In this week’s edition of “Conversations with Clayton,” I chat with Matt Noonan, the assistant director of broadcasting and new media for Cincinnati athletics. Over the past two years, Noonan has served as the play-by-play announcer for a variety of UC teams. He is one of the most versatile announcers in the business. Noonan and I talk about the current state of UC athletics, breaking into the sports media business and the glories of NBA Jam.
Clayton Trutor (CT): How did you get involved with the sports media and sports broadcasting?
Matt Noonan (MN): I've always been really involved with sports since I was a kid. But about the time I got to high school, I realized I wasn't going to have much of a future as an athlete. So sports journalism started to become something I wanted to pursue. A lot of people don't know that most of my early experience broadcasting came in the motorsports world. When I was 17 I started working at Florence Speedway with their longtime announcer Brad Greer, and that led to a lot of other opportunities in motorsports. I got to travel all around the country working with series like ARCA and the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, and it gave me the chance to get a lot of experience and meet some great people. Later on I got a job with IMG College producing and hosting broadcasts for a lot of college teams. I got a lot of on-air experience hosting pregame, halftime and post game shows for schools like Arizona, West Virginia and UAB, and it also taught me a lot about the technical side of broadcasting. I worked there for three years before coming to UC last summer.
CT: What advice would you give to people who are interested in getting involved with the sports media?
MN: There's no substitute for experience. Every chance you have to practice with a microphone or camera is an opportunity to get better. Sometimes I would bring a digital recorder to basketball, volleyball and football games and just practice from an empty spot in the grandstands. Today with the advancement in broadcast technology, there are so many opportunities to live audio or video broadcasts over the internet. When I first moved to NC to work for IMG, I sent out emails to a bunch of area high schools saying I'd be willing to broadcast their games for free. That gave me a chance to really develop my play-by-play style, and later led to an opportunity to broadcast HS football on the radio. So anyone wanting to get into sports media, whether it's broadcasting, writing or anything else, should just take the opportunity to practice their craft as much as possible, even if nobody else sees or hears it. They might not realize how much they're improving, but it makes a big difference over time. I can already tell a big difference when I watch and listen to my early stuff here at UC, let alone my stuff from years ago.
CT: What sport do you like to cover the most?
MN: This is kind of a cop out answer, but it's the truth... I always seem to enjoy whatever sport is in season. So right now I'm really on a baseball and golf kick. When the fall rolls around I'll be excited for football, soccer and volleyball, and when we get to winter it's all about basketball. One of the things I love about working in college sports is the constant change in what sports are in season. It really keeps things fresh and exciting.
CT: How do you prepare for a broadcast?
MN: Preparation is probably the most important ingredient to a good broadcast. Before a game I make my own personalized charts of both teams with information and stats on each player. It makes for a great "cheat sheet" to get quick info during the broadcast, and building it is a great way for me to study before the game. I'll also read a lot of the game stories and media notes and try to talk to broadcasters and sports information directors from opposing teams to get a better understanding of their team and season. After doing all of that, I'll jot down a few storyline ideas on my charts that can be revisited throughout the broadcast.
CT: Other than the Bearcats, which teams do you follow?
MN: I was born and raised here in Cincinnati, so I'm a huge Reds fan. This is the first time I've lived in Cincinnati for a full season since 2011, so I've been taking advantage of it and going to a ton of games (including Scooter's four HR performance). I went to college at Ohio University, so I try to keep up with the Bobcats as much as I can too. It's not a team, but I'm also a huge golf fan so I watch the PGA tournaments most weeks and try to attend a few every year.
CT: What is the most exciting game that you have ever covered?
MN: I've been fortunate to be able to broadcast a lot of great games throughout my career... but I think UC Baseball beating No. 1 Louisville this past March is at the top of the list. You could really feel the excitement building with each inning, and when the Bearcats closed it with a strikeout, you realized we were front and center in the college baseball world that night. Aside from that, AJ Bumpass hitting a grand slam to tie it against UCONN in the 9th inning, women's basketball's late comeback win at Memphis and women's soccer getting a game winning goal in the final 10 seconds in my very first broadcast were all big highlights too. I hope year two is as exciting as year one was for me, because we really did have a lot of great moments.
CT: Describe your greatest sports video game victory.
MN: I should have a better memory of this, but I remember beating one of my buddies in NCAA Football on a Hail Mary at the last second. There were a few epic buzzer beaters in NBA Jam too, both on the winning and losing ends.
CT: If you were asked to select four Cincinnati Bearcats athletes past or present to participate in American Ninja Warrior, who would you pick?
MN: Oscar Robertson, Melvin Levitt, Tony Campana, Connor Barwin... all guys that had jaw dropping athleticism.
CT: What are you working on right now?
MN: We're doing a lot to get ahead for the upcoming fall season because once August gets here it's go time. We have some new ideas for both in-game and on GoBearcats.com that I think UC fans will enjoy. We'll also be coming out with more Fifth Third Arena construction videos at the end of every month, and have some introduction videos for new assistant coaches coming soon.
CT: What are you looking forward to the most in the upcoming seasons of Cincinnati Bearcats athletics?
MN: I just think there's so much energy around UC athletics right now. I think the hire of Luke Fickell really energized Bearcat fans, and since then we've had a lot of great things happening: Men's basketball having a 30 win season, women's basketball having it's best season in nearly a decade, baseball hiring coach Googins (along with some big and exciting wins from the team in 2017), women's track & field winning a conference championship, men's golf's Austin Squires qualifying for the NCAA Regionals, construction on Fifth Third Arena, etc. There's just a lot of great things going on at UC right now, and I think the energy and excitement is contagious.
Follow Matt Noonan on Twitter: @MattNoonan
For more of the same, follow me on Twitter too: @ClaytonTrutor