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Ian Eagle Is Still a Student At Heart

“I try to be a student of this so whatever my assignment is I immersed myself in it.”

Derek Futterman

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photo of Ian Eagle

The Catskills is a serene, halcyon mountain range and popular vacation destination because of the preservation and picturesque nature of the landscape. Oftentimes, the luxurious resorts and hotels located along the Borscht Belt attract a preponderance of the area’s approximately 2.7 million visitors per year coming from all corners of the United States and the world to relax and unwind. Not for Ian Eagle though.

His mother, Monica, was a singer and an actress while his father Jack was a standup comedian, musician, and actor who portrayed Brother Dominic in Xerox commercials in the late-70s. For the first several years of his life, Eagle would be their travel companion watching his parents work hard along the Borscht Belt to make a living by performing their act in front of large audiences on weekends. Additionally, at the end of each act, Eagle himself would make an appearance in a suit complete with a bowtie to perform impressions of famous public figures to the crowd – including comedian W.C. Fields, boxer Muhammad Ali and sportscaster Howard Cosell.

After several years of traveling to the Catskills to perform, Eagle remembers his father asking him what he wanted to do when he grew up. With his roots ingrained in live performance, Eagle enjoyed watching athletes perform their craft at sporting events, most notably the New York Mets who were just a drive away from his hometown of Forest Hills, N.Y. at Shea Stadium. Yet while there, he would not only watch the game but also observe the announcers from afar while they were at work in the press box, noticing their mannerisms and countenances from which he was taken aback. At the age of 8, Eagle realized his dream to become a professional sportscaster and was given encouragement and motivation by his parents to fully pursue it.

“A career that was outside the box was very much encouraged and the reasons behind it were pretty simple,” Eagle said. “I love sports and I started to get fascinated by the announcers. Play-by-play, anchors, radio, television…. As a young kid, something about it resonated with me and the idea that I could do it for a living was beyond my wildest dreams.”

Albert graduated from Syracuse University and is one of the school’s many alumni to successfully work in sports media. It inspired Eagle to attend the school to study journalism. Bearing the hallway walls around the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications while Eagle was an undergraduate student were photos of some of them, including Bob Costas, Dick Stockton, and Marty Glickman.

While the reputation of the school and its powerful alumni network can seem polarizing to some students, it served as a source of inspiration for Eagle to elevate his craft and take advantage of opportunities to make a name for himself in the industry. It is in part thanks to successful broadcasters such as Eagle, along with Mike Tirico, Beth Mowins, and Sean McDonough that the school remains a coveted destination for those looking to foster a career in sports media, and was recently ranked as the top sports broadcasting school in the country by the Sportscasters Talent Agency of America.

“At the time in the mid-80s when I was looking for a school that I could pursue broadcasting, one university kept popping up and it was Syracuse,” Eagle said. “….I think more than anything else the fact that there were going to be others like me that had an aptitude for this and a passion for it; I wanted to be pushed. I wanted to be amongst other people that were interested in doing this.”

Eagle was a member of WAER, the school’s student-run radio station, and served as the play-by-play announcer for Syracuse Orangemen lacrosse, football and basketball games. While there, he continued to gain a more complete understanding of what it took to succeed in the field, beginning to truly become invested in it by his sophomore year. By the end of his senior year, he won the Bob Costas Award for Outstanding Sportscasting – for which he received a $1,000 cash prize from Costas himself – and in 2013, was inducted as the fourth member of the WAER Hall of Fame.

Broadcasting live sporting events was the primary part of the field Eagle was looking to work in – until the year 1987 when he began to hear of WFAN, the first-ever radio station solely broadcasting the sports talk format 24 hours a day, seven days a week. By the summer of 1989, Eagle was an intern at the station at the same time when plans for Mike and the Mad Dog were being finalized by then-program director Mark Mason. Upon completing his internship, Eagle felt as if he gained esoteric knowledge of what it took to work in sports media, and was eager to return to his home market upon his graduation.

