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Scott Hanson Purposely Lives On The Edge

“They don’t want me taking shots at players or coaches or teams in an unfair manner, I am allowed to say what I want to say at any given moment.”

Derek Futterman



A photo of Scott Hanson

Whether it is participating in the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain or swimming between two tectonic plates in Iceland, Scott Hanson is a thrill-seeker.

Having visited six of the seven world continents, seeing new places and being exposed to different cultures gives him the ability to live his life to the fullest and take advantage of many unique opportunities. That adventurous style of travel, though, takes a back seat when it is football season. As the host of the Sunday whiparound show NFL RedZone, Hanson and the NFL Network team notoriously bring fans every touchdown from every game in seven hours of commercial-free football.

No commercial breaks mean Hanson is hosting a program straight from 1:00-8:00 PM EST every day, requiring high levels of stamina and endurance. It is part of the reason why he works out five days a week during the regular season, cognizant of the perceived connection between maintaining good physical fitness and sharp mental acuity. For a hosting job that may seem interminable to some, Hanson revels in it and arrives at the brand-new state-of-the-art NFL Network studios adjacent to SoFi Stadium, the shared home of the Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams in Inglewood, Calif., excited and ready to immerse himself in the day’s action.

“I literally will be on the elliptical machine on the treadmill saying, ‘The last 10 minutes of this one-hour session is for the sixth hour of NFL RedZone‘,” Hanson explained. “I’ve still got to have that energy [and] enthusiasm. It might sound silly, but I really do believe that.”

From an early age, Hanson knew he wanted to work as a broadcaster in sports media, especially when he recognized that attaining a professional football career was highly unlikely to happen. Motivated to follow in the footsteps of the broadcasters living out his dream job of being paid to travel the country and interact with players, coaches and other team personnel, he attended Syracuse University and majored in communication studies. Four years later, he graduated cum laude, achieved Dean’s List status for all four years at school and also continued to play on the school football team.

In fact, his collegiate football career – which started by winning a roster spot as a walk-on long snapper and playing as a wide receiver and defensive back as a member of the scout team – concluded with a 1993 Fiesta Bowl win over the University of Colorado Boulder’s Buffaloes.

After completing a college summer internship with WXYZ-TV in Southfield, Mich. where he had the chance to work with the late-broadcaster Don Shane, Hanson was even more committed to finding a way to succeed in sports media. Upon his graduation, he started his professional journey working as an anchor and reporter for WPBN-TV in Traverse City, Mich. in 1993.

After an additional stop to work at WICS-TV in Springfield, Ill. in 1994, Hanson made the move to Tampa to cover the Buccaneers as a reporter. This marked his first time working in a role associated with covering a specific football team per se – the game he was enamored with growing up in Rochester, Mich.

While playing football at the high school level, Hanson served as the team’s captain and also earned all-conference honors; however, pursuing a career in sports media, although challenging, always appealed to him. He served as a public address announcer for the women’s soccer team in high school and sought to gain as many repetitions as possible as a broadcaster to hone his craft and diversify his skill set, recognizing the importance of versatility in the industry.

Hanson put that versatility on display when he landed a job as the intermission reporter for the National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers at Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia. Closely following the team during its days with star players Jeremy Roenick, Keith Primeau and Eric Desjardins, Hanson observed the differences between how football and hockey players conduct themselves and interact with the media.

“Hockey guys will do interviews differently than football guys will do it, generally speaking,” Hanson said, “and yet they are still uber-competitive, highly-skilled, world-class athletes, and there’s a certain mentality that comes with that [which] often displays itself while you’re interviewing them.”

After working in Bethesda, Md. for the next four years as an anchor and reporter with Comcast SportsNet Atlantic, Hanson joined NFL Media in 2006 as a national reporter. Every week, Hanson would attend National Football League contests and provide pregame and postgame reports. The only problem was that Hanson found himself following all the action around the National Football League even when he was in the press box for games, discussing action with journalists and media members other than what was taking place on the field down below.

