December 17, 2009
Internet radio lets SUNY reach beyond Cortland
The broadcasts have become a staple of Red Dragon athletics since beginning 3 years ago
Bobby Comstock Jr. and SUNY Cortland junior Sean Cassin described a college hockey game’s action Saturday on radio — and people as far away as Europe heard them.
They broadcast the game over Internet radio, yet another example of how things have changed in the online technology age.
Standing on a deck overlooking center ice in Alumni Arena, as the Red Dragons men’s team played Neumann University, Comstock narrated the play-by-play and Cassin, a sport management major, offered color commentary.
“(Mike) Friel has the puck at the blue line, winds up, a blast — and that’s a save,” Comstock said in his deep voice. He kept up a running portrayal of who was passing the puck, shooting it, checking another player, getting a penalty.
Wearing microphones on headsets, they looked like a typical radio team, bringing a college sport to listeners.
As Comstock and Cassin spoke, the parents of SUNY Cortland hockey players from Sweden, Michigan, Washington, Nebraska and Florida listened through their computers.
Internet radio has become a staple of Red Dragon athletics, after beginning three years ago with just a game here and there. The games are broadcast only via the Internet.
Comstock, program director for WXHC 101.5 FM radio in Homer, has found a new audience of SUNY Cortland alumni, parents and fans.
People log on or tell him via e-mail that they are listening to his broadcast, so he knows that sometimes, during NCAA playoff games in hockey, basketball or lacrosse, up to 500 people are hearing him.
“Radio is radio,” said Comstock, a 29-year veteran of sports radio. “This just reaches a wider range of people.”
The college also can have two sports events broadcast at once, through the Internet.
But the real value for the college has been Internet radio’s reach far beyond the air waves. WXHC or another local radio station would not be heard beyond Central New York.
Football was the only SUNY Cortland sport broadcast by radio regularly on WXHC, until Internet radio technology came along and the college signed Comstock to do other sports.
WXHC is a 3,000-watt station that reaches just beyond Cortland County and as far as the hills above Ithaca, 30 miles away.
The college’s student-run FM station, WSUC 90.5, also has a local reach. The station can be heard via the Internet. But the station’s programming — news, talk shows, NPR shows — varies according to students’ schedules and the academic calendar. The college contracts with Comstock for sports broadcasts other than football.
Last Friday, Comstock did play-by-play for men’s and women’s basketball at Corey Gym while, down the hall at the arena, Cassin and graduate student Dan Bronson did play-by-play for men’s hockey.
“It’s become a real educational tool,” Comstock said. “Sean started doing radio a year ago September, so this gives him experience. Dan has done radio before.”
Listeners can go to the SUNY Cortland athletics Web site and click on a microphone icon, which connects them to the broadcast. If more than one game is being covered, they choose which to listen to.
The hockey team’s three sophomore forwards from Sweden — twins Marcus and Martin Oeberg and Erik Norqvist — have been especially happy. Their parents listen, even with the six-hour time difference.
“Sometimes my mom stays up late to hear the games, even when she has to go to work the next day,” said Marcus Oeberg. “It helps me connect with them. We talk on Skype (online real-time visual system) but this way they can hear the games.”
His mother, a preschool teacher, and his father, an engineer, often stay up until 1 a.m. to hear Comstock’s broadcast.
“They think he does a good job,” Oeberg said. “They say it sounds like an NHL game.”
Not just players benefit. Fran Elia, the college’s director of athletic communications, said the parents of Jeannette Mosher, the women’s basketball coach, can listen to her team’s games back in her native Indiana.
“Bobby has done more sports, in fact some sports that were never on radio before,” Elia said. “You can play the radio broadcast while you do something else, even while you do other things online. It’s really been a great thing for us.”
Bronson, who taught social studies at Cortland High School before entering the SUNY Cortland sport management master’s program, began doing sports broadcasting in his native Potsdam and continued as assistant sports information director at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, a job he held before teaching.
Cassin said he likes bringing his experience as a high school hockey player in Massapequa, Long Island, to his new pursuit.
“I would love to try this as a career, but it’s very competitive,” he said. “It would be ideal.”
But the other value is the reach that Internet radio gives to SUNY Cortland.
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