“Pre-internet – there was no substitution for actually getting the experience,” Eagle stated. “You couldn’t just look it up and google it and watch a video. You had to actually go in and do it. It’s not as if the responsibilities were necessarily putting me in a position to now do more. It had more to do with observing and being around it and being in the environment watching the sports anchor work.”

Despite being told he would likely not be able to get on the air out of college working at WFAN, he took the station’s job offer as a producer over two hosting jobs in West Virginia and nearby Buffalo, N.Y. after graduating from Syracuse University in 1990. Working alongside Howie Rose during his 7 p.m. to midnight radio show, Eagle continued to observe the professionals around him and what it took to do an entertaining radio show conducive to attaining favorable ratings and revenue.

“I took it… with the idea that it was going to be like graduate school that I was going to be at a place where I eventually wanted to one day work in an on-air capacity,” Eagle said of accepting a job at WFAN, “but I would take the experience that I had from the previous summer and expand it to really understand all aspects of the radio station and what it made it tick. It was a risk; there were no guarantees given to me.”

Just 15 months later, Eagle sat behind the microphone and delivered his first on-air sports update and from there began hosting his own talk show shortly thereafter called Bagels and Baseball. In 1993, he added to his responsibilities by hosting the pregame and postgame shows for the station’s broadcasts of New York Jets football. Part of being a well-informed broadcaster comes with reading sports coverage from both local and national journalism outlets, one of which is The New York Post.

Phil Mushnick, the publication’s television and radio columnist since 1982, broke the story that the New Jersey Nets’ radio announcer Howard David would not return for the 1994-95 season, instead relocating to Milwaukee to work in the same role for the Bucks. While sitting in an editing suite at WFAN’s Kaufman Astoria studios, Eagle, who was 25 years old at the time, vividly remembers reading the article and quickly recognizing the opportunity that had just opened up in front of him and the potential it had to change his career.

“I submitted a tape from a Syracuse-Seton Hall game I did in my senior year at the Meadowlands,” Eagle said of the initial reel he submitted with his job application. “They liked it enough to call me and ask me for more play-by-play – which I did not have. That was it; that was the extent of the play-by-play.”

Eagle had to be innovative and remembered he had a friend working for NBA Entertainment in Secaucus, N.J. who helped him create a tape complete with ambient sound and high-quality audio of Eagle calling one half of a playoff game between the Nets and the New York Knicks off of a monitor. He was then quickly scheduled for an interview with Jon Spoelstra, the president of the Nets, as part of the final phase of the search. Once he conversed with him, Eagle was off to the airport for a planned trip to San Francisco with his wife to celebrate their first wedding anniversary and eagerly awaiting the outcome of a monumental decision.

“I had to call into my home answering machine to see if there were any messages,” Eagle recalls. “There was a message from Amy Scheer – [the Nets’ director of broadcasting] – to give her a call. I did from a payphone and I was told that I was being hired as the radio voice of the Nets.”

Paired with Mike O’Koren, Eagle broadcast games on the radio for the 1994-95 season, an opportunity that gave him his first professional sports broadcasting experience. Little did he realize in the beginning though that it would only last for one year, as he was replaced by Steve Albert, Marv’s younger brother, the very next season. But it was not for poor performance; rather, Eagle joined SportsChannel to call Nets games on television, a change in platforms and thus announcing style. Despite the differences between the two platforms though, Eagle was easily able to adapt his style to fit the needs of the audience, however, it may be consuming the game.

“I think part of the reason why I transitioned so easily to television is that I hadn’t been doing radio play-by-play for that long,” Eagle said. “I was not stuck in my ways [and] I didn’t have any habits that I had to break. It really was just an adjustment of how you approach the game.”

Eagle, through his meticulous preparation, promptly showcased his talent on the new medium and ability to heighten the quality of the production at large. He holds a television play-by-play role with the team to this day, following the organization during its move to the YES Network in 2002 and Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. one decade later.