“I would be the guy always looking at everything else going on in the NFL even though I had one live game in front of me,” Hanson said. “I guess I was wired for an NFL RedZone-style show from the beginning.”

Coinciding with the proliferation in fans creating fantasy football teams, NFL Network created what has been referred to as “the best invention since television” in NFL RedZone and tabbed Hanson to be its host after he had previously hosted other studio programming for the network in 2008.

While there is another version of the whiparound-style program called DIRECTV Sunday Ticket RedZone hosted by Andrew Siciliano since its launch in 2005, and available exclusively to NFL Sunday Ticket subscribers. Hanson is the host of the version produced by NFL Network, and once he learned of the opportunity to pioneer the program from “the captain’s seat” and heard more about the vision of the broadcast from network executives, he was euphoric to get started.

“I absolutely believed that the show would be a galactic success if we could execute [in] the way [with] the vision displayed out there,” Hanson recalled. “They came to me and said: ‘Hey, we’re starting a show from scratch. We’re going to show every touchdown from every game. We’re going to do it for the early window and the late window, so it’s going to go seven hours long. We’re not going to show any commercials and we’re going to bounce around and show people the best of the NFL.’ And I said: ‘Sign me up and put me in front of that camera.’”

Hanson stands in front of a plethora of television monitors featuring a well-orchestrated cacophony of game action occurring around the country. While scientific research has proven the impossibility in truly multi-tasking, additional research suggests approximately 2.5% of people can do it effectively. It is more than likely Hanson falls within that select group, regularly multi-tasking outside of the seven-hour window he hosts NFL RedZone on Sundays. He has five high-definition television screens set up in his home that simultaneously play a wide assortment of programming from sports to entertainment to news.

While it may seem dizzying to some to be closely following over half of the National Football League at once, it is simply all in a day’s work for Hanson. From the moment he returns home after a studio taping of NFL RedZone, his preparation for the next week begins – first by watching Sunday Night Football. Afterwards, he will tune in to all of the major football highlight shows, including those from NFL Network and ESPN, to ensure his broadcast did not miss any significant moments in the action or associated storylines. If he happens to hear information that is transferable to the following week’s broadcast, he makes a note of it and implements it as a part of his preparation.

The next day, Monday Night Football takes center stage, closing out the week of football and leading into the next day’s release of the weekly NFL Media research packet. The document, which ranges from 100 to 200 pages in length, contains facts, statistics and other relevant information compiled by the NFL Media research team. Hanson closely examines the contents of the document and begins to memorize parts of it he may want to use during the NFL RedZone show on Sunday.

On Wednesdays, Hanson begins creating spreadsheets complete with information about all positions and various game scenarios, including possessions taking place in the red zone. It is vital information he needs to be able to quickly recollect during the course of the broadcast.

“The rest of it is just studying and trying to memorize and then digging down into each individual game matchup that will be on RedZone [for that] Sunday,” Hanson said. “….I probably don’t do as much research as [Joe] Buck does for one individual game on all of my 11 games, but I probably do as many hours leading into it for the 11 games [in the] early and late window that we’ll have on Sunday.”

Hanson does not have a favorite NFL team, although he grew up closest in proximity to the Detroit Lions, and genuinely does not have a rooting interest in terms of who wins or loses specific football games every week. Having said that, his fantasy football team – nicknamed the “Iron Bladders” – consists of players from across the NFL and he will sometimes display his fandom during NFL RedZone broadcasts about their specific performance, although he affirms it will not interfere with his hosting responsibilities on the show.

“I do not care who wins any given NFL game, but I do care that the game is action-packed and dramatic and provides us with some moments that we will remember during the seven hours of the show,” he said, “and provide us with some moments that we’ll be talking about at our workplaces [all week] leading back into the next episode of NFL RedZone.”

