Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame Inducts Seven, Supports Sports Broadcasting Fund
The Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame inducted its seventh class on Tuesday night during an evening that recognized individuals who have created extraordinary legacies at ABC Sports, ESPN, NBC Sports, and so many other broadcasters around the world.
Hosted by NBC Sunday Night Football analyst Cris Collinsworth, this year’s ceremony honored seven sports-broadcasting greats: former NBC and ESPN production executive Scotty Connal; CTV Outside Broadcast Managing Director Barry Johnstone; COO of NFL Films/SVP of NFL Broadcasting Howard Katz; NBC Sports broadcaster Al Michaels; ESPN EVP of Technology/CTO Chuck Pagano; YES Network Technical Manager Joe Schiavo; and the “Father of Sports Aerial Broadcasting” Mickey Wittman.
Once again, all table sales from the celebration will be donated to the Sports Broadcasting Fund, which supports industry members in times of need. In addition, Program Productions took the occasion to announce that it has made the SVG Fund the primary beneficiary of all its donations, including an initial contribution of $250,000.
This year’s ceremony honored not only the leaders who laid the foundation of today’s U.S.-based sports broadcasting but also those who have led the effort abroad. Barry Johnstone, who has spent 33 years as managing director of CTV Outside Broadcasts, one of Europe’s leading mobile-production-truck providers, became the first Europe-based inductee to enter the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
“I am absolutely honored and humbled to be standing here tonight accepting this award,” said Johnstone. “As many people have said before at these ceremonies, this is not about one person. I didn’t win this award; my teams won this award. Without my colleagues at CTV, some of whom I’ve known for 30 years, we could never have done the jobs. And the second team is equally important: my team at home, my beautiful wife and children.”
Leaving a legacy in an organization is something many people can dream of. But leaving a lasting legacy in two important organizations? That is what the late Scotty Connal accomplished. During a 49-year career, he not only helped NBC News and Sports rise to the top but also played a key role in ESPN’s journey. Connal, who died in 1996 during the Atlanta Olympics, was honored by his son Bruce at the ceremony.
“Scotty had a love for sports, and that is what drove him to cover them at every possible angle,” said Bruce Connal. “He also had an intense desire, an extraordinary drive, and natural ability to lead. He believed in taking risks and creating opportunity, as was evident when he left NBC in 1979 to start a new chapter. He touched many people’s lives and left a lasting impression on the people he had the opportunity to work with.”
While Scotty Connal was helping lay the foundation of ESPN’s production philosophy in those early days, Chuck Pagano was already helping establish the network as a technology leader and innovator, a duty he continues to serve. Pagano joined ESPN as a technical director prior to its debut in 1979 and, in rising to his current post, has established himself as one of the great technical and exploratory minds the sports-broadcast industry has to offer.
“[After starting out as a DJ], I found what my real purpose in life was: science, engineering, and the necessary mathematics that helped to facilitate answers to the piles of questions that I was developing,” he said. “There are only five of us who are still there from before [ESPN launched], and I am so proud to be a member of the ESPN class of ’79.”
Next up was Howard Katz, who wrote his own chapter in the ESPN story during his six years as EVP of production in Bristol, CT. But that was just one stop on Katz’s multifaceted 40-plus–year career path. He has played key production and programming roles over the years at IMG Trans World International, Ohlmeyer Communications Co. (OCC), and ESPN. In 1999, he was named president of ABC Sports, completing a full-circle career that had begun in 1971 at the house Roone Arledge built.
“So much of whatever success I’ve achieved can be traced back to my mentors and the people I worked with,” said Katz. “To all of you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for this tremendous honor. My life and career have been filled with a lifetime of stories and memories. For over 42 years, it’s been my great privilege and honor to work in this industry among you.”
Like Katz, inductee Joe Schiavo began his storied career at ABC Sports, where so many Hall of Famers earned their stripes under the tutelage of sports-broadcasting legends Arledge and Don Ohlmeyer. Schiavo worked at ABC Sports for more than three decades, most notably as the technical director on Monday Night Football for 22 years, before joining YES Network as senior technical director in 2002, where he continues today.
“I was lucky enough to work at ABC in the fantastic era, and I’ll be forever grateful,” said Schiavo. “And then to have the opportunity to work at YES [Network]. Well, somebody up there likes me to give me these positions in life.”
While Schiavo was in the truck for all those Monday Night Football telecasts, Mickey Wittman was almost always along for the ride — either in the truck or in the sky. Today, no major sports event is produced without the aid of aerial blimp or plane coverage. However, without Wittman’s work, that likely would not be the case. During his 42 years in sports broadcasting, largely spent overseeing Goodyear’s fleet of blimps, Wittman helped make the blimp camera a staple of nearly every major sportscast. In addition, he led the aerial coverage during ABC Sports’ coverage of the San Francisco earthquake that hit during the 1989 World Series, where he also met his wife, Susan.
“Goodness, that was a long career,” Wittman said. “While I like the recognition of being a Hall of Famer, I much prefer being known as a father of daughters and a husband. Without my wife, Susan, taking over both roles [as parent], I could never have spent all those years on the road making the world safe for product placement. If I deserve this, then she deserves sainthood.”
The evening concluded on a high note as on-air legend Al Michaels joined his long-time booth mates Frank Gifford (2012 inductee) and John Madden (2011) in the Hall of Fame. Michaels chronicled a career that has included announcing more major primetime sports events than any other sportscaster — and he’s still going strong. In all, Michaels has manned the booth for more than 400 primetime NFL games (and counting) in a 40-plus–year career and is the only play-by-play commentator/host to cover all four major U.S. pro-sports championships: the Super Bowl (six times), World Series (eight), NBA Finals (two), and the Stanley Cup Final (three).
“The years have gone by so fast because it’s just been so much fun,” Michaels said. “It has been an unbelievable run for me. I’m so blessed to be a part of this business. It is a business that so many people would love to be a part of, and all of us have been a part of this for so long. We are a very lucky group.”