Award-Winning WFUV NFL Draft Coverage
2004 was the first time...and then back-to-back in 2007 and 2008. WFUV was awarded theaward for Best Coverage of a Local Sporting Event by The New York State Broadcasters Association. Back in 2004 Pat Reichart wrote a story about that first award
By Pat Reichart
Finally, our day had arrived.
Textbooks and term papers and upcoming finals seemed far, far away. Today was all about taking the next step. Today, after years of hard work, we were finally going to go pro.
Live from Madison Square Garden, it was NFL Draft Day - and this was our draft.
April 24, 2004
The sun shone brightly on the campus of Fordham University, announcing the arrival of spring to the students at Rose Hill - many of whom had yet to arise and receive the message. Not far from the entrance to campus, we silently stood in the shadow of the south goalpost, four months removed from the last home game.
Each of us was clumsily clad in jacket and tie (crooked, in most cases) as the sun reflected in our recently styled hair. We glanced at each other, the sky, the ground – anywhere to pass the time. Soon, we knew, the van would arrive and carry us downtown to the Garden. Any minute now…
Only six of us were to make the trip to Midtown. Two more would venture out to Long Island and New Jersey, respectively. The final pair, which included me, would stay behind, as planned, to hang on Commissioner Tagliabue’s every word. Still, we huddled together on the sidewalk like the teammates we were, waiting for the day to begin.
We knew how much this meant. Draft day had made careers for some Rams in the past, and there was no reason we couldn’t be next. We had worked as hard as they did in our time here, and we deserved to be recognized for it, as they were. Ultimately, however, we knew it was all up to us.
The van pulled up at 10:03, noticeably late to us. We were masters of clock management. We bid our farewells and wished each other good luck and, in an instant, our huddle was broken. The draft was less than two hours away. Years in the making, finally, our time was now.
The sound of a phone ringing is to any radio producer what a fire alarm is to most of us – an instant attention-grabber. As the shrill sound pierced the dull moan of the studio’s air-conditioning vents, I dutifully jumped into action, picked up the receiver, and was relieved to hear Tom’s voice on the other end. Hurriedly, he told me he three words I most wanted to hear: “We’re all connected.”
Tom Winter was our on-site engineer. He knew he was skilled and could have a future in the business, and he worked hard to become the best engineer at the station.
Oh yeah, the station…
Back in the fall of 2001, as freshmen at Fordham, each of us had an interest in sports broadcasting, and so we applied for and were eventually given jobs at WFUV, Fordham’s on-campus 50,000-watt public radio station. Working at WFUV is a privilege as well as an honor at Rose Hill. In a number of surveys, the station is annually ranked as one of the five best college radio stations in the country.
The sports department at the station boasted an alumni that was a virtual “Who’s Who” in New York broadcasting circles. Chris Carrino (play-by-play, Nets Basketball, WOR Radio), Michael Kay (play-by-play, Yankees Baseball, YES Network), Bob Papa (play-by-play, Giants football, WFAN Radio), and Mike Breen (play-by-play, Knicks Basketball, WFAN Radio) are just a few of the noteworthy alums to go on to successful careers after leaving WFUV.
Tom knew this when he applied for work at “The ‘Fuv,” as did all of his coworkers. They each dreamed, and, in many cases, planned on matching the success of those who had preceded them. First, however, each student knew he had to successfully complete his four years at Fordham, and, for Tom, he first had to survive the draft show.
This was no easy task for an on-site engineer. Broadcasting live from the NFL Draft involved a careful balance of two hosts, three reporters, the press conference room podium, and, most importantly, Commissioner Tagliabue’s microphone. These, of course, all had to be monitored while following instructions from a producer (me) on the other end of a phone line and while not getting distracted by the thousands of fans in attendance who, this year, were especially boisterous, as the number-one pick was rumored to be headed to their local heroes – the Giants.
Oh yeah, and this is all going to be broadcast live. No pressure, though.
“Great,” I said, upon hearing the good news from Tom. “I’ll go put an intro together.”
Five seconds to air.
In the hour or so that had elapsed, I had mixed just over a minute of music from the NFL Films CD, which I intended to play under the Commish’s announcement of the first four picks. (Starting at noon, the draft’s first four selections had already been made). Tom had sent back recordings of the top four selections just before the show started. I had cut the sound just in time, finishing just five seconds before we were to hit the airwaves.
I glanced at Sixto Rivero, my engineer, next to me. We had the same look on our face; one of nervous, almost frightened anticipation. This was our time to shine. It was now or never.
”Good afternoon everyone, and welcome to One on One, New York’s longest-running sports call-in show, live from the floor at the NFL Draft!”
With Nick Kostos’ welcome, we were officially on the air.
Sixto slowly faded the intro music away, and Nick suddenly found himself in the middle of one of the most important drafts in the history of New York sports. The Giants had just selected Phillip Rivers with the fourth overall selection, meaning only one thing – New York was likely to trade with San Diego for the first overall pick, quarterback Eli Manning. This was huge, and Nick knew it.
Growing up, Nick was a virtual slave to the AM radio dial. He listened to more sports radio than anyone else I know, and he retained nearly all of what he had heard. After coming to Fordham with the goal of working at WFUV, Nick had been educated in the tricks of the trade by some of the experts, and this was his first big chance to demonstrate his abilities. He knew how many people were listening, and what this could mean. His adrenaline, if properly channeled, could elevate this show to legendary status.
Across the desk from him was his co-host, Nick Andrusisian. “Andro” to all of his buddies, Nick was from Philly, and an absolute football addict. He knew he was treading in enemy territory by going to school in New York, but part of him got a kick out of it. He too had found his way to the station with dreams of going pro, and, with the Giants about to pull off their biggest move in decades, his perspective would prove to be valuable – a calm, at times even pessimistic voice among the ensuing jubilation of Elimania.