“I try to be a student of this so whatever my assignment is I immersed myself in it and I did everything in my power to prepare for what the season on television would feel like,” said Eagle, who partner Charles Davis recently called “so brilliant”. “….On television, it’s all about setting up your partner, being a very good traffic cop, and delivering in the moment. On radio, you’ve got a blank canvas [and] it’s up to you to fill it in the way that you see fit.”

Two years into his new role with the Nets, WFAN named him the play-by-play announcer for the New York Jets, meaning he would be balancing calling different sports on different broadcast mediums for the first time in his career. Once again one year into this job, Eagle moved from radio to television, this time shifting from regional to national broadcasts with CBS Sports (and was ironically replaced by the aforementioned Howard David). Additionally, he also added NCAA basketball to his responsibilities, meaning he was closely following and calling college basketball, the NBA, and the NFL all at once. As a result, getting and staying ahead in terms of preparation was crucial, and making sure he was ready to execute for every game – just as he saw his parents do in the days and weeks leading up to their weekend performances.

“This job is a marriage of preparation and performance,” Eagle affirmed. “If your preparation is not up to par, it will affect your performance. If your performance is not at the level that it’s supposed to be when the game starts, then all your preparation means very little. You have to get to a point when doing play-by-play that you consistently produce at a certain level and a certain standard. Every person sets that bar for themselves.”

The games themselves are different in the sense that the pace and flow of the broadcast are often dictated by the action in which there are usually more pauses in the action in football than in basketball. As a result, it is incumbent on Eagle and the rest of the broadcast team to be aware of what is going on in the game and to prioritize highlighting and covering it. What not to do is to render it a platform in which an individual seeks to gain notoriety by frequently talking about themselves.

“The pace of basketball doesn’t allow you to share as many stories [or] personal tidbits – you’ve got to be really economical in how you share information,” Eagle said. “Football is set up in a way [where], because of the rhythm of it, there are obvious spots where you can pepper the broadcast with nuggets and factoids and stories.”

Still, moving from being a regionally-focused broadcaster to one who is calling both regional and national games certainly requires a shift in parlance. After all, the national audience is often broader in terms of rooting interest than a regional one, at least when referring to linear distribution rather than viewing on OTT or streaming platforms.

Since joining CBS Sports, Eagle has called numerous NFL and NCAA basketball games, including playoff and tournament battles which can sometimes be decided on the final play. Additionally, he calls Thursday night NFL games and part of the NCAA regional finals tournament on the radio for Westwood One Sports and also calls national NBA and NCAA games for Turner Sports. Yet the divide between regional and national games is becoming more blurred thanks to the evolution in technology that permits the rapid sharing of multimedia-based content across multiple platforms regardless of their streaming capability or lack thereof, sometimes causing a moment to lose its context.

Nonetheless, any broadcaster needs to be able to build a rapport with their audience which usually either comes through previous knowledge of their work or simply by listening to them on-air. It cannot be forced and is not usually instantaneous either.

“The biggest difference in my experience is allowing your personality to come through,” Eagle said. “It took me a while to get to the point where I trusted myself on national games whereas previously on local telecasts, I would probably be a little freer with my commentary. I’m finally getting there on the national side.”

The art of play-by-play announcing, even amid a new generation of sports media, has not considerably shifted; rather, networks and other media providers are trying new approaches to bringing the game to consumers. Whether it be through alternate broadcasts, new camera angles, or user-enabled interactivity during the games, there is always room for innovation, and the same goes for methods of announcing. In the end, though, ratings and revenue will usually be determinants as to whether certain permutations can move out of the experiential stage towards becoming a normal practice; notwithstanding the fundamentals of the job will always somewhat be present.

“I think the principles of doing play-by-play are the same,” Eagle said. “Are you informative? Are you entertaining? Are you a conduit for the fan from the event to the television screen or the car radio? That hasn’t changed and I don’t think that will ever change. There’s something still very pure about that.”

