Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

ESPN host, Alabama native speaks on campus

In 1994, Mike Hill sent out 75 audition tapes across the nation. He got four calls back. Of those four calls, he got one interview. Hill has now worked for ESPN for nine years, and stressed the importance of perseverance in his keynote address at The University of Alabama’s first annual Sports Communication Symposium.

Hill appears on Sports Center and NFL Live, as well as hosting his ESPN radio show, Hill and Schlereth. Hill said he is always himself on camera, but that he has more liberty on his radio show.

“On the radio, that’s my name,” Hill said. “That’s my personality.”

Hill grew up in Bessemer, Ala., and served for six years in the Air Force after graduating high school. He worked for the National Security Agency, briefing the president and other high-level staff while he went to school and also juggled an internship with Fox News.

Hill’s balancing act was difficult, but it paid off.

“If you want it bad enough, you will find the time,” Hill said.

Still, the demands of his job took a toll on his personal life.

“I was married to my job. I couldn’t find a balance,” Hill said. “I had to sacrifice spending time with my friends. It’s tough, but you can do it.”

His journey to ESPN was not easy.

“I’ve gone through a lot of personal failures. There’s long hours and a lot of time on the road,” Hill said. “I’ve had six jobs in broadcasting – I’ve had two wives. It takes a lot out of you.”

Hill spoke about dealing with profiling in broadcasting. He said it is often the case a job goes to someone less qualified because they are “the flavor of the month.” Along his path, Hill has dealt with accusations that he has benefited from that phenomenon.

Hill said one particularly difficult boss once told him he only got the job because he was black. Hill said his response was, “My skin may be black, but my skills got me this job.”

Andrew Billings, telecommunication and film professor, gave the introduction for Hill’s speech and said they had planned the event months in advance, as is necessary when dealing with ESPN.

“Getting Mike to come was mainly funneled through Stacy Jones [director of student development], his cousin,” Billings said. “Today has been a solid turnout.

The students in attendance were a mix of journalism and broadcasting majors and sports enthusiasts. In the latter category, Jeffrey Higginbotham, a sophomore majoring in business, said he watches a lot of SportsCenter and sports shows, so he pays a lot of attention to the details of sports broadcasting.

“He’s energetic,” Higginbotham said. “He likes to move around a lot.”

At one point in the talk, Hill ran to the opposite side of the room to demonstrate just how far outside the box students need to think.

“I always knew he was high energy, but he had even more energy than I expected, but there were those quiet moments, too. That really said a lot,” Billings said.

Other students enjoyed the talk for its candor.

“I thought he was really honest and really candid,” Tori Traver, a senior majoring in public relations, said. “He didn’t live up to stereotypes and was very realistic.”

Through his personal anecdotes and advice, Hill taught about sports media as well as life.

“I think students will take away the theme of perseverance. The future is there for those who take it, they just need to be proactive,” Billings said.

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