Mike Steavpack’s communications career got its kick-start on the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay soccer field.
Now, 40 years and nine Emmy awards later, the 1982 Phoenix graduate (Communication and the Arts) returned to where it all began, serving as master of ceremonies for the dedication of the new $4.9 million Kress Family Outdoor Recreation Complex and Aldo Santaga Stadium, Friday, Aug. 24, 2018.
“Mike serving as the emcee for the ‘First-Kick’ Ceremony at the new Aldo Santaga Stadium was a great way to connect the past to the future,” said UW-Green Bay Senior Associate Athletics Director for Development Molly Vandervest. “There is a rich history of soccer here and the new stadium will mark yet another notch for the program upgrading to a first-class facility, enabling us to host post-season opportunities.”
Steavpack, who is now a graphic technician with FOX Sports, will be on the field with the coach who taught him the sport and whose name adorns the stadium.
“The first soccer game that I ever went to in its entirety was in 1978,” Steavpack recalled. “I broadcast play-by-play for the student station WGBW from then through 1982. Fortunately, I was barely glib enough to get through the introductions. After that, I leaned heavily on the analysts working with me, who had soccer playing experience — they carried the broadcast as far as describing the action and using specific terms.”
Santaga took over the head coaching reins that season and guided the Phoenix to a 60-19-7 record during the time Steavpack was at the microphone.
“I still don’t know soccer to this day,” Steavpack admitted. “I’m mesmerized by the game and the sheer talent and athleticism that is needed to play at a high level. The biggest problem I had was to try and reduce my amount of stammering and just let the game unfold. Eventually, I was able to chronicle a very successful period of UW-Green Bay men’s soccer.”
Steavpack called Santaga “a joy then and now. He understood the need for us to be able to do the games and allowed us to be a part of the program. We had unlimited access. He provided anything and everything we needed, including letting us travel with the team to away games.”
Steavpack’s well-rounded college career also included play-by-play for the then-Division 2 men’s basketball program.
“I wasn’t even 18 yet but I was lucky enough to audition and get that job,” Steavpack said. “It was a lot of eye-opening travel and I was involved in so many high-profile, exciting games. I was able to learn a little bit about how to be a sports broadcaster.”
After graduation and a year’s internship at the British Broadcasting Corporation in London, Steavpack returned to Green Bay to host and produce the Dick Bennett Show on cable access television for three years.
“Dick is such a quality person with a breadth of knowledge not only in sports, but in life,” Steavpack said. “His presence and natural warmth made it very easy to do those shows. We aspired to reach even low-budget, but we thought it was important that Coach Bennett and his Phoenix basketball program have a presence in the community.”
Through his sports contacts, Steavpack met longtime Green Bay Packers’ Public Relations Director Lee Remmel.
“Lee asked me if I would be interested in working with the CBS Network on the day of a Packer game to help out in a variety of needs,” Steavpack said. “Just being a runner, getting coffee, making copies, driving people around and being involved with very minimal game-day activities that we still have people do to this day.”
Steavpack worked part-time on National Football League assignments for CBS and FOX Sports for a number of years, turning down several opportunities for full-time employment.
“The job probably would have necessitated a move to New York,” he reasoned. “I had started a family in Green Bay. It just wasn’t something I was willing to do, although I did promise myself if the opportunity came for me to work full-time in television and be able to live where I wanted to, I would give it a go.”
That opportunity presented itself at FOX in 2000.
“After many years of doing not only football, but the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball, they offered me a job that allowed me to stay in Green Bay and work full-time at the network,” Steavpack said. “That was also the advent of NASCAR racing on FOX.”
Today, that role begins with the NASCAR season in February through the end of June. Following a summer hiatus, Steavpack gears up for the NFL about now, where he is a member of FOX’s “A” team of announcers Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Erin Andrews.
“In addition to our Sunday broadcasts, we have a brand-new component this year,” Steavpack pointed out. “In the offseason, FOX signed a five-year deal where they will telecast the Thursday Night Football package. Our crew was selected to do those games as well. That will make for a very eventful Fall.”
What does a graphic technician do?
“I’m involved with a wide variety of statistical information,” Steavpack said. “I put together background information, historical notes – primarily all of the things that viewers see in text form during a broadcast. It’s doing research on not only what happened the week before, but previous encounters these teams may have had. Things that we may want to build an electronic graphic to insert during a pertinent point of the game.”
“Mike does a little bit of everything before the game,” Aikman told The Sporting News. “He then handles the FOX Box (clock and score graphic) in the corner of your screen. He works his tail off.”
Preparation is the key.
“For each event, we build 100-150 notes or nuggets,” Steavpack revealed. “Of that, we will only use about one-quarter of them. Even though we need to be prepared for the eventuality of things that will happen, the game takes over and we’re more involved with what’s happening play to play. What’s happening now becomes the focal point of our broadcast.”
Those nine Emmys show Steavpack he has traveled the correct path.
“As I look at my life now, I could not have made a better decision than to go to UW-Green Bay,” he said. “The contacts, associations and experiences that I had without question put me where I am today.”
Story by freelance writer Jay Lillge. Photo by Mike Roemer ’86 (Communication Processes)