The Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame expanded to 105 members last night, inducting 11 industry legends during its 12th-annual induction ceremony at the New York Hilton Midtown Hotel. The evening was hosted by CBS Sports’ Lesley Visser, marking the first time that a woman and a member of the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame has hosted the ceremony. In addition, all table sales, totaling more than $215,000 this year, are once again being donated to the Sports Broadcasting Fund, which supports industry members in times of need.
This year’s roster of honorees comprises famed on-air personalities Mary Carillo, Bob Costas, Jim Nantz, and Dick Vitale; NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman; CBS Sports and ESPN production stalwart Bill Fitts; sports documentarian Bud Greenspan; BSI co-founder Peter Larsson; NBC Sports and Olympics technology guru David Mazza; video-control master Gene Mikell; and former CBS Sports President and master sports-rights negotiator Neal Pilson.
JIM NANTZ, the Family Man Who Became Sports TV’s Father
“Hello, friends.” That’s far more than a calling card or a catch phrase. It’s a daily reminder that, in the sports-broadcasting industry, we’re family. For 35 years, Jim Nantz has been family to millions of U.S. television viewers who have welcomed the legendary broadcaster into their homes for some of sports TV’s biggest events, including countless NFL and March Madness games and thrilling major golf tournaments.
BUD GREENSPAN, Olympic Storyteller
Bud Greenspan’s legendary Olympic documentaries were less about the heroes than about the often heartbreaking, often exhilarating stories of athletes both in competition and away from it. Greenspan wrote, produced, and directed the documentaries through his production company, Cappy Productions, from the 1960s through Vancouver 2010 Stories of Olympic Glory, released after his death. Greenspan’s longtime business partner and companion Nancy Beffa accepted on his behalf.
BILL FITTS, A Career of Firsts, a Lasting Legacy
When your broadcasting career includes producing the first Super Bowl, launching The NFL Today for CBS, and then jumping aboard ESPN in its formative years, it’s easy to think that ego could take over. But that didn’t happen to Bill Fitts, a long-time production professional who credits those around him and takes more pride in their success than in his own. Fitts took his time on stage to thank the executives that provided him opportunities to succeed during his five-plus decades in the business.
GARY BETTMAN, Father of the Modern NHL
In the modern media era, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman led the league’s transformation from a media non-starter to a staple on NBC Sports’ networks, growing the league’s revenue from $400 million in 1993 (when he arrived) to $4.5 billion this year.
MARY CARILLO, Globetrotting Correspondent, Born Storyteller
There’s no athlete-turned-broadcaster quite like Mary Carillo. After retiring from pro tennis, she became one of the most esteemed tennis analysts in the business, calling matches for a wide variety of networks. Although her tennis analysis earned her accolades from the industry, it was her unique storytelling at 14 Olympic Games that has made her a household name.
GENE MIKELL, Six Decades of Masterful Video Control
Gene Mikell enters the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame not just as an octogenarian but as an octogenarian who still spends a day or two a week working in a remote-production truck for Fox Sports. Odds are, you may not recognize his work, but you have seen it: he sets the course for the video-control and camera-shading department at Fox Sports and has worked in the industry for the better part of 60 years.
NEIL PILSON, Prodigious Leader and Sports-Rights Negotiator
During 19 years at CBS, including 13 as president of CBS Sports, Neil Pilson helped transform the Tiffany Network into a live-sports-programming goliath and earned a reputation as a tenacious but honest negotiator and cerebral tactician. Departing CBS in 1994, he launched consulting firm Pilson Communications Inc. (PCI) and has played an integral role in the negotiations for billions of dollars in sports-rights deals over the past 2½ decades.
PETER LARSSON, Peter Larsson, Wireless-Camera Pioneer
Without the efforts of Peter Larsson, mind-blowing perspectives in live production — such as the driver’s seat in NASCAR or on the putting green at major golf tournaments — would never have been available to viewers at home. The co-founder of Broadcast Sports Inc. (BSI) and the wireless-camera and -audio systems, he has brought sports fans inside the action in ways never thought possible over the past four decades. In addition to thanking his family, the entire BSI team, production teams he’s worked with over the years, Larsson thanked the industry at large.
BOB COSTAS, Sports’ Poetic Voice and Conscience
Bob Costas, a 28-time Emmy Award winner, has been the face of many of the largest sports events that U.S. television has ever produced. Whether it was the play-by-play call of the World Series or the NBA Finals or sitting behind the desk to welcome viewers to a big night in the NFL or to the Olympic Games, he became the benchmark of sportscasting.
DAVID MAZZA, NBC’s Gold-Medal Tech Visionary
Few individuals have had a greater impact on the way the Olympic Games are produced for U.S. viewers than David Mazza. Currently SVP/CTO at NBC Olympics and NBC Sports Group, he has worked on 11 Olympic Games for NBC (15 overall) since joining the company in in 1994. Mazza and his team were also responsible for designing and building the NBC Sports Broadcast Center in Stamford, CT.
DICK VITALE, College-Basketball Wordsmith
A master of wordplay that has enhanced the lexicon of sports broadcasting, Dick Vitale has inhabited the TV screens of college-basketball fans for four decades. His résumé includes numerous Hall of Fame inductions, eight movie appearances, nine books, and iconic calls, and his on-air presence and lighthearted personality have left their mark on the world of sports.
Jason Dachman, Ken Kerschbaumer, Brandon Costa, Karen Hogan, Kristian Hernandez, and P.J. Bednarski contributed to this report.