Jun 30, 2016
In the water, on the field, and on the broadcast, Omaha has been overrun by Arizona Wildcats…
A pair of circuses have come to town and tonight the main attraction at each is a collection of world class Wildcats. At one end of Cass Street here in downtown Omaha, swim fans are pouring into the best swim meet on earth as the US Olympic Trials reach their midpoint at the Century Link Center. At the other end of Cass St, the College World Series has reached its final game – between Costal Carolina and the University of Arizona.
Beyond the ubiquitous Wildcat presence, these two events have a lot in common. For those in-the-know, they’re two of the finest sporting events in America. Neither can exactly be called mainstream. Even with the Phelps-led fever pitch of an Olympic year, swimming remains only-ready-for-primetime in these four year windows. As for the College World Series, ask around and you’ll find zealots quite similar to those screaming poolside. They’re a pair of special events that both come with a family feel. Everyone seems eager to take ownership and displays an inordinate pride in their attendance.
Whether you’re a fan of aluminum bat college baseball or elite swimming, both are filled with that huggable brand of sport geeks.
And both are presently dominated by Wildcats.
Here in the Century Link Center, Arizona’s two-time NCAA Swimmer-of-the-Year Kevin Cordes is already a member of Team USA after winning the men’s 100 breaststroke on night two. He’s about to add the 200 breast to his Olympic line-up; the world record may be on call. Three more Wildcats will appear in semi-final action tonight, as well — Three-time NCAA champion Margo Geer; Wildcat junior Nick Thorne in the men’s 200 IM; and former Academic All-American Emma Schoettmer in the women’s 200 breaststroke.
All mighty impressive, but Arizona’s biggest presence here might be not in the pool or on the ball field, but in positions of power at these Olympic Swimming Trials. USA Swimming’s current National Team Director is Frank Busch, who as most in the sport know, was the head coach of Arizona for 22-years, where he won NCAA team titles for the both the men and the women. But here are a few you might not know:
The man calling these races live on NBC each night is Dan Hicks – also an Arizona Wildcat. Hicks was born and raised in Tucson, graduated from U of A in 1984, and also began his broadcasting career in Tucson, at the city’s NBC affiliate, KVOA. For the last twenty years, since the 1996 Atlanta Games, Hicks has been NBC’s stroke-by-stroke announcer alongside Rowdy Gaines at every Olympics, and pretty much every meet of consequence in between.
On the other side of his headphones, seated at the center of NBC’s broadcast truck, is his boss, NBC’s executive producer of swimming (and longtime EP of all of NBC Sports), Tommy Roy. Roy too is a Tucson native and an Arizona Wildcat. He’s been the Oz behind the curtain producing Olympic swimming for multiple Games now; he’s the one who leads the storytelling of these swimmers, who has helped shape swimming broadcasts into must-see-TV.
So, if Kevin Cordes gets just a little extra love on NBC’s broadcast, you’ll know why.
The Wildcat mafia is running the show.