For Hall of Famer Mike Bradd, broadcasting was a natural fit

2010-12-15T22:25:00Z For Hall of Famer Mike Bradd, broadcasting was a natural fitBY BRIAN NIELSEN Sports Editor
December 15, 2010 10:25 pm  • 


With the NBA, NFL or Major League Baseball crossed off his list, Mike Bradd pretty much had his career determined.

"I was a really bad player," said the Mattoon resident and Eastern Illinois University instructor who went to school at Octavia. "I knew in eighth grade I was going to be either a sportscaster or a sports writer. I think that's how most sportscasters and sports writers get started.

"I sat in the bleachers in eighth grade and broadcast the game into a tape recorder. For a current event when other kids were talking about Congress or something like that I wrote about the last Friday's game. The teacher was an assistant coach so it was OK."

Since then many others have given approval.

The voice of Eastern Illinois University basketball for 23 years after previously broadcasting Lake Land and high school sports has now been chosen for the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame as a media member.

Bradd joins his longtime color commentator for EIU broadcasts, Jack Ashmore, who was inducted into the IBCA Hall of Fame in 2009 and certainly speaks highly of his younger but talented partner.

"First of all he's very intelligent and extremely glib, so naturally talented, but he also works at it," Ashmore said. "The amount of time he puts in for game preparation is unbelievable. The hardest thing for a play-by-play announcer is to quickly and accurately describe the strange play and unusual occurrence and I think Mike does that better than anyone I've heard. I'm talking about any level.

"I know he likes teaching and he's basically a small town guy so probably the situation he's had is a good one at EIU but if he had chosen a different path he could be broadcasting for an NFL or NBA team. I listen to a lot of guys do this and he is as good as anybody."

Bradd does not appear to be wondering what if.

"When I was young that would have been the goal, I guess, but I really can't say I missed out on anything," he said. "That NBA schedule I don't think would appeal to me. I don't really think I like that big market and I would never learn to work in the big city."

He just knew he wanted to broadcast somewhere.

After those days of talking into a tape recorder at high school games or even at home turning down the sound of the television to give his own game accounts, Bradd's career actually began at Lake Land College in the fall of 1977.

While not living in Lake Land's district, Bradd's father learned from a friend about Lake Land's radio program and station. Coincidentally, that friend's son, Gary McCollough, a few years older than Bradd and a broadcaster for WGCY in Gibson City, is also going into the IBCA Hall of Fame in April.

Bradd probably was not your typical broadcast student as he looked for any chance to broadcast a ballgame.

"I hung out either at the radio station or the gym," he said. "I don't want to make it sound bad like I was hoping someone would get sick but in case someone got sick. I don't know if that's an obsession or not."

For one reason or another, chances came.

"Most of them were not quite as interested as I was so it wasn't unheard of for it to happen, let's put it that way," Bradd said.

In addition to broadcasting Lake Land games with some mentoring from radio instructor Ken Beno, Lake Land also did some tape delay telecasts of the Lakers as well as Eastern football.

"We even went over to Eastern and took a couple of cameras up the elevator and to the roof, even though they weren't really for that, just to do tape delay," Bradd said. "I just loved that kind of stuff back then. It sounds crazy now."

After Lake Land, Bradd needed just three semesters to complete his degree at Bradley while also working at Bloomington's WJBC radio.

The first game in which he was paid to broadcast - no one in the bleachers must have thrown the kid money for those games in the Octavia bleachers - was Normal University High against Bloomington Central Catholic in November of 1980.

"I got to work with Art Kimball," Bradd said. "I grew up listening to Art Kimball. I thought he walked on water and here he is telling me things to do to get better. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven."

More such help came from Mattoon's Ken Woodell when Bradd got his first job out of college at WLBH.

"Ken has been a great mentor," Bradd said. "He is a great broadcaster and a tremendous model on how to treat people."

Bradd has passed along plenty of his knowledge as well teaching both at Lake Land and now Eastern where he began doing color commentery for Panthers basketball home games with another IBCA Hall of Famer Waldo Grigoroff and became the play-by-play man in 1988.

"We had a very quality broadcaster doing our games in a pretty small market," former EIU coach Rick Samuels said. "I think Mike enjoyed being involved with his family plus I think he enjoyed teaching."

"I do," Bradd said of the teaching. "I sort of fell into that and liked it. I had to be convinced at first. It's worked out well with Eastern giving the flexibility to do both. I think some of the things I do in broadcasting games help me relate to students."

His students have included Mattoon's Larry Smith, who went on to become a sports anchor at CNN.

"Larry has been good about giving credit but I don't know that I had much to do with him," Bradd said. "I encouraged him but Larry was pretty talented. I stood back and let him go. The same with John Twork who is very talented."

Undoubtedly, others have learned from Bradd both in the classroom and from his broadcasts.

He recalls his first play-by-play game for EIU basketball was a last-second loss at Northern Illinois.

Since then he has broadcast two NCAA tournament seasons.

"The two games that really stand out are the 1992 semifinal win over Wisconsin-Green Bay - at the time I thought that was the best Eastern game I'd ever seen - and then the championship game in 2001, although that was just the last 10 minutes.

"The 1992 win over Wisconsin-Green Bay where they had to play a near-perfect game to win, and the 2001 semifinal over Murray State were two of the best games Eastern has ever played. I don't mean to be an old fogy and say nothing has happened since '01. I sure liked that win over Bradley a couple of weeks ago."

More highlights are likely to come for Bradd with the blessings of his wife, Treva, son Kyle and daughters Kourtney and Kaitlyn.

"I'd like to keep doing it indefinitely," Bradd said. "I still look forward to every game, I really do.

"My family has been good. We have three February birthdays and it seems like over the years I've missed a lot of birthdays or nights the driveway has needed to be shoveled and I wasn't around. They have never complained about that."

Contact Brian Nielsen at or 238-6856.

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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