The show got off to a strong start, with each Nick making strong points and partaking in loud, opinionated debates. The announcement of each pick was broadcast live, on the air, and we were able to listen in on a few of the recent draftees’ press conferences. All was flowing smoothly at MSG, but just as I was contemplating taking a deep breath, the phone rang again.
“Accorsi is coming out for a press conference in the next two minutes. What should I do?”
The semi-panicked question came from Mike Pesca-Santise, who was at Giants Stadium covering the beat at the team's war room. Big Blue had just traded for Manning, as expected, and one of the biggest press conferences of the year was about to go down, nearly completely unannounced.
When posed with questions like this, producers usually lament a lack of preparation on their part and deal with the situation as it develops. However, in this situation, inspiration struck Mike, and he quickly concocted a plan that would establish both he, and the entire show, as the most informative source for Giants information on draft day.
Instead of recording the press conference, he instead devised a method whereby he would feed the podium sound to us through his cell phone. By doing this, I would be able to broadcast the press conference live on the air. After outlining his plan, I quickly accepted it, and in seconds, Accorsi was live on WFUV – and nowhere else.
Miraculously, a bunch of college kids from the Bronx had managed to become the only station to have the Giants’ press conference live on the air, and, in the sports-obsessed radio market that is New York, we knew how much that meant.
The show had taken off from there.
Our collective confidence had gone through the roof with the exclusive press conference broadcast, and the show was going exceptionally well.
At this point, the first dozen players had been drafted, and it was time for our beat reporters at the Garden to keep the show going.
Greg Giombarrese, one of the show’s reporters, was already doing a fine job. He was in charge of monitoring the conference room all afternoon, and he was able to provide us with a number of sound clips from various press conferences. The other two reporters there were Kenny Pordon and Jake Sklarew, and it became their responsibility to track down the biggest names they could and bring them to our broadcast location for exclusive interviews.
Jake was currently picking his way through the Radio City crowd, but he wasn’t alone. In tow was Ben Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first-round selection and the eleventh overall pick. Regarded as the second-best quarterback in the draft, this was an impressive one-on-one interview to land. We kept him on for a few minutes, and, afterwards, sent it to the Meadowlands for another exclusive – Tom Coughlin’s press conference on the Manning trade.
With two hours gone and only one to go, we were flying high at “The ‘Fuv.” We knew how good this show had been, and, if we could finish well, how important this could be to our careers.
Now it was Kenny Pordon's turn. After Jake had snagged Roethlisberger, Kenny worked hard on nailing down a top-ten pick, but those interviews didn’t come easily. His hour of work finally paid great dividends, however, when he saw the smile on Nick’s face as he welcomed Robert Gallery to the show.
Kenny had gotten an exclusive with the second overall pick. This was too good to be true.
After a few minutes with Gallery, Nick sent it to Joe Buono, who was at the Jets’ war room on Long Island, where he gave a live update on the happenings of the afternoon for Gang Green. Included it in were clips from a conference call just held with Jets head coach Herman Edwards.
After another segment of quality analysis and the end of the show in sight, lightning struck again at the Meadowlands, and in no time WFUV was airing Eli Manning’s first press conference in his brand new number ten jersey – exclusively.
The last ten or so minutes were spent recapping the draft, as the excitement and pride boomed from Nick’s voice over the entire tri-state area.
He knew we had nailed it; we all did. A bunch of college kids had just covered the 2004 NFL Draft better than any other radio station, anywhere.
As the cymbal crash ending the closing credits faded into oblivion, we knew they had done it. Not quite sure of exactly what we had accomplished, we still inherently knew that, collectively, we had put together something great, with each of them putting forth professional-quality efforts.
It was just Sixto and I back at the studio, and, short of a hearty handshake and a pat on the back, there was no celebration to be had. Downtown, in the company of Nick, Tom, Nick, Greg, Jake, and Kenny, there were dozens of other college upperclassmen with smiles on their faces. They had multi-million dollar signing bonuses in their future. The WFUV crew had little but a van to ride back to campus in.
Still, their smiles were just as wide.
It felt great to know that we had accomplished our goal and put together the best draft show in the history of the station. Still, we couldn’t help but feeling somewhat empty and unrewarded.
April 26, 2004
The show seemed days ago as I sat in my dorm room, relaxing after my first class of the day. Again, a ringing phone pierced the silence, and, begrudgingly, I answered. The call was from Bob Ahrens, the Executive Producer of WFUV Sports. He told me he was very proud of the draft show, and that he was going to submit it to the New York State Broadcasters Association for consideration in their annual award contest. We were nominated for Best Coverage of a Local Sporting Event.
Best Coverage of a Local Sporting Event...in New York City. This was one of those rare situations in life where just being nominated was a tremendous accomplishment. We couldn't have been more proud of the job we had done.
June 22, 2004
Lake George was beautiful this time of year.
The cool night air massaged my face as I gazed out the open car window and into the sea of stars above me. There were so many stars. It was a striking scene to a bunch of college kids spending their summers in the Bronx.
"So Bob," piped up Nick Kostos, breaking the silence, "which stars do you think are brighter right now - the ones in the sky, or the two you have in your backseat?"
"Stop it," replied Bob, chuckling. "Seriously guys, I'm very proud of you."
Nick and I made eye contact and, as the smiles began to creep across our faces, our grip grew just a little tighter on the trophy in between us. We had done it. We had beaten the big boys...all of them, and dammit it felt good.
Forget Elimania. On NFL Draft Day, we were the real number ones, and, much to our delight, someone else had noticed.