Sports Information Director Promotes Student Athletes


Brian Katten, sports information director, is responsible for photographing Wesleyan athletic teams, maintaining the athletic Web site, preparing game programs, writing press releases and promoting student athletes.
 
Posted 10/18/05
Q: When were you hired at Wesleyan, and what was your job title then?

A: I started as the first, and fortunately to date, only full-time sports information director at Wesleyan in July, 1982. I had been an intern in that position for the 1979-80 year. I also served as intramural sports director from 1982-2002 but turned that title over to Mark Woodworth in 2002-03.

Q: When did you graduate from Wesleyan, and what was your major? Do you have degrees from anywhere else?

A: I received my B.A. in economics from Wes in 1979 — and it’s amazing how many of my former professors are still around — and went on to get an M.S. in sport management from UMass in Amherst in 1982.

Q: Did you play sports here at Wes?

A: I was the only member of the frosh soccer team in 1975 to sit the bench the entire year. I still went out for the varsity as a soph, but Terry Jackson knew better than to keep me on the squad. I ran the lines for soccer games instead. I also cheated and played one JV tennis match for Wes during my intern year because they needed a player. And I played one match in New Haven for the faculty squash team. I lost both the tennis and squash match, by the way.

Q: What led you into working in sports information?

A: Working in sports info was my first job right out of college. I thought I was going to be a sales rep for Proctor & Gamble but that fell through. Then I ran into the person working as Wesleyan’s sports information director intern (John Herzfeld ’78) and he told me about the position. He knew I was into sports and suggested I apply for the internship. Jack McCain, then assistant director of public information, hired me. I truly didn’t think I wanted to do sports info for a living and that’s why I went off to grad school the next year, but a year working at Yale in athletic administration in 1981-82 made me look back to Wesleyan for permanent employment.

Q: How has Athletics changed over the years?

A: Athletics at Wesleyan has taken off since 1990 when the Freeman Athletic Center was built. Now with the latest addition, we are first-rate in every way. Basically it just makes playing sports at Wesleyan more worthwhile and less of a hardship. In terms of disseminating sports information, when I started we were using typewriters, mimeographs and stencils, and our copiers made about 10 a minute. Then we got a Xerox 860 word processor, then our first Mac Classics and fax machines. Now we have the Web. What’s next? Who knows? But sports info has grown in leaps and bounds with technology.

Q: What are your thoughts on the student athletes?

A: The student-athletes here are amazing. I marvel at what it takes for them to be a talented athlete and still maintain their studies. I think varsity athletes should receive university credit for being on a team.

Q: What are some of your job duties as sports information director?

A: I am responsible for maintaining the athletic Web site; taking action and still photos and coordinating other photo needs; preparing game programs, recruiting guides and alumni newsletters; getting results to the media; sending out releases to papers throughout the country to promote our athletes; reporting to the NESCAC and NCAA offices; nominating players for regional and national honors; maintaining statistics at various events and coordinating stats when I can’t be at an event; and occasionally singing the National Anthem. I’m sure there are a few things I’ve forgotten but you did say “some.”

Q: How often are you interacting with the coaches and teams?

A: All the time. It used to be more difficult the first eight years when I was physically located in South College. But I moved into Freeman when it was built and I much prefer being in with the coaches and athletes. It makes the job substantially easier.

Q: What is your work schedule like?

A: No sports information director works a nine-to-five. The schedule varies from day-to-day depending upon the athletic schedule. Saturday is usually a 12-16 hour day and then another three to six hours on Sunday depending on the schedule. It’s not unusual to go several months — like from Labor Day to Thanksgiving — without a complete day off. I do have some flexibility midweek and can get out in the middle of the day to help my kids, run an errand or officiate a soccer or basketball game at a nearby private school. And the summer is very calm.

Q: What are some of the biggest stories you’ve had to manage?

A: The most attention Wesleyan gets from an athletic standpoint seems to come from the NFL, mostly Bill Belichick ’75, head coach of the New England Patriots. Hunting down info about his playing experience, photos and such has been something everyone from the New York Times, to Sports Illustrated, to ESPN has asked me to do for years. But as long as we have Dick Miller in the economics department, who was Bill’s faculty advisor, we’re covered. Eric Mangini ’94, who is the defensive coordinator for the Patriots, has been getting more press lately, too. When Jeff Wilner ’94 made the Green Bay Packers as a tight end, it was huge. And we have other illustrious alums like marathoner Bill Rodgers ’71 who got us a lot of national attention, but I didn’t start writing about him until 1979. For the most part, our stories are small market.

Q: How challenging is your position?

A: Extremely. It can be very pressure-packed, especially when 12 teams are in action on a single day. And success, while infinitely preferable to failure, can be very taxing. The better we do, the more people I need to tell. I think I have pretty good people skills and a decent instinct for the job, so that helps keep things under control.

Q
: Are there any former students, now alums, who played on the teams in the past who you’ve kept track of over the years? What are they doing now?

A: I know our all-time leading scorer in men’s soccer, Amos Magee ’93, is playing professionally in the A-League with the Minnesota Thunder. We have a lot of success stories. Jed Hoyer (baseball) ’96 is an assistant general manager for the Red Sox. Jenna Flateman ’04, (national champion in track) is on the national-under 23 women’s rugby team. Seb Junger ’84 (track and cross country) is a nationally recognized author. Dennis Robinson ’79 (football), who was my roommate up at UMass, is a vice-president with the NBA. Frank Hauser ’79 (football and wrestling) is our 14-year veteran head football coach and Mark Woodworth ’94 (baseball) is going into his fifth season in charge of the baseball team. Like me, it’s great to stay home.

Q: What sports do you watch or enjoy now?

A: I grew up just outside of Philadelphia and my grandfather had connections with most of the major sports teams so I got to see a lot of games. As a youngster, I ate that up. I still root for all the Philly teams. My favorite sport to watch is football but I find many sports very interesting. My favorite to play is tennis, but I also like golf, ping-pong, bowling and well, almost anything.

Q: Do you have interests outside of sports?

A: I am a consummate grocery shopper. I have turned what most people regard as drudgery into a fine art. Let me tell you how to use a coupon some day.

Q: Tell me about your kids.

A: I have a son, Ross, who is almost 18, and a daughter, Anna, 16, from my first marriage and I love being around them especially when they are involved in an activity. Anna has made high honors every quarter at Middletown High and has experience in volleyball, indoor track, crew and golf. She also is quite a horsewoman. She is drama club publicity chair and just started a knitting club. She has won regional and school awards in Spanish, science, writing and Vo-Ag. Ross has been a top golfer at MHS for two seasons, competed in indoor track, played baseball and made numerous all-star teams in his youth, managed the cross country team and went to Nashville as a state runner-up in the Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) competition. He has had his picture in the Middletown Press five times already.

Q: Do I hear wedding bells in the air?

A: I am living with my fiancée, Cheryl, in Cromwell. We met through Yahoo Personals on May 7, 2003 and fell for each other right away. We plan to get married on Block Island, where she has family, this coming May.

Q: And do you really sing the National Anthem at sporting events?

A: Yes, I just did it at our last football game and have done many venues here at Wesleyan. I also have done it at NCAA national tournament games in men’s lacrosse, football and women’s basketball at other colleges. It’s fun!
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor