Bill Spaulding is on the ride of his life — and at the rate he’s going, he may never have to dismount.
Very few 20-year-olds can say they’ve already broadcast dozens of top-shelf Division I college sporting events. Yet Spaulding is growing his resume quite nicely through his work with Syracuse University’s WAER FM-88 Radio, where he is sports director.
"I feel eternally grateful I’ve found something that is a passion of mine," he said. "I know that a lot of people wake up and say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go to work today.’ Going into the studio to do work, hitting the road — I’m doing stuff I love to do. I’m living a dream right now; I wake up with a smile every day because of what I do here."
Spaulding is a native of St. Mary Our Mother Parish in Horseheads and a graduate of Elmira Notre Dame High School. He recently completed his junior year at Syracuse’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, majoring in broadcast journalism.
"I loved playing sports and always wanted to be a professional athlete growing up, but you get to that age of, ‘Hey I might not have the stuff to get there,’" he said. "But God blessed me with a good memory to remember names and stats, and I enjoy talking."
Between Syracuse’s reputation as a top-flight journalism school and Spaulding’s love of Orange sports — "I grew up going to games at the Carrier Dome since I was knee-high" — he was happy to stick close to home for college. Believing that hands-on experience is as vital to his career development as academics, Spaulding attached himself to WAER from the start of his freshman year. His initial duties involved writing sports copy at 5:30 a.m. but he progressed quickly by doing numerous play-by-play practice tapes, earning his first on-air game assignment with men’s lacrosse last spring. That also was when Spaulding became WAER’s sports director, a rare distinction for a sophomore.
Spaulding has additionally served as talk-show host and play-by-play announcer for high-school and women’s college sports at SU’s other student-run radio station, WJPZ FM-89.1. He’s also on the sports staff at Citrus TV, the campus television station. In the summers he has broadcast minor-league baseball in nearby Geneva and Cape Cod, and over the next few months he’s logging an internship with the Class AAA Syracuse Chiefs.
His SU sports coverage during the 2011-12 school year involved lots of ups and downs. Spaulding did football play-by-play when the Orange started out 5-2 before dropping its final five games. Next, the men’s basketball team posted a 35-3 record and reached the NCAA national tournament’s Elite Eight. Spaulding, who broadcast home contests with crowds exceeding 30,000, added that doing play-by-play at SU’s NCAA tournament sites in Pittsburgh and Boston was a personal highlight.
"To call games with that much meaning — you get there and there’s all this national media. It’s almost like the Super Bowl," he remarked.
However, the Orange program was dogged during the season by such controversy as sexual-abuse allegations against former Assistant Coach Bernie Fine; a defamation lawsuit against Head Coach Jim Boeheim; and two suspensions of star center Fab Melo. Spaulding said these issues gave WAER staffers a unique opportunity to hone their hard-news journalistic skills.
"This was the best possible classroom for anyone on our staff. I was really, really proud of everyone," he said. "We made sure it was solid, truthful, well-vetted information before we reported. We wanted to present the facts. We really weren’t doing personal opinion."
Spaulding’s media work is obviously time consuming, but he said he’s successfully worked his studies into the mix: "You really just have to manage your time well." The son of Stephen and Theresa Spaulding — well-known pro-life physicians in the Southern Tier — also is never too busy to make it to church.
"I always find a way to get to Mass every Sunday," he said. "I’ve seen a lot of Catholic communities; the Catholic Church is alive and well in Charlottesville, Va., and Louisville, Ky."
Spaulding hopes to someday join the ranks of Bob Costas, Mike Tirico, Sean McDonough and other illustrious sportscasters who have gone through SU. Yet as bright as the future looks, he also is taking time to appreciate special moments as they unfold, such as when he covered a Syracuse-Southern California football game last fall at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
"It’s a building with so much history. That was a really cool experience," he said. "We try to make sure wherever we go, we just stop and take our headset off and really soak in the atmosphere. I think how lucky I am to do this. You’re traveling around the country for school and it goes by quickly; all of a sudden you’re graduating."