Hard Work, Strong Ethic and Good Luck

by Will Muoio

February 5, 2018

Mike Couzens '10 returns to Syracuse, details his journey from WAER to ESPN

Mike Couzens '10 speaks at the Newhouse School Saniya More

Meeting with Newhouse students recently, ESPN play-by-play reporter Mike Couzens ‘10 answered a variety of questions and discussed everything from college memories to his recent engagement  to the future of sports journalism.

“It’s really special for me to come back,” Couzens said. 

Most of the questions centered on Couzens’ career in play-by-play sports broadcasting. When asked about the best analyst he had worked with, he said that he learned from all of them. Play-by-play and analysts have different roles when describing each game. The play-by-play voice talks fans through what is going on, while the analyst explains why. He often relies on former college and professional athletes to offer an expert perspective, Couzens said.

“Admit what you don’t know. There are people out there who can help you along the way,” Couzens said.

When Couzens was attending Newhouse, he worked for campus radio stations WAER and Z89. He recounted anecdotes about doing play-by-play in the Women’s Building for volleyball and practicing his trade on the road, too. The variety of experiences helped him have a diverse portfolio, which made him more marketable following graduation.

Couzens said the connections he made through the Newhouse School helped him find new opportunities.

“Making good connections is crucial. It comes through your work ethic, your talent and your luck,” Couzens said

The journey to ESPN wasn’t a direct flight. While he was in school, he did play-by-play for the Syracuse Chiefs, the Triple-A baseball team. This helped get him a job with the Dayton Dragons and Fort Wayne TinCaps baseball teams.   

He did more than just broadcasting, though. He worked at the University of Vermont covering women’s basketball games during the 2012 season. While he was in Burlington, he also worked at a call center. He shared this to show how speaking with people on the phone gave him experience he could use to continue with his broadcasting career.

Couzens balances what is happening on the court with stories beyond the court, he said. Statistics are part of the game, but the stories behind the athletes can be much more powerful.

He urged students to go beyond the numbers when doing play-by-play and share the stories of those playing. Finding those stories happens during preparation for each game, but also when speaking to the athletes. He mentioned Syracuse men’s basketball players Tyus Battle and Matthew Moyer and their relationship off the court as roommates as an interesting example.

Being young in an industry with co-workers of all ages has been meaningful for Couzens. While there is no favorite analyst that he is worked with, he tries to take the opportunities given and learn from them. This year, he embraced the importance of being yourself when working games, no matter what the sport is.

“You have to find out who you are. I began to show that this season with the football season, and continue to do it now,” Couzens said.

Will Muoio is a senior newspaper and online journalism student in the Newhouse School.