Marv Albert was a sportscaster who Eagle sought to emulate as he worked his way up in the industry, and he fortunately had a chance to work with him when he joined the Nets as an announcer on television in 2005. As a result, Eagle was the secondary announcer beginning that year and lasting until 2010. Being able to be around him while they both worked for the YES Network gave Eagle a firsthand look at his preparation and on-air performance.

“By the time he was working at YES, I had certainly established myself and had a clear idea of what kind of play-by-play announcer I wanted to be,” Eagle said of Albert. “But you’re always learning and you’re a student of this your entire career. You never attain a perfect broadcast – it can’t happen – but you can try. Each game you try to improve.”

Across the country about 2,800 miles away, Ian Eagle’s son Noah is working as the radio play-by-play announcer for the NBA’s LA Clippers. Throughout his youth, Noah Eagle would observe his father at work, sometimes even attending games with him and sitting next to him throughout a broadcast. Like his father, he attended college at Syracuse University and was a member of WAER, and he became just the second Syracuse University graduate to transition from broadcasting in college to doing so right in the NBA – the first being Greg Papa, the radio play-by-play announcer for the San Francisco 49ers and host of Papa and Lund on KNBR. He debuted at just 22 years old at the start of the 2019-20 season and has been in the role ever since.

“The fact that he was even interested in doing this is the ultimate compliment as a father,” Ian Eagle said. “The fact that he has found success; I think he paid attention to detail growing up…. Osmosis definitely played a part in this. The fact that he is passionate about improving and working on his craft and working with others. It’s been a thrill – a true thrill.”

Sometimes, aspiring professionals attend a prominent sports broadcasting college such as Syracuse University expecting that through their enrollment and time at the school, they will be able to instantaneously land a job in the industry. Sure, having a vast alumni network and experienced professors at the helm undoubtedly gives students in these settings an advantage, but the field has become so competitive that it takes working hard and making connections in order to truly get started.

Quite simply, versatility and interpersonal skills are considerably valued in many fields today – sports media included – and everything you need to know cannot be attained simply by listening to lectures and doing class projects. You have to be “the full package” in this industry according to Eagle, which means putting forth a sustained effort in the quest to hone the skills you have while developing new ones along the way.

“You have to go out and do it,” Eagle said. “It’s one thing to dream about being on the air one day; it’s another thing to actually pull the microphone in your hand or put a camera in front of your face and deliver. That takes work; it takes practice; it takes hours upon hours upon hours of polishing your skills.”

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Sports Radio Advertising is a Great Alternative to Expensive Team Sponsorships

There are plenty of creative ways to tie into sports radio stations, where the fans listen daily, and the investment is often much less than team sponsorships.

Jeff Caves

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Photo of Citi Field in New York
Photo Credit: Stadium Sponsorship

Not everyone can afford to sponsor a local NFL or college football team. However, there are plenty of creative ways to tie into sports radio stations, where the fans listen daily, and the investment is often much less than team sponsorships. Here are some ideas:

Pitchmen for Hire: Leverage Local Personalities

Thousands of listeners tune in to hear local sports personalities discuss their favorite teams. Hiring these “football expert” personalities to represent your business can significantly boost your ad response. Their endorsement can help you rise above the fray and double your ad response.

Get More Bang for Your Buck: Stand Out

Tie into station activities that make your brand stand out. Sponsor the local team poll on the station’s website, host a remote broadcast the day before a big game, or sponsor a charity promotion and donate to the cause. Breaking through the clutter of commercial breaks requires creativity and involvement in station activities.

Tie into Local Teams Without Sponsoring Them

You don’t have to sponsor the local team to run a promotion about them. Consider running ads offering discounts if the team wins and even more significant discounts if they lose. Your ad rep can help you phrase these promotions to avoid legal issues. True fans listen to sports radio weekly for team-related content, so tap into that passion.

Become a Title Sponsor

Be the title sponsor for interview segments with local players. If the station is conducting regular player interviews, sponsor these segments. If shows don’t run many interviews, consider sponsoring newscasts that feature excerpts from these interviews.