As an on-air host, Hanson’s top priority is to be a source of information for fans tuning in to the broadcast who are looking to get a complete scope on what is occurring around the league. The show’s commitment to showing every touchdown from every game holds true as it did from its initial launch in 2009, but as time has gone on, Hanson has been able to find moments to insert humor, opinion and other differentiating factors associated with being on the air.

“I’m naturally energetic, naturally enthusiastic and I love the game of football,” Hanson said. “I hope that comes across to all the people that are watching all over the world on NFL RedZone; that if you don’t know anything about [me] personally, you would still say: ‘Yeah, I’d like to sit down and watch a game and have a beer with that guy. It sounds like he loves the game and he sees the game the way I see the game.’”

Being that Hanson watches every NFL game on Sunday, along with ESPN’s presentation of Monday Night Football and Amazon Prime Video’s streaming-exclusive Thursday Night Football game every week, he believes in the strength of football as a consumer product in terms of its dissemination and quality, both on the field and inside the broadcast booth.

This previous offseason saw the movements of Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit to Amazon Prime Video, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to ESPN, Mike Tirico’s elevation to the weekly play-by-play announcer on NBC’s Sunday Night Football and Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen forming the new primary booth on Fox – with seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady to eventually join as well. Among these and other changes, Hanson is encouraged about the future of football broadcasts and sports media in its entirety.

“A high tide raises all boats, they say, so I certainly am happy with the contracts that have been handed out to some of my on-air contemporaries,” Hanson expressed. “….I don’t think there’s a weak link in the national broadcasts today…. I love the fact that when it’s not NFL RedZone when I’m on the air, I have fantastic professionals to watch and enjoy as a fan [of] all of the national games.”

Just as fantasy sports rose in popularity in 2009, the phenomenon of sports betting has recently begun to grow coinciding with its legalization throughout nearly half of the country. Hanson attributes the survival of whiparound programs to the augmenting proclivity for fans to follow specific players and portions of the game action relevant to their own teams or bets rather than rooting solely for one team to win or lose. Nonetheless, the goal of the show to be a source of commercial-free football for seven hours every Sunday remains unchanged; the ways in which that goal is effectively accomplished has merely shifted with changes in consumption habits and emerging technologies.

“What I think we hopefully have gotten better at through the years is showing more action; being able to bounce around from stadium to stadium even quicker and slicker to make it an enjoyable viewing experience,” he expressed. “….I think social media has some ability to do quote-on-quote RedZone-style entertainment because the audience is choosing which link they click on; which clip they click on [using] Instagram; Twitter; TikTok; Facebook; whatever else it is.”

Other professional sports leagues have sought to emulate the type of program and staple NFL RedZone has become but whiparound-style programs simply do not work for every sport. For example, DAZN, in partnership with Major League Baseball, broadcast a whiparound program beginning in mid-2019 called ChangeUp. The show, which was hosted by Adnan Virk, Scott Rogowsky, Lauren Gardner and Tony Luftman, was canceled less than a year later after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and reportedly low viewership. Conversely, NBA CrunchTime has been broadcasting since 2015 on NBA TV, but will be added to the redesigned NBA League App for fans to stream.

According to Hanson, the game of football presents inherent differences that give it an advantage in presenting multiple games at once – such as the synchrony in kickoffs, 40-second play clock and sequencing of the game itself, along with the likelihood that crucial action favoring either the offense or defense will occur when play is within the 20-yard line – colloquially referred to as the “red zone.”

“We have eight games going on at one time on some Sundays where we can ping-pong to any one of those locations where the action is hot,” Hanson said. “You’re almost guaranteed that one or two of them have some drama going on at any given moment….. The fact that I can show you a game in Atlanta and I’ve got 40 seconds or thereabouts to show you something from Dallas and something from Green Bay and I can get back to Atlanta and you haven’t missed any material action in the Atlanta game – that helps.”

Some viewers of NFL RedZone or NFL Network as a whole might surmise that since the media outlet has a direct affiliation with the league, on-air talent and contributors may be more restricted in terms of what they can or cannot express. While it is evident that sports media is built on a balance between subjectivity and objectivity, it is up to hosts to establish a comfort zone in which they are able to deliver news and voice their opinions.

