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College Sports Announcer

College Sports Announcer
Name:CurtisJ
Location:Baltimore, MD
Gender:M
Age:29
I was the public address announcer at Washington University in St. Louis from 1999 until 2003, primarily for basketball and soccer games. While not quite Michael Buffer, I was left to my own devices to give player introductions, hit in-game highlights, coordinate halftime music, read promotional materials, and everything in between.
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Q
Did you ever have to pee in the middle of a game? Did you have to just deal with it nascar style?
A

I could usually run out while a song was playing at halftime if needed, or quickly in between games when teams were warming up. Or astronaut diaper style.

Q
How much do PA announcers for sports teams make?
A

In short, not a ton. Since I was a student, I made half the pro hourly rate, which was $12.50/hr, so estimate $25/hr or less at D-III. I was on work study, so $12.50 an hour was killing it, especially for something this fun. I think minor league and local college guys get between $25 and $50 an hour depending on the profile of the gig. The pro guys that are known can make six figures (I'm positive Bob Sheppard made over $100K), but since this is a dream job for some and a side job to begin with the teams have all the bargaining power.

Q
Was it weird hearing your voice booming from stadium loudspeakers?
A

Absolutely, but you got used to it quickly. Also, this was college, so it took a bit of willpower not to use your powers in completely inappropriate ways, e.g. an oblique reference to girls or buddies in the crowd. You need to get comfortable with the mic and the system in general before you dive in, because if you think you sound weird you'll be thinking about that and miss something you are supposed to say. Once it goes live the announcing action happens faster than you'd anticipate just watching a game, so those kinks need to be sorted out in advance.

Q
How did you go about announcing players with difficult to pronounce names?
A

For our teams, I'd ask the new players at the start of the season and just memorize it. There are a bunch of other items to learn each game, so if you can knock out the consistent stuff it makes it easier. For the visitors, you'd typically get the roster or media guide a bit before the game. On the "Joe Smith" types, no further effort required. Otherwise, before tip/kickoff I'd hit up the SID (sports information director) from the visiting school and ask how to pronounce each name. If possible, I'd also reach out to the player his or herself during warm-ups, because sometimes you get conflicting reports and it is better hearing it from the player. Then I'd write out the difficult names phonetically on my crib sheet, which was the one page roster for that game plus tracking boxes I drew ...More

Q
What sports did you announce?
A

Men's/women's soccer, men's/women's basketball, and the occasional volleyball and baseball/softball game.

Q
Did they make you take broadcasting classes in order to be the public address guy?
A

Nope, but I worked in the Sports Information Department and had a trial period before I was hired full time.

Q
Who do you think are the best and worst announcers and play by play guys working today?
A

In terms of PA announcers, the best were distinctive voices that did the job straight but with a personal touch - for New Yorkers I'm sure that was Bob Sheppard, who I had the pleasure of hearing in person in old Yankee Stadium before he passed. For me, it was Rex Barney, who was the Baltimore Orioles PA guy during my childhood and my announcing role model. I did a drawn-out "Thankyoooouuuu" at basketball games in honor of him, and he also had this great ploy where if a fan caught a foul ball clean he'd say "Give that fan a contract" and the usher would come down with a novelty one day contract to hand over.

In terms of play-by-play guys, I'm drawn to the types that focus on adding value or information that is actually useful, not platitudes or personal history. Nationally, I think Charley
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Q
When you do PA or play-by-play, do you try to adopt the stereotypical "guy on the radio" voice or do you just talk normally?
A

I definitely had some "announcer" shtick, but to a certain degree I think that is required so that you project and enunciate clearly. The voice I used was a slower, deeper voice than my conversational tone, which forced me to think before speaking (a life lesson I should apply in general) and phrase things with proper emphasis. My experience led me to believe that almost all persons talking on a PA system, radio, TV, etc, adapt a bit of affect on their regular voice in order to deliver whatever message they are being paid to provide. That being said, you can't go too overboard or it sounds like parody. I definitely practiced alone until it sounded right.

Q
Ever try to make a women's hoop game more excited by fabricating plays? "Shauna Parsons with a 360 TOMAHAWK WINDMILL SLAM!!!!!"
A

My basketball announcing was limited to public address, not play-by-play. The women's team during my announcing time won two D-III national championships and lost a total of five game in my four years, so the crowd was large and energetic with or without my loudspeaker ramblings.