Hire Retired Fan Favorites

Retired players beloved by fans can be an excellent asset for your business. They are often less expensive than current stars but still hold significant appeal. Think of players like Mike Alstott, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, or Nate Newton. These personalities can do spots or appear at your location, adding a memorable touch to your advertising efforts.

Adopt a ‘Mattress Mack’ Strategy

Make an offer based on the local team’s success, like Gallery Furniture in Houston‘s Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale. In 2022, he offered customers double their money back if the Astros won the World Series. Such promotions generate significant publicity and engage the local community, even if the offer is temporary.

Sponsoring a local NFL or major college football team may be out of reach for many clients. Still, numerous creative strategies exist to maximize a sports radio advertising investment. By leveraging local personalities, participating in station activities, and creatively tying your promotions to local sports teams, you can effectively break through the clutter and make a lasting impression on listeners. Engaging fans with innovative offers and memorable endorsements enhances your brand’s visibility and builds a loyal customer base.

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Caitlin Clark Media Coverage is Good for Everybody in the WNBA

By tuning in to see what Clark does, viewers are also noticing the many other great WNBA players.

John Molori

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Screengrab from ESPN's Get Up covering Caitlin Clark
Screengrab: ESPN Get Up

It’s time to talk about Caitlin Clark. The rookie guard for the WNBA’s Indiana Fever has become a legit phenomenon in the media. She has singlehandedly, and I repeat, singlehandedly put the focus on a league that has been largely ignored by mainstream sports talk shows for a quarter century.

Nobody wants to admit that one person can change a sport or a league. It is viewed as a slight to people who came before that special athlete and that special athlete’s contemporaries, but it has happened on numerous occasions, and we’ll get to that.

From a marketing and media standpoint, Caitlin Clark is a human tidal wave of interest, excitement, and anticipation. She quite literally brought tens of millions of eyes to the 2024 Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, and deservedly so, she will most likely earn tens of millions of endorsement dollars from a variety of corporations and their products. She has inspired congratulations and controversy, especially with her recent exclusion from the USA Basketball Women’s National team.

The reaction to Clark’s success and attention from some members of the media and WNBA players has been shocking. Tremendous commentators such as Andraya Carter, Chiney Ogwumike, and Rebecca Lobo have, at times, come off as apologists for WNBA players who are just plain jealous of Clark’s unprecedented popularity.

As ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith has explained eloquently, these critics are missing the point from a marketing and economic perspective. Clark has not only helped herself with her play, but has also brought attention and focus to women’s hoops as a whole.

By tuning in to see what Clark does, viewers are also noticing the many other great WNBA players. Clark is that rare breed of athlete who is truly changing the game, making it better and more profitable not only for herself, but for everyone involved at all levels.

On recent editions of ESPN’s First Take, Smith has gone toe to toe with Carter, Ogwumike, and Monica McNutt on the Caitlin Clark issue. The fascinating exchange between Smith and McNutt on the June 3 edition was a watershed moment in recent sports television.

Smith, McNutt, and host Molly Qerim were discussing the hard foul/shove that Chicago’s Chennedy Carter laid on Clark in a WNBA game. The course of the discussion moved toward the rise in WNBA ratings mainly because of Clark’s presence in the league.

The debate eventually came down to a back-and-forth between Smith and McNutt. Smith reiterated his longtime dedication to the WNBA and women’s sports in general. In response, McNutt said that with Smith’s platform, he could’ve been talking as much about the WNBA three years ago, long before Clark’s debut.

Smith was visibly angered and disappointed by McNutt’s comments. On The Stephen A. Smith Show podcast that same day, he defended himself and his show, saying that First Take has been at the forefront of promoting gender, race, age, and all forms of equality and respect.

Smith is 100% correct. This chap has been a champion of women, minorities, and even older media personalities, such as Christopher Russo, whom he has brought to a whole new audience on First Take. Stephen A. Smith is the Arsenio Hall and David Letterman of sports talk. When the syndicated Arsenio Hall Show hit the airwaves in 1989, he was the first late night host to bring hip-hop artists to center stage on a regular basis.