“I’ve been with the league for 16 years and while it’s clear they want me to be a fair broadcaster and they don’t want me taking shots at players or coaches or teams in an unfair manner, I am allowed to say what I want to say at any given moment,” Hanson said. “There have only been maybe two times in my 16 years where a boss of mine has come to me and said: ‘Hey Scott, why don’t you say this instead of this.’”

Aside from hosting NFL RedZone, Hanson serves as the in-stadium host for the Super Bowl each year, meaning that it is his job to entertain, inform and engage with fans attending “The Big Game.” It is a change from hosting studio coverage, giving him the ability to show fans different aspects of his skillset and vary how he infuses his personality into shorter segments of air time.

Additionally, he has had the chance to converse with some of the greatest football players to ever step foot onto the gridiron, including the aforementioned Brady, who told him that NFL RedZone was his favorite television program to watch on days he was not playing.

“I’ve been able to interview Michael Jordan and Mike Tyson back in his heyday,” Hanson added. “Just big-time, high-profile, world-class athletes; and that energizes me as someone who strives for excellence to be around people who exhibit excellence in their given profession.”

Hanson, akin to most other sports media personalities, works under a contract and while he could see himself hosting NFL RedZone for the remainder of his career, he is open to exploring any and all opportunities in media, the assimilation of sports notwithstanding. Cultivating the skills necessary to effectively host a top-rated sports whiparound program is no easy task, but it is something he has embraced over the years and continues to enjoy when he wakes up at 5 a.m. to go to work.

It takes a willingness to do whatever it takes to improve and gain experience in sports media, and Hanson advises aspiring broadcasters looking to work in the industry to take advantage of opportunities whenever or wherever they may be. Living on the edge is his modus operandi and has allowed him to build a successful career in the National Football League as a broadcaster rather than as a professional football player.

“Be willing to make sacrifices. It’s a very, very competitive business,” Hanson said. “If you’re trying to get into this business to become famous or make a ton of money or just [to] meet Peyton Manning, you’re going to have to pay your dues before any of that happens – and paying your dues means making sacrifices often. Be willing to move anywhere in the country where a job presents itself. Be willing to work whatever days, hours, holidays; anything else that your employer wants.”

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One Question About Stuart Scott’s 30 for 30: What Took So Long?

“Whether it was references or catchphrases or just his general vibe, Stuart Scott was can’t miss TV.”

Demetri Ravanos



Stuart Scott

There haven’t been many celebrity deaths that have truly left me in tears. I am a Nirvana super fan, and I remember exactly where I was when I found out about Kurt Cobain’s suicide, but I don’t remember breaking down. I can only remember three celebrity deaths that left me feeling true, uncontainable sadness: Robin Williams, Tom Petty and Stuart Scott.

So many documentaries and episodes of television have been made about the life, times, and deaths of Williams and Petty. They are icons. Their respective deaths left millions of fans in mourning. 

Scott’s impact is no less significant, particularly in the sports media world. I am happy to hear that he is finally getting his due with a life and career retrospective as part of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series.

I hated school as a kid. Each morning felt like a march from the courthouse to the bus that would take me to prison. I loved sports and loved to laugh. Scott and Rich Eisen felt like my last little bit of joy before I was dragged to Hell each weekday morning. That’s why he meant so much to me.

His impact can be felt everywhere in our business. Countless black men and women who work in sports media will tell you about the impact they felt seeing someone who looked and talked like them. A generation of broadcasters, regardless of race, will tell you about how they connected to someone who embraced the idea that this is fun and unserious. 

Whether it was references or catchphrases or just his general vibe, Stuart Scott was can’t-miss TV. The fact that he was, revolutionized sports television.

Because of his influence, we were introduced to new faces. The whole style of highlight shows changed. Dan Patrick and Keith Olberman moved it away from a newscast and closer to a watercolor conversation. Scott pushed the genre closer to a block party.

