UVM's Every Morning Quarterback
- By Jon C. Reidel
In many ways, the sports talk show co-hosted by junior Anthony Spagnolo and his friends on ESPN Radio is a continuation of the discussions they had every day in high school. Emulating those lively, comedic conversations about sports has attracted thousands of listeners to the aptly named "EveryMorning Quarterback" to hear the crew talk about sports, pop culture, crack jokes, and interview some of the biggest names in sports.
"My friends and I would talk sports every morning before school and thought it would be kind of cool if it was on the air," says Spagnolo, who is a physical education major. "So we sent out an audio tape and couldn't believe it when we heard back from ESPN. They told us they wanted to put us on their Saturday morning lineup, which was a huge deal for us. We were thinking maybe public access at best."
Wedged between some of ESPN's top national radio shows and personalities, EMQ can be heard every Saturday morning between 10 a.m. and noon on WCAT 1390. It's the only local sports radio talk show heard statewide and in parts of New York and Canada that focuses on national and local sports including UVM athletics, high school sports and even the Oldies But Goodies men's basketball league, which gets its fair share of ribbing from the EMQ crew.
Originally broadcast on the Champlain Wave in September 2007, the show now operates out of a studio in South Burlington, where Spagnolo produces it with co-host Connor Mellen, a sophomore transfer student in the School of Business Administration. The EMQ crew also includes summer co-hosts Brendan McCarthy and Connor Logan, Hunter Thayer, John Kelley and Trey Peiffer -- mostly friends of Spagnolo's from Rice High School in South Burlington.
"The only guidelines they gave us at the beginning were not to swear," recalls Spagnolo. "Of course someone called in and swore, but that was early in the show and I think we had about one listener, and it was my mom, so no one really heard it. Someone else called in once and asked if we were the pizza parlor. We told her that she was on the air with the "EveryMorning Quarterback" and she asked us who the quarterback was."
Building an audience
With essentially no name recognition, Spagnolo thought it would be funny if he and his co-hosts pretended they were a big time show by doing a GQ-style photo shoot and holding an autograph signing at the University Mall. It seemed to work as people started calling the show and occasionally telling them how much they enjoyed listening. "The publicity stuff was meant as a joke in the beginning, but we found that if you act like a big deal even if you're not, people will think you are," says Mellen.
"I'm surprised how many students come up to me and say that they listen to the show," says Mellen. "They say it's pretty funny and also like the local coverage. I think a lot of students are attracted to the show because of its humorous nature, which can be sort of juvenile at times."
Booking big time guests
As the number of EMQ listeners increased, so did the caliber of the guests. Spagnolo booked UVM men's basketball coach Mike Lonergan and star forward Marqus Blakely, hockey coach Kevin Sneddon and some of his players, including goalie Rob Madore. Before long, EMQ was interviewing the likes of national hockey guru Barry Melrose; baseball expert Buster Olney; college basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb; and UVM alum Ryen Russillo, who co-hosts the Scott Van Pelt Show on ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio College GameDay, in addition to appearing on ESPN television.
"When we started getting these big name guests, we were like, 'This is an actual show -- we're not just fooling around on Saturday mornings anymore,'" says Spagnolo. "People were even starting to ask to come back on the show. Ryen Russillo and Barry Melrose actually wanted to come back."
Russillo, who graduated from UVM in 1997 with a degree in political science, has served as a mentor of sorts, according to Spagnolo.
"The thing I really like about the guys is that they decided to do something and followed through with it," says Russillo. "They reached out to me, told me about their show, and I was impressed. They are getting reps on a live radio show, and that is rare. College isn't always about your major; it's about taking advantage of what the community around you has to offer. Both UVM and Burlington are the best when it comes to letting the students get creative about their future. The experiences they have been provided is far greater than battling it out with two thousand ESPN hopefuls from a big name communications school."
Spagnolo isn't sure where the future of the show lies beyond graduation, but is committed to keeping it as fun and entertaining as it was back in high school. "I don't ever want to it become a chore to get up in the morning and do sports radio. I want to keep it like it was when were younger, and I think that's why the show works."