Q
Are you still doing sports announcing now? If not, what's the next step for someone with your background?
A

Leaving college ended my announcing days and I went to grad school from there. The confidence in public speaking and focused preparation for games has helped in my career and the great thing about announcing is that there are always opportunities if you look for them, even if it is a local game. I haven't fully retired the vocal chords just yet.

Q
Were you ever encouraged by coaches or administrators to really talk up certain players, perhaps because pro scouts were in attendance?
A

On the PA system there wasn't a tremendous opportunity for that, thought the sports information department would prepare information packets and the like upon request to help promote players for the next level (at D-III it is largely overseas).

Q
What was your worst on-the-air screw-up?
A

I messed up a name on occasion, almost always because I thought the name was easy and I glossed over it in prep. Here's a made up example: Devi Smith. Unless I asked, I'd assume it was "Dev-E" instead of "Dev-I", and my natural read would be to "Dev-E". Mistakes like that were the most common.

In terms of actual screw ups, at a lightly attended soccer game I announced Carnegie Mellon as "The Melon" for the entire introductions and first half. This was intentional, as I was bored and immature, but it certainly was a screw-up in than their athletic director happened to being traveling that trip, and told the Wash U athletic director that it needed to stop immediately. I got a stern warning at halftime, and it could have cost me my job. Lesson learned -- no one comes to hear the announcer,
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Q
Did you learn anything as a public address announcer that helped you later in life?
A

Being a PA announcer teaches the value of preparation and clear speaking in ways that even other types of public speaking can't. Without doing the prep prior you'll quickly be overwhelmed, and your mistakes are literally magnified for all to hear. Not being able to gloss over anything forces an attention to detail that has helped me in many non-announcer venues.

Q
Isn't Washington University in Seattle?
A

Isn't the University of Washington in Tacoma?

Q
Were you ever the beneficiary of jock groupie 'spillover'?
A

Well, given that my highest profile sport was D-III basketball, the cup wasn't exactly overflowing. The dance team and cheerleaders knew who I was since I introduced them and played their routine music at halftime, so that was a plus I guess. I was supposed to announce the Division I slam dunk contest my senior year, which we hosted for some unknown reason, but it was during spring break so I gave up the gig. Maybe that would have had a bit more groupie action?

Q
How did you get into PA work to begin with?
A

I was the announcer for boys basketball games at my high school as a senior (high school sports are a must-do for young aspiring announcers -- an easy resume builder), and when I arrived on campus I heard through friends that the athletic department was looking for someone to assist with PA in the fall. I started with a few soccer games. They previously had a professional announcer from the local area hired for hoops, as those teams drew a good deal from the community (the women's basketball team won its fourth consecutive national championship in 2001, during which time the team won 81 straight games). The professional announcer prior to my tenure serendipitously stopped my freshmen year and, after a brief trial period at the annual winter invitational tournament, I was in for basketball ...More

Q
Did you ever have to work while drunk?
A

"Have to"? Thankfully the games were scheduled well in advance so I could plan accordingly booze-wise (it was a college job after all). I took the job seriously and, even though basketball games were on a Friday night, I usually laid off the hooch until at least the second-half of the men's game (Friday games the women were at 6 and men at 8pm). Noble I know. There may have been some exceptions, and Sunday noon tip-offs were often handled hungover, but usually the "fun" of AnnouncingWI wasn't worth the risk or effort as it is much easier to announce while sober. Soccer-wise, one particular game on the day of our all-campus party was certainly AWI, but (a) soccer PA announcing is line-ups and then goal recaps, so not the most taxing of afternoons and (b) if it works for Pat Sajak... http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/gossip/2012/01/pat-sajak-drunk-wheel-of-fortune.html

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Q
Why is impartiality required for announcers/commentators? I mean, who cares if they're rooting for one team or the other? Not like it affects the outcome of the game.
A

All announcers have to walk that fine line between support and outright cheering- there isn't anything wrong with the former and I think most PA folks make sure the home team gets the hype while they are flat for the away team. I think only the Joe Buck/Troy Aikmen-type national guys are expected to keep it impartial, and I think that is largely for marketing purposes so fan bases aren't alienated.

Q
How Much does a College sports Play by Play announcer make?
Q
how hard is it to be an announcer?
Q
I have been announcing high school sports paying between 25-45 bucs per game. How do I increase my pay or take it to the college level?