Three Journeys, One Passion: Alumni Chart Unique Paths to Victory in the Game of Sports Media
Behind the big moments in sports that bring cities, families and friends together are sports media professionals. We caught up with three Kent State alumni — three of many who have pursued this path — at various stages of their careers. They share their advice, favorite moments and how sports have enriched their lives and careers.
Steve Albert graduated from Kent State in 1972 with a degree in telecommunications, but he began his career in sports the moment he was born. He was raised on radio, TV and sports, and from the age of seven, he wanted to become a sportscaster. His two older brothers, Marv and Al, shared the same dream, and each of them made it a reality.
Albert didn’t stay behind the folding-card-table-turned-broadcast-booth he and his brothers built in a little room of their house for long. He went on to have a prolific, multi-faceted career as a play-by-play announcer for basketball teams like the New Jersey Nets and the Golden State Warriors, a broadcaster for the Cleveland Crusaders, New York Mets, Jets and more. Among other areas of broadcasting, such as sports anchoring and hosting MTV Rock N' Jock, he also called major boxing events on Showtime for more than 20 years, including 300+ world championship fights. In 2018, Albert was even inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. In addition, he appeared in movies, sitcoms and commercials.
Albert was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., but he chose Kent State for college because it didn’t have a hockey team. He saw an opportunity to start a hockey program and appoint himself the play-by-play announcer to gain on-air experience. That’s precisely what he did with help from Don Lumley, the man who would become the hockey team’s coach.
The team went on to be a great success, drawing sell-out crowds and developing four students who went on to become hockey announcers in the NHL — including Albert. A few years back, Albert learned the hockey broadcasts had become dormant, so he donated to the program to give students a chance to have the same hands-on experience he did.
“Putting a winning team on campus was heartwarming, and starting Kent State Hockey was a labor of love,” said Albert. “I’m proud of what we accomplished. Hey, it’s still going strong.”
Albert ended his career as the television play-by-play announcer for the Phoenix Suns, retiring after the team’s 2016-2017 season. Albert notes the many historic sports moments he witnessed over his 45-year career: doing play-by-play for the New York Islanders when they won the first of their four straight Stanley Cup Championships; calling Devin Booker’s historic 70-point game for the Phoenix Suns; announcing the final game in the American Basketball Association’s history for the New York Nets before they merged into the NBA.
“But nothing comes close in terms of sheer craziness and bedlam as the night I called the Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield fight to an audience of millions. It became infamously known as ‘The Bite Fight,’” Albert said.
Albert described how it was a moment you just can’t prepare for, and recalled thinking at the time, they didn’t teach students about this in Broadcasting 101.
Regarding career advice, Albert said, “Always try your best. You never know who’s watching. If you prepare hard, do your job with honesty and integrity, that’s all anybody can ask. Bottom line, you have to love what you do. That passion will come through in your work.”
When Kent State alumnus Dan Gerbracht isn’t working for the city of Hudson as video department manager, you might find him at a Cleveland Guardians or Cavaliers game. He won’t be in the stands — but running the videos you see on the scoreboard and controlling the live production cameras.
It’s a part-time gig he started while he was still a Communication Studies student at Kent State. In 2015, while studying abroad in South Korea, Gerbracht received a phone call from a Kent State alumnus who worked for the Cleveland Guardians, letting him know that the team needed someone to help operate the cameras. Gerbracht returned to the U.S. just days before the baseball season began, did an in-person interview and started quickly after.
Gerbracht credits extracurricular experiences at Kent State — like TV2 — that provided hands-on experience, for providing him the skills he needed to jump right into the professional world. Through his connections with the Guardians’ media department, Gerbracht eventually began working for the Cavaliers as well.
During games, Gerbracht and the team control everything people see on the scoreboard and all production elements shown on the board — from gag videos to the Sugardale Hot Dog Derby at Guardians games.
Gerbracht also specifically oversees all the live production cameras. On a given game day, he has four to six cameras that he ensures are set up, functioning correctly and in the proper place. He then monitors the cameras throughout the game, often correcting color issues to ensure they’re not too dark or bright. When the game is over, he ensures the cameras are torn down and put away the right way — and then does it all over again the next day.
Games are often unpredictable, so Gerbracht goes wherever he is needed. One of his best memories of working for the Guardians happened during the 2016 World Series. The engineering team for the Guardians pulled him out of the control room, and he assisted the ballpark in general video production, so he was running around helping whoever needed an extra set of hands.
However, there wasn't much to do during the game itself, so he was able to watch the decisive Game 7 from the Guardians’ bullpen. He was sitting with the team’s mascot, Slider, when Guardians outfielder Rajai Davis hit the game-tying home run in the eighth inning.
“The ballpark exploded,” said Gerbracht. “That was like the defining moment of the entire series. That’s the clip you see replayed over and over again, even years later.”
One of the best pieces of advice that Gerbracht has taken with him through his career is: “Things are going to go wrong; it’s how you recover to keep the people at home from realizing something went wrong. The news broadcast doesn’t stop because you hit the wrong camera; just correct it and move on.”
Kristyn Hibbett grew up playing and loving basketball, but knew she couldn’t play the game forever. Through her own research, she learned what makes a game thrive behind the scenes. That’s when she declared her major to be public relations.
Today, she’s a corporate communications coordinator at the Cleveland Cavaliers, a job she secured shortly after graduating in 2022 with a public relations major and a minor in sports administration.
At Kent State, Hibbett got incredibly involved, from joining the Public Relations Students Society of America (PRSSA Kent) to reaching out to the Dean of Students, who ultimately helped her become a student assistant in Kent State Athletics.
Hibbett also interned with Adidas during the summer of 2022 and was a McLendon Fellowship participant. According to its website, the program is “a one-year transformational program that provides minorities (known as Fellows) a jump-start to their careers in sports.” Through networking earlier that year, she also connected with the vice president of communications for the Cavs, who contacted her about an opportunity to be a game day assistant.
So, for a time, Hibbett worked both at her fellowship and with the Cavs. As her fellowship came to an end, she applied for and secured her full-time position on the corporate communications team.
In her role, one of Hibbett’s favorite things is being part of the Community Impact Report, which illustrates what each department is doing to give back to the community. She was in charge of designing, launching and writing it.
“Through a lot of different programs, you really get to see how sports and basketball are an escape for kids trying to stay out of trouble,” said Hibbett, “and I’ve seen through our youth sports camps that they’re not just speaking to them about sports, but about leadership and the different avenues of life.”