ESPN has been careful about which broadcasters become the subject of a 30 for 30 documentary. Some of that has to do with drawing the line between sports and sports media. Some of it has to do with ESPN not being keen to turn a critical eye on itself. I mean, what other explanation could there be for why we have never gotten a documentary on the aforementioned Patrick and Olberman years

Scott clears whatever bar there is though. His story is one of social impact and industry dominance. On top of that, the way ESPN and its charity partner, The V Foundation, stood behind Scott during his battle with cancer, allows the company to give the story the Disney Princess treatment and erase any flaws or animosity that may have ever existed. That part isn’t necessary, but since ESPN is owned by Disney, it’s a nice bonus.

For a certain generation, this documentary will be a look back at the glory days of ESPN. The cultural dominance the brand enjoyed in the 90s could have come to an end after Keith Olberman’s exit and the end of Sunday night’s “Big Show,” but Scott’s rivalry with Dan Patrick (real or perceived) was an important part of extending that relevance. I mean, you could find boxer shorts in Disney World with “booyah” and “en fuego” scrawled across the ass at that time. 

Rich Eisen will surely figure prominently in the film. How could he not? He and Scott became the SportsCenter’s new gold standard. Their friendship and chemistry were real. They dealt with each other offscreen with no filter and the onscreen product was better for it. To this day, Eisen gets emotional when talking about his friend.

No one who dies at 49 lived a full life. How could they? There is so much left to do and give. But Stuart Scott packed a lot of life and made a lot of impact in his short time on Earth. 

Maybe you need the benefit of time for a 30 for 30 documentary to make a real impact. Scott died in January 2015. By the time the documentary comes out, a decade will have passed. As someone who was 15 years old when I discovered his voice and remained a fan until his dying day, I have one question. Why did we have to wait so long to get this movie? 

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Seller to Seller: Sandy Cohen, Union Broadcasting

“You are putting people together and you are seen as a connector. People love being connected with other people, and we like to do that with local business owners.”



Graphic for Seller to Seller with Sandy Cohen

In last week’s Seller to Seller feature I had asked several sellers what the hardest part was of selling sports media right now. One of the replies was, “Prospecting, I feel like the number of categories willing to spend what they need to is dwindling.” That response prompted my old foe, Union Broadcasting partner and vice president of sales Sandy Cohen, to reach out to talk further about the topic.

Sandy and Union Broadcasting have been in the game since 1998 in Kansas City where they have Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Kansas City. They also have ESPN Louisville and ESPN Wichita and Cohen oversees sales for all of the properties. I competed against them in Kansas City as the GSM for 610 Sports and learned how well-respected Sandy and his team are in the advertising and business communities as well as how good of a job they do when it comes to servicing clients and building relationships.

Sandy said when he read last week’s piece, a thought kept running through his mind, which was that as an industry, sports media needs more people on the street and a next generation of sellers. He had some great insights on the topic as well as Union Broadcasting had been in a hiring mode recently in Kansas City and he wound up hiring three people with a year or less of experience in the workforce.

When we spoke, I first asked him if we need more or if we need better. As any good salesman would do, he asked for it all. “Yes! We need more, better,” he replied. “I think there’s benefits all the way around. You can increase your sales with more people, and you can energize your existing sales team by hiring brand new salespeople.”

Cohen said they put a full-court-press on recruitment and ran ads on air, on their stream, on their website and all of their social channels. I wondered if people were still excited to work in sports media sales and if they had a solid response.

“We had lots of choices, I was pleased,” Cohen said. He told me they went through a few rounds before inviting some candidates in to make presentations in their conference room. “We looked at how they prepared, how they dressed, did they make eye contact, and did they use props or anything to stand out. Lastly, did they follow up with a thank you and stay in touch throughout the process.”

