The Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame inducted seven legends of the sports-television industry on December 16 at a moving ceremony at the New York Hilton Hotel. Now in its eighth year, the Hall of Fame honors those from across the entire spectrum of sports broadcasting who impacted, directly or indirectly, the way sports television is produced.
In an evening that was at times celebratory and heartrending, hosts Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton of CBS Radio made sure there were plenty of laughs as well. All table sales, totaling more than $150,000 this year, will once again be donated to the Sports Broadcasting Fund, which supports industry members in times of need.
This year’s class of legends comprises CBS and NBC Sports Engineering and Operations guru Ken Aagaard, former ESPN and NFL Network President/CEO Steve Bornstein, longtime NBC Olympics sound designer Bob Dixon, Fox Sports pioneer David Hill, F&F Productions founder George Orgera, celebrated ABC sportscaster Chris Schenkel, and former NBA Commissioner David Stern.
The evening began with the induction of David Stern, who, as NBA commissioner from 1984 to 2014, oversaw an era of unprecedented revenue growth and worldwide expansion en route to solidifying his legacy as one of the greatest commissioners in the history of pro sports.
“We very early realized that television would deliver to the greatest number of fans,” said Stern. “There aren’t enough seats, but there are a greater number of eyeballs delivering us to fans. The narrative that we have is so great, and who better to tell it than the broadcast industry. As an industry — from Skycams to floorcams from regular sound to surround sound — it’s extraordinary what the broadcasters in this room have done to bring the game closer to our fans. The [inductees] tonight helped to bring it all to our fans.”
Next up was Bob Dixon, who inspired a generation of TV-audio professionals during a career that was highlighted by his work on 12 Olympic broadcasts for ABC, CBS, and NBC and saw him help HBO Sports transition from mono to stereo sound. He also designed and implemented the first stereo broadcast of the Olympics (1998) and the first discrete-5.1-surround broadcast (2008). He retired in 2012 following the London Olympics.
“What is and has been most important to me are the deep friendships I have made in this business, friendships that have lasted throughout all those years and continue to this day, friends that I grew to love and respect,” he said. “Friends who became like family, and I am so happy to see several of them here tonight. I hope we will never take for granted how lucky we really are and how wonderful it is to be in this business.”
For more than five decades, Schenkel’s unique voice was at the center of many of the world’s biggest sports events, calling football, basketball, golf, horseracing, boxing, bowling, and much more. And he did it all while earning a reputation as one of the nicest guys in the business, living by the motto “Never hurt or hate.” Schenkel, who passed away in 2005, was honored by his grandson Christopher Schenkel at the ceremony.
“On behalf of the entire Schenkel family thank you for honoring my grandfather with this induction,” Christopher said. “I’m happy to say that many people already know about his career, but there was much more to my Poppa…The word gentlemen come to mind – whether it was how nicely dressed he always was, how he taught the boys of the family to stand when a lady comes or goes to and from the table, applaud the chef a good meal, or giving me a five-dollar bill because he was proud of how I shook someone’s hand.”
During a career that began at WMAQ-TV Chicago nearly 45 years ago, Ken Aagaard has had an impact on nearly every major national and global sports event as part of NBC Sports and, currently, CBS Sports, where he is EVP, engineering, operations, and production services. Besides thanking dozens of his most beloved compatriots during a moving speech, he also raised awareness for the increasingly important efforts of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which has helped his daughter Ally over the past 15 months work to battle the diagnosis of a malignant brain tumor.
“[The treatment] wore down her body, but never her will and determination. And I’m here to tell you tonight that Ally Aagaard is beating this disease and on her way to complete recovery. And we owe Ally’s recovery to one organization St. Jude,” says Aagaard, who distributed purple “Ally Strong” t-shirts at the ceremony. “The one constant in my life and for that matter all of our lives is our family. My standing up here is a true testament to them.”
Founding CEO/President of F&F Productions George Orgera is a pioneer in remote production and remains the driving force behind a company rooted in a commitment to excellence in engineering.
“I am honored to be standing here and would like to thank the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame for this recognition,” he said. “And congrats to my fellow inductees. The growth of F&F through the years has been incredible. We have come a long way. But no one gets on the stage by themselves. The moments and achievements are shared with so many who have helped me to get there. … I’m standing on their shoulders, and that’s why I’m here.”
Few would argue that the two most influential and powerful entities in the U.S. sports are ESPN and the NFL, and it would be hard to envision either without the contributions of Steve Bornstein. As president/CEO of ESPN throughout its unprecedented growth in the 1990s and the first-ever president of NFL Network, he joined the pantheon of sports-media executives while cultivating a reputation as one of the most driven and competitive personalities the industry has ever seen.
“We have heard a lot of people talk about family tonight, and that’s what this business is about,” he said. “That’s my family; you guys are my family. This honor is not mine; it’s [for] every person that has ever worked at ESPN or the NFL. What we have accomplished is not my responsibility; it’s our responsibility. I get a lot of credit, but the people that contributed to that [are] who this award is for.”
The evening was capped off with the induction of David Hill. The always boisterous Hill has made on an indelible mark on the industry, putting technology innovation at the forefront as creator and president of Fox Sports, beginning in 1993. The Australia native, who began as a paper boy at the age of 17, has dramatically changed sports television in multiple countries with his innovative mind and magnetic persona.
“Walking in the the footsteps of greats Roone [Arledge], Dick [Ebersol], and Don [Ohlmeyer], it never crossed my mind that this great honor would happen to me – my point being that we are all so lucky to have a job that is a hobby and that we all love it,” he said. “My great joy through the years working in this wonderful business has been working with this wonderful group of men and women…with an aim to make the show better week after week, year after year. It doesn’t matter if it’s Melbourne or Manchester or Manhattan — they all just want it to be better.”
The event was sponsored by SVG Benefactors Dolby and Sony; Patrons NEP and F&F; Supporting Sponsors Ikegami, NBC Entertainment, Evertz/TSG, FUJINON, and Levels Beyond; and ONE World Sports, Goodyear, 21st Century Fox, Canon, CBS Sports, Linear Acoustic, Major League Baseball, and Sun Trust.