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Q&A with Clay Matvick

ESPN College Football Play-by-Play Announcer

An Inside Look at Building a Career as a Sports Play-by-Play Announcer

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If you are looking for a common thread amongst sports play-by-play announcers you’ll find that most were inspired by an event that stuck with them from their youth.

That was surely the case for ESPN College Football play-by-play announcer Clay Matvick, "My greatest sports memory was the 1980 Olympic hockey team’s Gold Medal at Lake Placid." recalls the up-and-coming star Matvick, "It’s one of my earliest sports memories and still my favorite. I can recite Al Michaels on-camera open from the telecast still to this day."

When did you decide that you wanted to work in Sports TV?

My dad started in radio when I was 7. I was immediately interested in the business and I’ve never veered from this career path. Besides news dad handled a lot of high school and small college play-by-play and it didn’t take long before my mind was made up, I wanted to be at the games behind the microphone.

Clay Matvick’s Sports TV “Stats”

clay matvick sports play by play announcerEducation: St. Cloud State, Minnesota

Production Jobs held: Video Editor, Cameraman, Producer, Reporter, Sportscaster, Play-by-Play announcer

Stations worked at: WQPM – Radio (Minnesota), KDLT-TV (Sioux Falls, SD), KMTV (Omaha, Neb), CNN/Sports Illustrated (Atlanta, GA), Fox Sports North (Minnesota), ESPN & ESPNU

Best piece of advice:. Learn to communicate, you have to be able to express yourself specifically and accurately, those that can communicate hold a lot of power.

Most Memorable Interview: Harmon Killebrew. He is considered by many to be the greatest Minnesota Twins player of all-time. Harmon not only played the game at a high level but he is perhaps the nicest person I ever met with that kind of celebrity.

You went to St. Cloud State in Minnesota, did it help you in your Sports TV career?

It did and still does have a very good broadcasting program. I would say I was able to hit the ground running. I thought I was going to begin a career in radio but after being exposed to the television program at SCSU I was hooked.

Where did you land your first job in Sports TV?

My first job was at WQPM radio in my hometown of Princeton, MN. I started when I was 16. I had a good contact, my dad again. My first TV job was as the weekend sportscaster at the NBC affiliate in Sioux Falls, SD. I learned a lot in those first two years because we had a tiny staff and I had to shoot, write, produce, report and anchor. It was a bit like TV boot camp.

How has your career developed since that first Sports TV job?

My next job in TV was in Omaha, Nebraska at the CBS affiliate. This was a nice upgrade in pay, responsibility and assignments. Primarily I was covering the Nebraska football team which was fresh-off a national title. Omaha is also home to the College World Series and Creighton University which made 2 NCAA men’s basketball tournaments when I was there.

I was in Nebraska for 2 years before I got the biggest break of my career. I was spotted by a television talent scout who happened to live in Nebraska and he passed my tape onto CNN Sports in Atlanta. Next thing I know I’m working for a national network at 26-years old. I primarily handled Sportscaster duties for CNN Sports Illustrated, a 24-hour sports network based in Atlanta. By this time I was a long way from my radio roots and the play-by-play I enjoyed doing so much, but Sportscasting was treating me well and my career was taking off so I wasn’t complaining.

After 2 years in Atlanta I was able to come back to Minnesota and work for Fox Sports Net covering the Twins, Wild, Vikings and Gophers. I was primarily a pre- and post-game host but I was able to fill-in on about 25 Twins and Wild games as the play-by-play announcer. It was toward the end of my 4 years with FSN that I really got the itch to get back to play-by-play and before long I was in touch with the people at ESPN Regional TV in Charlotte, North Carolina. ESPNU was just getting off the ground and it seemed like a perfect time to shift gears with my career.

What is a normal ‘Game Day’ like for you?

I travel to almost every event I do. There is a travel department which makes life easier but I’d say getting to and from the game is about 30% of the job. Once I’m on sight I connect with the rest of the crew especially the producer and my analyst. We usually take in a practice or walk-through the day before depending on the sport. That’s where we’ll meet with coaches and the Sports Information Director.

Once we have all of the stories we’ll sit down to discuss the next day’s show. I’ll usually head to the arena or stadium two and a half to three hours before the event starts. Then it’s game time. That’s the easy part. clay matvick on ice interview

What is the hardest thing about working in Sports TV?

Working nights and weekends. I’ve been in the business for over 20 years and I’m still working nights, weekends and holidays. Probably always will and that’s O.K.

What advice would you give someone looking to work in Sports TV?

My advice to anyone looking to get into broadcasting either on or off-air: Learn to communicate! I sense an awful trend where young people are addicted to texting, the internet, video games etc…In order to be in the communications field you have to be able to express yourself specifically and accurately. My wife gets resumes from young people looking for jobs at her publishing company. Many times they will include spelling mistakes, slang and text abbreviation (LOL, JK, & OMG). If this trend continues, believe me, the people who can communicate will hold a lot of power.harmon killebrew courtesy twins digest

Who have you interviewed that made the most lasting impression?

Harmon Killebrew. He is considered by many to be the greatest Minnesota Twins player of all-time. Harmon not only played the game to a high level but he is perhaps the nicest person I ever met with that kind of celebrity. He hit 573 home runs during his career and never forgot his small town Idaho roots. When you get an autograph from Harmon Killebrew you can read every letter. He always prided himself on his penmanship. You can imagine the joy when I went to work covering the Twins and had a chance to meet Mr. Killebrew. I was even more aglow when he remembered my name upon our next encounter.

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