Similarly, Letterman’s “Late Night” on NBC showcased new talent in comedy and music, while bringing irreverence and originality to the tired old talk show format. Smith has done the same. He has made stars out of Ryan Clark, Mina Kimes, Marcus Spears, Kimberley Martin, and many others. He has also raised the profile of already renowned commentators such as Shannon Sharpe, Qerim, and the aforementioned Russo.

Smith has been a stalwart of equity, but that’s not what McNutt was saying. She was saying that with his audience, Smith could’ve talked about the WNBA thereby creating popularity and exposure for the league long before now.

McNutt’s jarring comment put Smith in a humbled position and really hit at his very core, but he took his game to a whole new level the very next day. McNutt was back on First Take, which right there shows the utter gumption that Smith possesses. He could’ve easily let things settle down a bit before he brought McNutt back on the show, but he didn’t. That’s classic Smith – encouraging discourse and disagreement.

When you get to the level of a Stephen A. Smith, you welcome a debating challenge. The last guests you want are sycophantic suck-ups who cowardly agree, no matter what the subject. Smith’s high point on the June 4 episode was when he said in a loud voice, “Caitlin Clark is white.”

He acknowledged the fact that it makes a difference. He also stated that black players who have been just as talented as Clark have not been given their rightful attention – also true. Regarding the perceived negative treatment of Clark by some WNBA players, Smith made it clear that they should not go easy on Clark on the court, but their mindsets need to recognize that Clark is benefitting the WNBA and putting dollars in their collective pockets.

Whether you agree with Smith or not, the fact is that this is what special players like Caitlin Clark do. They raise the level of discussion and simultaneously raise the profile of their respective sports. The WNBA is now in the A-block on highly rated shows like First Take and ESPN’s Get Up.

The league and its players are on the front burner of discussion for Smith, Nick Wright, Colin Cowherd and many other top-tier, multimedia sports debaters. This fact was straight up impossible one year ago. This is what Caitlin Clark has done.

Clark’s impact and stamp on women’s basketball is not unique. There are precedents where one person has made such a difference.

Larry Bird looked different, played different, restored a dead Celtics franchise, and made his mark in a sport that was on life support in terms of media coverage and fan interest. Bird and Magic Johnson rescued the league – a black man on the west coast and a white man on the east coast, two wunderkinds who changed the NBA forever. Caitlin Clark is Larry Bird.

Tiger Woods burst onto the PGA TOUR and won the Masters in 1997, embarking on a run that would see him change the game of golf from a competitive, performance, historic standpoint, and social standpoint. He was charismatic, focused, and yes, an African American phenom smashing records in a white-dominated sport. Caitlin Clark is Tiger Woods.

In 1965, Alabama quarterback Joe Namath eschewed the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals and signed with the AFL’s New York Jets. He raised the profile of the league and garnered more attention and dollars than established AFL stars which made him a target. As the league’s popularity grew however, opposing players recognized his significance beyond the field. They did not go easy on him during games, just ask his knees, but they knew that his success was theirs as well. Namath was the key figure in the eventual AFL/NFL merger. Caitlin Clark is Joe Namath.

Serena Williams was smart, savvy, athletic, fashion conscious, and just plain great. Williams shattered the traditional mold and became an iconoclastic figure in women’s tennis with both her play and personae. The lineage with her sister Venus ushered in a new era in the sport. Serena attacked the game in a unique way. She was exciting and original, and lifted her sport and fellow athletes. Caitlin Clark is Serena Williams.

I am not saying that Clark will have a legendary or Hall of Fame career akin to these illustrious athletes, but the immediate impact she has had on her sport and the media coverage of her sport is similar.

As Smith so often states, Clark is “box office.” You can debate the reasons why, but you cannot debate the fact that she has supremely raised the profile and the financial prospects of women’s basketball and its players.