We talked about what types of things he looks for when screening candidates and he said, “I think they have to have a passion and an interest in sports, be a go-getter with a lot of good energy. I think they need to be money motivated and a self-starter, detail oriented with solid communications skills…If they’re not going to pay attention to the details, they’re not going to make a very good salesperson.”

We agreed that after you go through the difficult process of recruitment and then eventually hiring the new sales talent, the real work begins as now you have to make sure they get trained as best as possible.

As for the training process Cohen uses, he said, “It’s a combination of two things. We have our own in-house training system. We have everything mapped out, what the first two weeks look like, day by day, and then at the end of each day there is a recap. Then it continues, but not as structured as the first two weeks.

“We also use P1 Learning through the Missouri Broadcasters Association which is several weeks and is done in bite-sized pieces. They have homework and video calls and assignments they do to really learn the basics.” Cohen said a couple of the new hires had finished at the top of their P1 Learning class.

“It’s nice because it’s an outside voice, I like the way it is structured, and they go through everything. Beyond that, it is a lot of hands-on attention with new sellers, ongoing training, goal setting, lead distribution, and following up with them on how they are making their contacts. It’s talking to them and seeing what they are experiencing and how we can work on those and that works hand in hand with the formal training.”

I was also curious about the role the other sellers on the team play in training of new hires. Cohen said he is fortunate as he has a lot of senior sellers who are willing to help when called upon.

“We’ve got several veteran sellers who have been with us for 20-plus years,” he said. “So, while they are very busy with their own stuff, they recognize that at some point in their career somebody did that for them as well. They will let the new hires shadow them on calls or spend time with them one on one answering questions.”

Cohen hopes that as an industry, sports media makes a commitment to network with area colleges to form relationships with the professors in business schools or journalism schools to have a chance at some of the top talent coming out of college. “We need to have a presence in these classes and try and be in line when kids are graduating,” he said. “We can bring up the level of interest…it requires a lot of work. But we have to find a way to train new sellers and spend a lot of time with them.”

Of course, once the training wheels are off, at some point the new hires have to perform. We talked about the benchmarks of time as to when you should expect to know what you need to know about a new hire. “In the case of somebody who is fairly new…in six months, are they making progress? One year is definitely a benchmark. I think based on activity, new business, work ethic and habits you have observed you will know…It’s effort and activity and you can teach the nuances of what it means to be a solid individual in our industry.”

As mentioned previously, Sandy and his team are exceptional when it comes to having strong relationships with their clients, built through a quality product but also from the amount of time they spend with their clients and connecting them to one another.

“I just think at its core, what we do is fun,” Cohen said. “Some of the days are going to be long if you’re working all day and then taking someone to a sporting event or whatever it may be. We have always felt like entertainment is what sets us apart and one of the most important aspects of what we do.

“I just think if you’re doing business with someone, why shouldn’t you go and have some fun with them, too? You can certainly just hand them some tickets, but there’s nothing better than experiencing an event or planning a party for a group of clients so that they can all network together. You are putting people together and you are seen as a connector. People love being connected with other people, and we like to do that with local business owners…it becomes almost a club where they all work together because they met at one of our social events.”

Cohen said they try and have at least one significant quarterly entertainment event where they bring large groups of people together in addition to connecting one on one at a sporting event. A couple of recent examples of the larger events included a movie preview where a partnership with a local theater allowed for pre-show fellowship, followed by interaction with a talent who would host the event and then an opportunity for the group to see a movie before it has come out to the public.

Another example was a bus trip to Lawrence, Kansas for a KU-Oklahoma State basketball game which included a behind-the-scenes tour at Allen Fieldhouse. The team broadcasters showed the group the locker rooms and other areas that are not open to the public, followed by a KU chalk-talk and VIP treatment for the game.

In summing it up, Cohen said, “Whenever we can bring groups together like that and have a good time, that’s what we do.”

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Ian Eagle Will Always Remember His First Final Four

“This time is allowing me to exhale a bit and truly appreciate the path.”

