No Final Sign-Off for the Webcast Voices of Scots' Football
Monmouth, IL (08/24/2020) — When Monmouth College lead webcast play-by-play man Thomas Witty signed off of the final football broadcast last season with "The Monmouth College Fighting Scots are Midwest Conference champs," little did he or his broadcast partner, color analyst Grant Powers, know it would be their last time calling the action from April Zorn Memorial Stadium…EVER.
By March, the coronavirus had wreaked havoc on athletic competition world-wide. This summer, when the Midwest Conference pulled the plug on all fall competition, it became painfully clear that the two students who are now seniors - Witty is a communication major from Northbrook, Ill., and Powers is an exercise science major from Keller, Texas - would not be together in Monmouth's broadcast booth again.
"I was sad. Some of my favorite memories on campus have come from that broadcasting booth," said Witty. "We were both anticipating our time in the booth and very excited to cap it off with one final year of Scots football and basketball. We may be done in the booth, but it was so enjoyable for the three years that we had. I'll never forget the fun times that Grant and I had broadcasting games for this college."
Powers had a similar reaction, but delved deeper into the disappointment after he and Witty - both members of the Fighting Scots' baseball team - had their spring season on the diamond cut short.
"My initial reaction was pretty sad just because we had already gotten our (baseball) season taken away, and now we were getting something else that we really enjoyed doing in the offseason taken away, as well," he said. "I feel our webcasting experience was unfinished because our senior year would've given us time to realize it was going to be our last time doing it. We'd get to sign off for the final time."
Witty, who had broadcast experience while a student at Glenbrook North High School, began in the football booth as a freshman and was joined there by Powers the following year. The roommates began working together during the basketball season their freshman year and quickly formed a cohesive tandem.
"My experience was really fun and I learned a lot," said Powers. "I had never done this before, but it was really cool getting to learn about all of the things that go into broadcasting games. I was super nervous in that first (basketball) broadcast and I stuttered a lot on air during the opening. After I got that out of me I felt fine, but at first it was super nerve wracking."
The duo experienced a broadcasters' dream in Glennie Gymnasium where, as freshmen, they broadcast the men's team's first Midwest Conference Championship in nearly 30 years.
"We were lucky enough to broadcast football conference championship games in our freshman and junior years, as well as the basketball conference championship tournament our freshman year," said a grateful Witty. "All three of those events were so special. It's hard to pick a favorite, but winning the basketball conference championship at home in front of a packed house was so awesome. Seeing that team develop and get better over the course of the year, culminating in a championship banner, was really special to watch."
Special, too, says Witty was the opportunity to be an exclusive outlet.
"Coming from a bigger high school where we had several different broadcasters for games, it was so cool to have something that felt like our own," he said. "We grew into the role from our freshman to junior years. There was definitely a learning curve, but we really embraced the challenge of making the broadcasts our own and unique to anywhere else in the conference. My hope is our viewers think we accomplished that goal."
Witty also quickly learned the pitfalls of a solo broadcast while working alone his freshman year for a football game that endured numerous weather delays.
"My freshman year, I broadcast a football game by myself between Monmouth and Illinois College that had three lightning delays and lasted about eight hours," recalled Witty. "For some reason, I stayed on the air the entire time. I didn't eat all day and by the end of it I was exhausted, but it was definitely a very interesting experience, to say the least."
Wrapping up their senior year and preparing for their future careers - whether it be in the broadcast industry or someplace else - Witty and Powers had time to reflect on their broadcast and college experience.
"I did think that it would go back to normal in the fall," said Powers of a return to games and in-person learning. "The (2020) spring season cancellation was a shock to everyone at first, but I never thought that it would have lasted this long and impact another year of school. I was really hoping that when I returned in the fall it would be a normal senior year, but it has been nothing like I would have imagined. I think the most important way to spend the Saturdays now is to just hang out with the friends that are closest to me. It is our senior year and we will not see our friends every day after this year. Spending some quality time with them will be cherished memories before we go our separate ways when we graduate."
Witty acknowledged the disappointment of missing the chance to broadcast a historical first had the fall season opened as scheduled.
"I know we were all hoping to witness our school's first night home football game to open the season against Wartburg," said Witty of what would have been the 2020 season opener. "It would have had a different feel and been a lot of fun to broadcast. (Broadcasting) is something I'm very interested in. I want to work in the collegiate/professional sports business at some level, and if that came about because of broadcasting, I would definitely be interested."
Only time will tell if Powers and Witty will be reunited for Scots' basketball broadcasts one last time when the calendar turns to 2021. The spread of COVID nationally and regionally, combined with recommendations from the NCAA, will be considered by the presidents of the Midwest Conference institutions later this fall when determining the status of the winter and/or spring seasons.
"This whole process does make me very anxious to start calling basketball," admitted Powers. "Tom and I started to switch roles a bit between color and play-by-play last year and that was a lot of fun, so getting to experience more of that would be very cool if we get to have a basketball season this year. From the broadcast standpoint, if the basketball season were canceled or shortened it would be pretty frustrating for both Tom and me. Getting to sign off one last time was a big thing for us and not being able to go out the way we wanted for football, and possibly basketball, would be pretty disheartening."
After broadcasting nearly 100 football and basketball games for the Scots in the past three seasons, Witty and Powers offered their advice to the next generation of Scots' webcasters.
"Be yourself," advised Powers. "People don't like it when they are listening to someone who sounds fake. They want someone they can relate with and that is very important. Also, learn the names of the players like the back of your hand. It will really help with a smooth broadcast."
Witty concurred with his broadcast partner and added a personal observation from his experience.
"Just have fun with it and make it your own," he said. "We were lucky enough to get a perfect seat to watch and commentate on some of our friends who play sports that we love to watch. It doesn't get much better than that. Of course, none of this would have been possible without our boss (Sports Information Director) Dan Nolan. He gave us the opportunity as young kids to step in immediately and take over the broadcasts. He also was always there to help us set up the equipment and give us advice as a long-time broadcaster himself. For that, Grant and I say 'Thank you, Dan.'"