Thursday May 4, 2017

Alumni Team Players

Live sporting events can be fast-paced, high-pressure situations for the television crews who broadcast games and the reporters who cover them on deadline.

University of Dayton communication students learned the ropes first-hand during spring semester from an accomplished pair of alumni media professionals — Steve Bulpett ’79 (right), a Boston Herald writer and columnist who covers the Boston Celtics, and Mark Iacofano ’84 (left), a former Fox Sports Detroit producer-director who did Detroit Tigers and Red Wings broadcasts, as well as the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Bulpett, who is in his 32nd year covering the Celtics, spent a week on campus for the second year in a row. He worked with students in adjunct professor J. Frazier Smith’s sports writing class who covered a Flyers men’s basketball game and then filed stories by 2 a.m. He also met with students in the media writing, feature writing, and media ethics and values classes, as well as the Flyer News staff.

Iacofano, now a freelance producer-director, visited Dayton to direct a Flyers men’s basketball game broadcast for the American Sports Network. He also met with Smith’s sports writing students, as well as Flyer TV students who use the University’s television production truck.

“Having successful alumni return and meet with students helps students today visualize their own future success in a way that reinforces the importance of their own education,” said Joe Valenzano, department of communication chair. “Steve and Mark also provide immense value to the faculty by helping us stay engaged with current trends and practices in the industries for which we prepare students. One of the most impressive aspects of UD is the degree to which our alumni stay engaged with the campus and the community, and Steve and Mark illustrate that.”

Bulpett holds a bachelor’s degree in communication from the University. He spoke to students about the importance of earning the respect of people they cover as journalists, whether they are professional athletes or local government officials.

“You have to work hard so that ‘Famous Athlete X’ respects your work,” he said. “That allows you to develop the business relationships that are going to make you successful in your job.”

Iacofano, a Cleveland native who holds a bachelor’s in communication from the University, spoke enthusiastically about his career. His highlights also include directing several Major League Baseball no-hitters and producing “The Big Chill at the Big House,” a 2010 outdoor ice hockey game between the Michigan State and the University of Michigan at the latter’s football stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“No matter when that puck drops or the pitch is thrown, I just get this thrill and excitement of doing a broadcast,” he said. “I love what I do — it’s awesome.”

The alumni didn’t downplay the demands of their jobs, which involve constant travel and working nights, holidays and weekends. They also addressed the state of the media industry, which has seen declining audiences and downsized operations amid the transition to digital devices and direct-to-consumer streaming services.

Bulpett said society needs more good journalists who will do the legwork, make phone calls and knock on doors to dig up information.

“Even if you’re at a small-town paper, understand the power you have,” he said. “You have the power to effect change by shining light on things.”

Bulpett and Iacofano have fond memories of their time at the University, where both were involved in sports. Iacofano played varsity baseball from 1983 to 1984. Bulpett was part of a championship intramural basketball team that also included award-winning sportscaster Dan Patrick ’79.

Bulpett enrolled at the University in hopes of playing basketball for the Flyers, without ever having visited campus. He recalled buying a 1966 Chevy station wagon, driving from his home in Swampscott, Massachusetts, and arriving the day before classes started. He didn’t make the team, but credits the University for exposing him to people from across the county and expanding his worldview.

“I didn’t consider the geographical diversity of this place before I came here, but for a kid from a town that was three square miles, that was big,” Bulpett said. “It ended up being really important.”

Iacofano said directing a Flyers game at University of Dayton Arena was on his “bucket list.” Before the game, he spent an hour with his former head baseball coach, Tony Caruso, who is now head equipment manager for the University division of athletics.

“It was a real special day for me, personally,” Iacofano said. “This place has a special place in my heart.”

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

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