Avatar photo



Photo of Ian Eagle
Courtesy: For The Win

Over the course of his career, Ian Eagle has called what seems like a million basketball games.  His approach for all of those games, whether it was the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets, nationally televised NBA games, or college basketball games, has always been the same.  And when it came to taking over as the new play by play voice for the Final Four last week in Arizona, Eagle remained consistent with that approach.

Eagle subscribes to theory that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fit it”. 

“I recognized that I didn’t want to make sweeping changes to my approach because it was a bigger stage,” said Eagle.  “I wanted to be myself and do the games the way that I’ve done them for a number of years now and I think that comes with experience and maturity and muscle memory.  I do think that having done so many NCAA Tournaments put me in a very advantageous position of knowing what I was walking into.”

One part of that approach was to have fun.  It’s certainly a job that comes with a big responsibility because of the big stage and the number of eyeballs that are on you, but doing play by play is a lot of fun and a really cool job to have, no matter what sport or what level.

In Eagle’s case, he made sure that he was not only prepared for the job at hand, but he also made sure he was having a good time with his crew that included Bill Raftery, Grant Hill and Tracy Wolfson.

“We had a blast,” said Eagle.  “I made a conscious effort to remind myself to enjoy it.  Sometimes in life, we forget that it’s supposed to be fun, and it’s supposed to be joyous.  I had this sense of calm just before going on air for the Final Four.  I didn’t feel nerves.  I didn’t feel stressed.  I felt in the moment and comfortable and excited.”

This was a moment for Eagle that had been in the works for a few years and something that he certainly had been thinking about.  When it was first reported that legendary play by play announcer Jim Nantz would be winding down his long run as the voice of the Final Four, it had been suggested that Eagle was going to be the heir apparent.

In October of 2022, CBS and Turner Sports announced that the 2023 Final Four would be the final one for Nantz and that Eagle would take over in 2024.

For Eagle, it was big shoes to fill succeeding Nantz, but he knew the transition would be smooth and that his job was not to be Jim Nantz but to simply be Ian Eagle.

“I think because it was being discussed over the course of a few years, I never felt that level of enormity,” said Eagle.  “For me, it was recognizing that Jim was synonymous with this event and respecting the run that he was on.  It was incredible.  No one is ever going to match it so why think of it in those terms?  Just go do your job and be you.”

Perhaps this could be viewed as a “passing the baton moment,” but on the day before the national semifinals, a message came up on Eagle’s phone.

It was from Nantz.

“Yeah, he texted me on Friday,” said Eagle.  “We had a really nice exchange.  I think he was being very respectful with the job that I had to do.  There’s a high level of respect between the two of us.”

Even before the Final Four, Eagle had established himself as one of the great play-by-play voices in sports broadcasting.  From his days as a student at Syracuse University to his early days at WFAN in New York, to being the radio and television voice of the Nets and national NBA and NFL games, Eagle had already accomplished so much in this industry.

A premier event like the Final Four seemed like the appropriate next chapter of his career.

“It felt very much like the next step,” said Eagle.  “I think all of your experiences play a role in some way.  Even while you’re experiencing them, you have no idea how that’s going to affect you down the road.”

It has been quite a ride for Eagle, and it was a road that started as a producer at WFAN before that run morphed into an on-air role hosting and ultimately becoming the radio voice of the New York Jets.

The road to the top has to start somewhere and for Eagle it was at the nation’s first sports radio station.

“My time at ‘FAN…I learned so much,” said Eagle.  “I was around some of the most legendary figures in sports radio history and I benefited greatly from osmosis of being in this really unique situation that helped me when I got the next job and then the next job and then the next job.”

From hosting “Bagels and Baseball” on WFAN to doing play-by-play for the Final Four, it’s been quite a ride for Ian Eagle.

“It’s pretty wild if I take a step back and think about it but when you’re in the moment, you don’t necessarily reflect,” said Eagle. “This time is allowing me to exhale a bit and truly appreciate the path.”

And who knows where that path is going to take him next.

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