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University of Missouri

Dream Jobs

Mizzou is well represented at the SEC ESPN Network.

Illustration by Blake Dinsdale; photos by Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images; props courtesy of The Mizzou Store.

Illustration by Blake Dinsdale; photos by Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images; props courtesy of The Mizzou Store.

Mizzou sports fans in the digital age have grown accustomed to expansive coverage of their beloved Tigers. On Aug. 14, black-and-gold exposure reached an all-time high with the launch of the SEC ESPN Network.

Airing 450 events in its first year, including approximately 45 football games and more than 100 men’s basketball games, the SEC Network will provide 24/7 programming about the Southeastern Conference’s 14 institutions.

Naturally, with the nation’s foremost journalism school on its campus, Mizzou is well represented at the Worldwide Leader in Sports. But not all MU alumni at ESPN studied primarily at the J-School.

Here, a handful of MU graduates discuss their lives as students, alumni and professionals.

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John Anderson

John Anderson, BJ ’87

Favorite Mizzou athletics memory while a student-athlete: “My first Big Eight indoor track meet in Lincoln, Nebraska. We were expected to finish seventh according to the coaches’ poll. Mizzou track and field Coach Bob Teel stood in front of the squad, a gentleman in every sense of the word, and informed us seventh would be fine as long as the eighth-place team was — (and then he took a long, long pause). Finally, he just said, ‘Men, I would rather spit than be a Jayhawk!’ We finished second.”

Most excitable (rabid, boisterous) alumni — from any SEC institution — at SEC ESPN Network: “Florida people seem to think they are quite special. And I was unaware the basketball was square until Adolph Rupp at Kentucky decided it should be round.”

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Kendra Walter

Kendra Walter, BA ’10

Favorite memory of Mizzou life: “[During a] snow day in 2006, my first-floor Hudson hallmates and I made the most of it. We stayed up all night chatting, daring people to go outside in their swimsuits, taking pictures and avoiding homework. It really helped us build better friendships with the people we had lived with for several months, and it’s something we still laugh about today.”

Most excitable (rabid, boisterous) alumni — from any SEC institution — at SEC ESPN Network: “I might be biased, but I can’t think of any outspoken SEC fan at ESPN who isn’t a Mizzou alumnus.”

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Rick Metzroth

Rick Metzroth, BJ ’06

The most excitable (rabid, boisterous) alumni — from any SEC institution — at the SEC ESPN Network: “It’s hard for me to contain my passion when watching Mizzou at work sometimes, and a lot of people I work with would say I’m the most excitable SEC fan they know. But I have to give that title to Auburn fans — every one of them lives and dies with each game. There’s no such thing as a casual Auburn fan.”

How Mizzou makes the SEC more interesting: “Mizzou has always been fairly evenly split by producing both good football and basketball teams, and that’s a rarity in the SEC. I’m happy to see that Mizzou is increasing the conference’s profile across all sports, but a successful football team is certainly a plus.”

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Seth Wickersham

Seth Wickersham, BJ ’00

Most vivid memories of life in Columbia and at Mizzou: “They’re all blurry. That’s what made them fun. No, it’s not really one memory but rather the collective feeling of an era. It was an era in which we covered the Super Bowl [for the Missourian] as college kids. It was an era in which big dreams seemed possible, if we worked hard enough. I was so fortunate for my friends at the sports desk: Wright Thompson and others. We were ambitious and obnoxious and competitive, not against one another, but against the world.”

Most enjoyable aspect about his job: “Too many to single out just one. But I grew up wanting to write magazine stories, and I have never taken that for granted. For 13 years I’ve worked at a place that gives its writers time and space and resources. It’s all you can ask for.”

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Wright Thompson

Wright Thompson, BJ ’01

What Mizzou brought to the SEC that makes the conference more interesting or fun: “Mizzou has brought a window into the orbit so many students have known and loved: little burgers and Stag longnecks at Booche’s, mouth-scalding pizza at Shakespeare’s, and music at the Blue Note, bottomless cups at the Fieldhouse, and the way three generations throw a football around the Quad in the shadow of the Columns.

Initial reaction upon learning Mizzou would join the SEC: “It seemed odd to me because Mizzou never struck me as Southern. It always felt Midwestern to me. That being said, I always thought Mizzou would do well.”

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James Bowdon

James Bowdon, BJ ’80

Favorite Mizzou athletics memory while a student: “The Mizzou football team beat Notre Dame 3-0 [Sept. 9, 1978] in South Bend, Indiana, but everyone went to Faurot Field anyway, tore down the goal posts and took them to Bullwinkle’s.”

How Mizzou makes the SEC more interesting: “Mizzou is right at the top of the conference in terms of academics. It brings two big TV markets (Kansas City and St. Louis) to the conference. It will be interesting to see if being in the SEC affects the way the state of Missouri starts thinking of itself.”

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Russell LaFleur

Russell LaFleur, BS ’11

Favorite Mizzou athletics memory while a student-athlete: “I made my way from Texas by way of a baseball scholarship. Mizzou played Texas Christian University in the 2010 Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park where I hit my first career home run to lead off the game in front of 50-plus family and friends.”

How Mizzou makes the SEC more interesting: “We bring high character student-athletics, a competitive spirit in all of our sports, and a dedication to academics that fits right in and enhances what was already a great conference.”

