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Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame 2020-21: Fred Gaudelli, Father of the Modern Pro-Football Broadcast


Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame 2020-21: Fred Gaudelli, Father of the Modern Pro-Football Broadcast By Jason Dachman, Chief Editor

Thursday, December 2, 2021 - 11:34 am

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In a ceremony postponed by the pandemic, the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame Class of 2020 will be inducted on Dec. 14 at the New York Hilton. SVG is profiling the nine inductees in the weeks prior. For more information, CLICK HERE.

Few - if any - individuals have had as indelible an impact on the look and feel of NFL broadcasts over the past three decades as Fred Gaudelli. The producer of NBC's Sunday Night Football, ABC's Monday Night Football, and ESPN's Sunday Night Football has reimagined how viewers watch pro football, deploying groundbreaking technical innovations, inimitable storytelling tactics, and an impeccable sense of style to bring the game into the modern age for millions of fans.

There's no one better than Fred Gaudelli, says Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer John Madden, who worked with the 24-time Emmy Award winner at ABC and NBC. He's the hardest-working person in TV, and he's a great coach.

The Early Years: Sports-Crazed Kid Eyes the Broadcast Booth A native of Harrison, NY, Gaudelli grew up obsessed with sports and was a fan of Knicks and Rangers announcer Marv Albert and ABC Sports' Keith Jackson, Chris Schenkel, and Howard Cosell.

I figured out that I wasn't going to be a professional athlete around 13 or 14, Gaudelli explains, but I still had this great passion for sports, and I grew up constantly listening to sports on radio and watching on television. I thought it would be a fun job to call games and get paid for it. That's when I really started thinking hard about it and paying attention to the broadcast of games.

After graduating from Harrison High School, where he served as PA announcer for basketball and baseball games, Gaudelli headed to Long Island University - C.W. Post. As a communications major, he was extremely active at the campus radio station, calling football and basketball games and serving as sports director his senior year. However, he soon came to realize that his future was behind the scenes rather than behind the mic.

I just didn't feel like my voice was the kind of voice that you would hear at a Super Bowl or a World Series and realized that would put a pretty quick ceiling on how far I could go, he remembers. So I took an internship at Channel 5 in New York City in the production department. I fell in love with it right away and thought that it would be a better path for me because I would still get to use my sports knowledge and satisfy my passion for sports, but my success wasn't going to be incumbent on something I couldn't control: my voice.

Bristol-Bound: Landing at the Worldwide Leader in Sports After graduating and while working on a weekend sports-radio talk show at WFAS White Plains, NY, Gaudelli heard via the station's owner about potential job opportunities at a fledgling cable sports network in Bristol, CT. He soon found himself working in the mailroom at ESPN and, by 1983, had worked his way through the ranks of ESPN's remote-production department to become an associate producer on a variety of sports, including college football, basketball, and baseball; the USFL; the U.S. Olympic Festival; and the NFL Draft.

I was extremely fortunate to work closely with Fred from the very beginning of his career at ESPN, says Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer and former ESPN exec Steve Anderson. Right from the start, he was the most talented, hardest-working, and best-prepared producer I have ever known. He always set incredibly high standards for himself and for everyone on his team. In my opinion, Fred has developed into the best live-event producer in the history of television sports.

Gaudelli got his first front-bench gig in 1986, producing ESPN's live Thursday-night college-football package, and he went on to produce the broadcaster's Big Monday college-basketball and College World Series packages as well.

The people and the camaraderie that we had at ESPN back then are what sticks with me to this day, as well as the work ethic that was embraced and shared by everyone, says Gaudelli. I was fortunate to have two bosses in [Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famers] Bill Fitts and Scotty Connal, who were giants in the business teaching a bunch of young kids that didn't know anything. They were demanding but, at the same time, understanding, kind, and they were terrific teachers in terms of storytelling, organization, and how to lead. I still use those lessons today.

In 1990, Gaudelli took over as producer of ESPN's Sunday Night Football package - the highest-rated series on cable television at the time - along with serving as producer of ESPN's NFL Draft coverage. Named senior coordinating producer at ESPN in 1996, he also oversaw the network's X Games broadcasts and its Cable Ace Award-winning Major League Baseball coverage in 1997.

He would go on to produce SNF on ESPN through 2000, with the show winning an Outstanding Live Sports Series Emmy in his final year.

In my opinion, Fred Gaudelli is quite simply the best NFL-game producer of all time, says Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer Howard Katz, who served as Guadelli's boss at ESPN and later ABC Sports. His knowledge of the game and the way he thinks like an offensive coordinator gives him an uncanny ability to anticipate in the truck what's about to happen on the field. Combine that with his instincts and intuition along with his ability to process information in the heat of the game on so many different levels, and you've got a very, very special talent.

Monday Night Football: Taking Over an Iconic Franchise From an Industry Icon In 2001, Gau
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