I understand that other WNBA players want their share of the credit for improving the league. I also understand that WNBA commentators want fairness and equity in terms of attention and the spotlight. However, both groups need to realize that Clark is the main reason that they are getting this increased exposure. On the court, be competitive against Clark and try to beat her and her team. On the air, be critical of Clark and analyze her game, but on a larger scale, understand, accept, and embrace that Caitlin Clark’s most important assist might just be to you.

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Joe Tipton Turned Sports Graphics Into a National Reporting Role With On3

“There’s definitely a competitive aspect of it, which I really enjoy actually because it just kind of keeps you on your toes.”

Derek Futterman

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(Illustration) | Courtesy: On3

In the moments when athletes make a monumental decision about their playing careers, news outlets frequently try to cover the story in a timely and accurate manner. Whether it is signing with a new team in free agency, inking a new endorsement deal or retiring, basketball has plenty of these occurrences annually. These announcements are sometimes accompanied by graphics, adding visual elements of branding and allure to the development. Joe Tipton learned the nuances of photo editing and graphic design at a young age, leading him to create images of NBA players and share them on social media. Observing a lack of interest within the space, he considered doing the same for high school players nearing college commitments.

Tipton Edits, an independent business venture that he began shortly after starting in sports graphic design, provides athletes with a free edit in which their new uniform is superimposed onto an image divulging their new team. These recruits then share the photos on social media and tag Tipton. Especially at the start of the entrepreneurial property, he viewed gaining followers as remuneration, an invaluable currency as digital media continues its swift proliferation.

“I didn’t start making the graphics at 17 to have a job in it – I was just kind of doing it on the side for fun and then just kind of [seeing] where it would go,” Tipton said. “Since I was one of the first people to make graphics for these high school players in their recruiting decisions and now transfers, and now that I’ve built up the presence online and the credibility and the reputation, a lot of them will flock to me, and I think that’s what’s so sustainable about it now.”

The transfer portal keeps Tipton busy in creating and delivering graphics to collegiate athletes moving to a new school. Remaining prepared to create an enticing visual featuring the player in their new uniform and distributing it on social media requires a commitment to the craft. Even though he was a marketing student at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, he was still trying to determine the best path forward and ended up transforming his hobby into a sustainable career.

“I was able to communicate with high-level basketball players and create something for them – and all of it free of charge – in exchange just for a tag on Instagram and Twitter, which helped propel me and grow my brand and following online,” Tipton said, “and over the years, [it] got me to where I am now.”

By designing these graphics in advance, Tipton was privy to coveted information and recognized that he could effectively reveal where players were signing. His work has been featured on various sports outlets such as ESPN and Bleacher Report and shared by NBA legends including Shaquille O’Neal and Scottie Pippen.

On3, a digital sports media brand that delivers news, analysis and insights to consumers regarding college sports, recruiting and NIL, added Tipton as a national basketball reporter after he graduated from college. Since that time, he has established himself as a distinguished journalist covering high school and college basketball.

“[I] had an opportunity to join On3 because basically what I was doing when supplying the graphic to a high school recruit and even transfers now in the portal, I am being gifted the knowledge of where a player is going,” Tipton said, “so I’m able to report that information, and that’s basically what I serve as now for On3.”

Joining On3 provided him with another platform to disseminate this information and expand his audience while assisting the company in its own growth. Shannon Terry founded On3 in 2021, and the platform has continued to expand with dedicated coverage of NIL, the transfer portal and the NFL Draft, along with adding subsidiary verticals such as On3 Elite and On3 HER.

“When it comes to the transfers and their decision making, it’s so rapid fire, and there’s so many players that enter the transfer portal because of NIL, because of instant opportunities and also the ability to play right away and not have to sit out like the previous rules stated,” Tipton articulated, “so it increased the need for what I do and just the coverage of the transfer portal in general has taken a significant leap, which is great for those who cover the portal and recruiting in general.”

