program interning in sports coverage for Fox News Channel and the more local Torrance City Cable 3. Originally from Denver, Stafford has also interned with CBS. Stafford’s impressive reel showed him reporting on location in Los Angeles and covering the Rockies in studio. The conversation between the two men easily took on a mentorship quality, rather than an idle chat between two strangers who’d just met. In his critique, Ravech mentioned some things to improve on that he himself had needed to improve when he was a graduating senior. Ravech complimented Stafford on his package writing and verb choices, and encouraged him to have confidence in his own abilities.
“My number once piece of advice is to drive somewhere and meet somebody. Don’t just send a tape,” Ravech explains. He knows from experience – that kind of proactive approach is what helped Ravech land his own first job.
Stafford, whose goal is to work for ESPN, definitely appreciated the advice. “The résumé reel is the biggest thing when applying for jobs. It was great to hear his experience and advice, especially because he’s coming from the same background as me having gone to IC,” Stafford said. He also credits his experiences with WICB and VIC radio, as well as ICTV, for helping him to prepare for a career in sports broadcasting. “My advice for students would be to definitely get involved with radio. As a freshman, I was already doing halftime reports and calling lacrosse games.” He also gained experience behind and in front of the camera with ICTV, first as a field reporter and then as an Executive Producer of Sports Final his senior year.
Next door, senior Michael Hibbard was having a similar conversation with Kevin Connors. Hibbard interned with NBC Sports at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, and is currently working on a documentary centering on Tucker Healy, a current closer for Ithaca College Baseball who was recently named the third best Division III prospect for the 2011 draft. After reviewing Hibbard’s reel, Connors told him “there shouldn’t be any situation where you don’t feel confident and capable.” Connors agrees with Ravech on the importance of persistence. “This is a brutal industry, and you’re going to hear ‘no’ or nothing at all a lot,” Connors explains. “I sent probably over 300 tapes and résumés when I was starting out.” However, like Ravech, Connors also serves as proof that the persistence pays off, and leaves Hibbard with these words, “Someone is going to be very lucky to have you on their staff.”
Hibbard was grateful for the good advice and “confidence boost” that resulted from his meeting with Connors. Though Hibbard appreciates the career preparation he’s gained at Ithaca College, he knows that personal motivation is even more valuable. “IC doesn’t spoon-feed you,” Hibbard states. “They give you opportunities like this, but you have to want it. You pursue the opportunities that are important to you, and you have to be passionate. So in that sense, I feel like I’ve prepared myself.”
The event culminated with a free and open to the public panel discussion, where the ESPN employees reflected on their own time at IC and dished out advice for students hoping to pursue a career in the field. “Beyond the classroom, ICTV is where I spent my time,” recalls ’00 graduate Michael Lake. “ICTV was beneficial not only for technical skills, but more so for life skills – how to work with your crew, how to motivate others. You should take advantage of extracurriculars as much as you can.”
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Fuse is a student produced publication about the Ithaca College experience. All content in the print and web versions of Fuse is developed by current Ithaca College students in a breadth of different areas of study.