Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

June 6, 2014

Excitement motivates Cotton

By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — For the past 21 years a familiar voice has brought the action of Marshall University football and basketball to fans in West Virginia, Eastern Kentucky and Southern Ohio. Steve Cotton has been on hand for championships, lean times and now a resurgence of the Thundering Herd football program.

With expectations high for success this year on the gridiron, Cotton is excited to step into the booth and call the action for what will be his 22nd year in Huntington.

“You have at this point, almost daily, someone’s predictions coming out... There is a lot of talent. Coach (Doc) Holliday has gotten a full class of his players now and the way they have recruited, he and his staff, has been incredible,” Cotton said. “The talent is there and there is experience. A 10-win season for the first time in over a decade and you’ve got the Conference Player of the Year at quarterback and lots of offensive weapons.

“But to me, maybe the most exciting thing is you are now pairing that offense with a defense that last year improved from one year to the next, more than any team in the NCAA in the last 16 years. Almost that entire defense is back and it should be that much better with another year of experience. That’s what’s exciting.”

Cotton said he enjoys his job, but it is much more pleasurable when the team is winning.

“It’s easier for everybody, from the broadcasting crew, to the equipment managers and everyone,” Cotton commented. “It’s exciting. It’s easy to be energized and especially football where you only have the 12 games that you are promised and each one is such an event.”

Cotton said that the excitement for this year’s team began building last year after the Thundering Herd beat Maryland 37-20.

“From the time Marshall won the Military Bowl in Annapolis last year, people started thinking, ‘Wow, next year’s Marshall team returns most of the guys and this could be a special year.’”

Many people may not truly understand what a sports broadcaster does before a game. It’s a lot more than taking a roster and walking into the press box and flipping the ‘on’ switch.

“It starts on Sunday. You go in and start putting together all the statistics and you work two or three weeks ahead of time,” Cotton said. “For me it’s about a month, three or four games out, I start reading up on the upcoming opponents, getting all the tidbits you pick up here and there to drag out during  broadcast.

“Then game week it gets serious, you put it together. I have a bunch of charts I do with all the personnel on them and you make sure you get all the notes and stats and that kind of thing. After that, it’s a lot of memorization. You memorize, but you also have to forget about the previous week. That’s a bit of a trick.

“We do a two-hour pregame show, so there’s a lot of work that goes into that. We pre-produce things and interview players and coaches and get into a routine. By Friday you have to have it wrapped up because if you’re on the road, you’re traveling, so you need to be ready to go.”

Hailing from a small town in Northern Michigan, the 50-year old Cotton attended a one-room school that housed K-through-eighth grade and did not have sports teams. His first taste of sports came through a voice on the radio.

“I would have been about 7 years old, my birthday is in May and my parents gave me a little transistor radio. I’m flipping through and came across Detroit Tigers baseball. I didn’t know it at the time but they had one of the all-time great baseball announcers in Ernie Harwell, probably one of the top five play-by-play broadcasters in the history of the game, and I became enthralled,” Cotton said.

“It was the early 1970s and my friends who were sports fans, their heroes on the Tigers were Al Kaline and Mickey Lolich. Ernie Harwell was my hero from the start and I always thought that would be one of the coolest things in the world, to have your job be to go to games and talk about it.”

That has been Cotton’s job at Marshall for 21 years. He came to MU from his alma mater, the University of Florida, where he broadcast women’s basketball and baseball. Ironically he replaced a broadcaster in Huntington who had the same name, but spelled differently.

Stan Cotten, former voice of the Herd is a friend of Cotton’s and is currently play-by-play announcer at Wake Forest University.

Cotton and the Thundering Herd kick off the season Aug. 30 at Miami of Ohio.

— Contact Bob Redd at bredd@bdtonline.com, Twitter @bdtredd