Tipton earned a contract extension at On3 earlier in the year, but he has always operated with a chip on his shoulder to prove that he is more than just a graphic designer. While he is a recent graduate and continuing to shape his identity and forge relationships, he believes the process has been considerably slow to this point. Nonetheless, he remains optimistic that working with On3 will be able to propel him to the next level.

“They didn’t view me as a reporter even though I was breaking news, so especially in the earlier stages, I wasn’t getting credit for breaking the news just because I guess they didn’t view me as a reporter [or] traditional media outlet,” Tipton said. “But ever since joining On3, that’s kind of painted me in a new light, and people will look at me a little bit differently, especially with the coverage that I’m able to provide for On3 and then just the overall stories broken.”

There is an aspect of fluctuation that has become more embedded in college basketball, rendering it fundamental to verify information ahead of its circulation. For example, if a player informs Tipton that they are committing to a certain school, he will oftentimes call the coaches or athletics department to safeguard against complicating miscommunication between the two entities. In the end, he is never releasing graphics or reports without extreme confidence in its veracity.

“There’s definitely a competitive aspect of it, which I really enjoy actually because it just kind of keeps you on your toes,” Tipton said. “It’s kind of a rush as well to be able to get it out first, but the first year on the job with On3, there was an incredible amount of pressure that I put on myself to just achieve this at a high level, but there’s also a great deal of stress that comes with it because a lot of what I do is time sensitive.”

Although he has a stellar reporting record dating back to his days solely creating graphics, there are moments when other reporters or outlets beat him to the story. In these situations, the power of his brand and its identity assists in overcoming these impediments, indicative of his broad appeal and widespread reach. Establishing himself as a brand rather than being a graphic designer or reporter within a larger entity has been a key differentiator within his formative years in the business.

“I think it’s the key to sustainability and a way to separate yourself from other people, so I’m incredibly fortunate that the players believe in me, trust in me and then On3 does the same because I’m a source for the player that they can come to and trust, and we all grow together,” Tipton said. “I help grow the player, [and] I help grow On3. On3 helps grow me [and] the player helps grow me because they’re all posting my stuff, we’re posting them, so we’re all on this together, so it’s really nice.”

Tipton never envisioned himself appearing in front of the camera, but he is now doing so regularly for On3. As part of its content, he frequently discusses the latest news regarding recruitment, the transfer portal and NIL in addition to synthesizing player rankings.

“[I am] obviously only just scratching the surface of the on-camera stuff, but I think that is a strong potential avenue for me moving forward in my career,” Tipton said, “but then also my ability to break news at a high level and also the relationships that I have just when it comes to the recruiting insider portion of my job as well.”

Later this month, Tipton will see some of the players for whom he has created graphics soon enter the NBA when the NBA Draft takes place from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Although he has not assimilated into reporting on the NBA, he is competitive and has thought about his future work. Yet he understands that a majority of his verve is in college basketball and is focused on breaking news beyond recruiting.

“The good thing about me and kind of how I was brought up was I wasn’t raised in a family that was a fan of a specific team; in fact, my parents aren’t even sports fans at all,” Tipton said. “Sports was just not on at all growing up, so I never grew up a specific fan or a diehard of any specific program.”

Reflecting back on his journey thus far, Tipton feels that he stumbled into his career with fortuitous timing. The versatility he has developed, along with his persistence, networking and inexorable work ethic, has contributed to the growth of Tipton Edits and his role with On3.

Tipton found a way to cut through the media ecosystem, investing his time and effort into a niche that did not exist with the level of cache and emphasis that it currently possesses. The industry moves with unrelenting momentum and can seem imposing to shrewdly understand and cover, but Tipton aims to masterfully keep up while enjoying his journey to an unknown destination.

“We live in a world where, especially younger people, they’re keen on growing their social media presence,” Tipton said, “so On3, Tipton Edits and others alike are able to grow their channels, so they’re encouraged to utilize services like mine to help kind of propel their following and for it to reach a large number of people.”

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