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NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Going Under the Microscope with Kevin Kugler

By Huskerlocker @huskerlocker

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By Erin Sorensen
Kevin Kugler’s name is well-known by Nebraska fans, especially those living in the Cornhusker State. Whether it’s because of co-hosting Unsportsmanlike Conduct (a sports talk radio program) on 1620 The Zone in Omaha, co-hosting Big Red Wrap-Up (a Nebraska athletics television show) on NET or calling play-by-play, much of Husker Nation knows who he is.
Getting to where he is hasn’t been easy, but Kugler believes that hard work pays off. While he works a profession that often takes him away from family, he continues to find the right balance between work and home life. Who exactly is the man behind the mic?
ES: When did you first decide you wanted to work in the field of sports journalism?
KK: I decided midway through my college career. I started as a business major, went through CBA for about a year and a half, and just decided it wasn’t for me. Too many people were wearing ties and carrying briefcases to school, which just struck me as odd.
I had always wanted to work around sports (my business plan was to become a sports agent), but obviously never had the athleticism to play anything professionally. This seemed like the next best option.
ES: What is the most rewarding and most challenging part of your profession?
KK: For me, the most rewarding thing is to walk away from a game feeling like we had a good broadcast. I’ve never called a perfect game, but that’s the goal. Someday, maybe that will happen, but until then, you try to do the absolute best you can.
The challenge for me comes in making sure I take time for my family. I’m married to a great woman in my wife, Michelle, who takes on an unbelievable burden during my busy seasons in managing our house and our two girls. Without her, there’s no way I’d be able to keep everything straight, so I try to find time here and there in the busy months to make sure I re-introduce myself to my family.
ES: What is the most unexpected thing you have come across in your profession?
KK: (Former Georgetown basketball head coach) John Thompson. I realize that “coach” isn’t a thing, but he was completely unexpected to me. I’ve worked with him as part of my Final Four broadcasts over the past four years for Westwood One, but I was nervous about working with him my first year.
Here’s this giant of a man, both in physical stature and in relation to the game of college basketball, and here I am, some kid from Nebraska working the Final Four. There’s no doubt that I was more than a little intimidated.
What I found out is that Coach Thompson is one of the nicest men you’ll ever meet. He treated me with kindness, humor and more respect than I probably deserved. I’ve been very blessed to work with lots of great analysts over the years, but none made me quite as nervous as Coach Thompson did in our first meetings.
ES: What is your typical week like?
KK: Depends on the season! Right now is the busiest time of the year because I have a football game every week. Since I’ve added some work this year with BTN, there were weeks early in the season that I had two football games in addition to my shows on radio and TV.
Mondays are usually my quietest day, unless I’m traveling back from my Sunday game. Tuesday, it’s Big Red Wrap-Up day, and then that night, I start my prep work for Sunday. I’ll get notes and things from the teams on Wednesday, and continue my work around Unsportsmanlike in the morning and the evening.
Thursday, I put the finishing touches on my charts by that night, and Friday, I print off my charts and add additional notes. Of course, I work that around prep and production of the radio show. Fortunately, Mike’l Severe is as good as it gets, and our producer, Lacey, does a great job as well, so they take a lot of the pressure off when it comes to doing the radio show.
ES: Any advice for aspiring sports journalists?
KK: Be prepared to work! Read, prepare, and work. One of the things that I’ve seen over the years is that people give up in the field early, because they are working long, bad hours and getting little to no money. If you stick it out through those rough years, you can end up in a great spot.
Also, don’t be afraid to start small. There are great opportunities in small markets across the country. I started in York, Nebraska, and did play-by-play for almost everything under the sun. It’s a great way to get valuable practice, and if you screw up, which you will, it’s not that big of a deal. You’ll survive and learn from it.
If you get into the opinion game, whether it’s talk, or the written word, know who you work for and know if they will have your back. Inevitably, you’ll say something or write something that will make somebody mad, and they’ll try to “get you fired” for your opinions.
Whether that’s the “boycott the advertisers” ploy, or the angry emails to management, it will happen to you if you offer an opinion that differs from their opinion. I’m so fortunate to have worked for Neil Nelkin during my entire time at 1620 The Zone. He’s dealt with all of this over the years, and has consistently had our backs.
You have to be able to know that when you offer your opinion, you aren’t going to lose your job for it. That’s why you have to know who you work for, and if they’ll be there when things get rough.
Be sure to catch part two of Husker Locker’s exclusive interview with Kevin Kugler tomorrow as he goes into his thoughts on this Saturday’s upcoming game with Minnesota.
Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinKugler
Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
Follow Husker Locker on Twitter: @huskerlocker
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