In 2010, the Islanders entrusted their radio broadcasts to bright-eyed and baritone students at WRHU 88.7 Radio Hofstra University. As the team has grown over the past four years, so have the broadcasters, as WRHU was recently named the nation’s best college radio station by The Princeton Review.
The Review ranks the top 20 colleges in over 50 categories, surveying 379 schools across the United States. WRHU finished atop the rankings for the first time in the station history.
“I’m happy for the students that their work gets recognized on a national level,” Islanders play-by-play voice Chris King said. “Over the course of the four years, everyone has listened [to the broadcast] and been impressed with what they’ve heard. Now we’re finding that their thoughts, on how good this broadcast is, are vindicated by the national recognition from something as prestigious as the Princeton Review.”
WRHU is the nation’s only collegiate station with exclusive broadcast rights to games for a professional sports team. Hofstra sends reporters to all Islanders practices and games, producing locker room interviews, intermission features, as well as providing the color commentary alongside King. There is an additional team of student engineers at the Hofstra studios, cutting highlights and handling the technical side of the Islanders game broadcasts.
“The line between student broadcaster and professional broadcaster has truly blurred over the last decade or so,” said John Mullen, WRHU’s Director of Operations. “Students are coming to college prepared at a much higher level because of technology, effort, coaching and opportunities, like the Islanders.”
After four successful seasons – including a renewal in 2013 – this week’s award further supported the Islanders' unlikely choice of a college radio station as a broadcast partner.
“Since we’ve done over 300 Islanders games, I think they’ve proven they can do it at a professional level,” Mullen said. “When the Islanders made the playoff run [in 2013], ESPN Radio in New York and CBS WFAN carried the student-produced feed of the Islanders game. If our game broadcast quality is good enough to be on ESPN’s flagship station in the number one media market… then that shows you something.”
Hofstra is already one of the highest ranked radio programs in the country, thanks in part to the school’s deal with the Islanders. Students get practical experience covering a professional team, building rapport with players and coaches, enhancing technical abilities and performing for a big audience. As a result, the broadcasters are quickly scooped up by New York radio after graduation.
“A couple of my seniors, my two best color analysts just got jobs immediately right out of college,” King said. “I’d like to think it’s partially because of the good work they did on the Islanders broadcast.”
Kevin Dexter, a color analyst for the team in 2012-13, is now an on-air broadcaster for News 12 and also works for CBS Radio Sports Network. Melissa Raff, a studio producer, now has a full-time job for CBS Radio in Manhattan.
While the Review’s ranking is a badge of honor from the academic community, WRHU is on the cusp of prestigious recognition from inside the industry. Radio Hofstra is a finalist for the National Association of Broadcasters’ Marconi Radio Award given to the top non-commercial station in the country. WRHU is up against NPR stations, pitting the kids against career radio veterans. The award will be announced on Sept. 11.
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