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Tom Friend

Tom Friend, BJ ’83

What he enjoys most about his job: “I get the chance to tell human interest stories for both mediums. You hear people say all the time, ‘I liked the book, but I loved the movie.’ Or, ‘I liked the movie, but I loved the book.’ I get to do both the movie and the book. It’s perfect.”

The best thing about Mizzou’s football success in 2013: “My son goes to school with a girl whose father is a die-hard Georgia fan. Our first year in the SEC, he kidded me quite a bit about ‘grown man football.’ He had nothing to say in 2013 — his silence was golden.”

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Thom Griffin

Thom Griffin, BJ ’09

What he enjoys most about his job: “I most enjoy being in an all-sports, all-the-time environment every day. I also love that while everyone on campus takes the job seriously, they also realize that at the end of the day, we are bringing people sports, and it is an awesome privilege.”

The best example at ESPN of SEC passion: “The newsroom exploding and the reactions of alumni on both sides when Auburn returned the missed field goal against Alabama this past season — unbelievable night to be at work!”

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Julie Turner

Julie Turner, BJ ’06

Reaction when she first learned Mizzou would join the SEC: “My first thought was what would happen to our rivalry with Kansas. I was at Mizzou Arena for the last home game against KU. The Tigers’ win was the perfect ending to the rivalry, for now. I hope they’re able to work something out to play again.”

How Mizzou permeates her personal life: “I’m dating Mizzou alumnus and ESPNer Rick Metzroth — we met at Mizzou. We have two cats, Chase and Dani, named after former Tiger quarterback Chase Daniel.”

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John Walsh

John Walsh, MA ’69

Most vivid memories of life in Columbia and at Mizzou:  After putting to bed the Missourian, “We would go to the Heidelberg and listen to John Fogerty singing ‘Who’ll Stop the Rain’ until 2 in the morning. It was fun. [The late] Jo Ann Dickerson, MA ’71, to this day one of the great mentors in my life, gave us all the confidence in the world. One of the great things about my time at Missouri was to hear [journalism Professor] Jo Ann say, ‘I have been in this business for a while, I see what you’re doing, and it’s really good.’ At my age, to hear that from someone who had spent 15 years in daily newspapers in Texas was the most gratifying and inspirational talk I could ever have.”

Most memorable experience at Mizzou: “I had a fabulous experience at the Columbia Missourian. It was Midwestern, and it was low-key, but it was intense in that if you wanted to be ambitious — which I think we were at the time — you could be ambitious. You could take a four-page sports section and expand it to 18 pages on Sunday morning after a Mizzou football game.”

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Amy Brachmann

Amy Brachmann, BJ ’10, MA ’11

Reaction when she first learned Mizzou would join the SEC: “I was excited; it’s more exposure and attention for the school. I knew in the short-term it would be a rough go, but I had confidence Mizzou would get on par with the rest of the SEC sports programs.”

Favorite Mizzou athletics moment as an MU student: “Beating then-No. 1 Oklahoma in our Homecoming game my senior year”

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Tom Hart

Tom Hart, BA ’98

Most vivid memories of life in Columbia and at Mizzou: “When Notre Dame came to town in 1984, my brother and I sold candy bars in the parking lots for our school fundraiser. I was sent into the ABC production truck by a friendly cameraman to hand one to the producer. I bought my own football season tickets as a 13-year-old, and I passed campus every day on the way to Rock Bridge High School, so it was inevitable I would end up at Mizzou.”

Most memorable experience at Mizzou: “Growing up a Mizzou fan was a lesson in character building, because the most vivid memories are ones of heartache. The first ‘big’ game I remember was when Notre Dame came to town in 1984. The Tigers wore gold uniforms and missed a field goal with two seconds left to lose in front of a sellout crowd.”

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Brett Austin

Brett Austin, BJ ’93

Most vivid memories of life in Columbia and at Mizzou: “Full disclosure — I was a pretty serious student. My fraternity brothers at Sigma Nu will tell you I could be found in the study area most times. Now, that doesn’t mean we didn’t have great times. Columbia was a community to me, more than a city. I loved the parades through downtown and my somewhat frequent visits to our local taverns (I am winking at you Harpo’s and Shiloh). Give me a Shakespeare’s pie and I am a happy guy.”

Mizzou makes the SEC more interesting because: “Oh, come on — this is easy: Walter Williams, Truman, The Fieldhouse, The Stretch, Beetle Bailey, Rock M, The Zou, Golden Girls, The Antlers, Norm, Shake’s, Po’s [short for Harpo’s], Snakes on the Lake [the Sigma Nu social at Lake of the Ozarks], Hermann [Missouri] and M-I-Z, Z-O-U!”

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Spencer Chmiel

Spencer Chmiel, BJ ’08

How Mizzou stacks up, athletically: “It’s kind of cool to say we have the best wrestling team in the SEC and will for the foreseeable future. No other SEC fan can claim that.”

Favorite Mizzou athletics moment: “It’s a tie. In 2006, in men’s basketball, Mizzou fouled Kansas with 0.4 seconds left in a tie game. Because of our insanely rambunctious student section, Christian Moody missed both free throws and Missouri eventually won in overtime. The announcer said, ‘I don’t remember being in a louder building in 25 years.’ I also attended the 2007 football game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City where No. 4 Mizzou defeated No. 2 Kansas to become the No. 1 team in the country. I’ll never forget the victory clinching safety in the fourth quarter and Kansas quarterback [Todd Reesing] pulling end-zone grass out of his facemask.”