Editor’s note: Scott Reiss graduated from Stanford with a bachelor’s degree in communications in ’93 and a master’s degree in sociology in ’94. Last month, he was named the new play-by-play voice of Cardinal football and men’s basketball by Learfield Sports’ Cardinal Sports LLC, Stanford Athletics’ multimedia rights holder. Reiss learned his trade at KZSU-FM, the campus radio station. He spent eight years working at ESPN, anchoring several shows, including College GameNight, Baseball Tonight and ESPNEWS, and also did play-by-play for ESPN Radio college football and ESPN-TV college basketball. Reiss has spent the last five years working as an anchor/reporter at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, regularly hosting Giants, A’s and Sharks pregame and postgame snows. Prior to that, he was a sports and news anchor and reporter at WUTR-TV in Utica, New York, and was sports director at KCOY-TV in Santa Monica, Calif. This week, he spoke with Mark Soltau of gostanford.com about his return to The Farm.
Q: Is this a dream-come-true job for you?
A: I hoped it would happen. Realistically, Stanford has had three play-by-play guys in the last 50 years, so I knew the odds weren’t very good. But I certainly hoped somehow, some way, the circumstances might lead me back, and it just happened.
Q: Growing up, did you have a favorite announcer?
A: My hero in broadcasting was Vin Scully. I grew up in L.A. and that’s where it ends.
Q: As a kid, did you lay awake at night listening to Scully announce Dodger games on the radio?
A: I did, but I probably watched more on TV than I listened on the radio. But I certainly did listen a lot growing up down there.
Q: Can you recall a few of your personal broadcasting highlights?
A: Being hired by ESPN was a pretty big day for me. Just as much so getting the opportunity to come back and start up the Comcast Sports Net operation. That was a chance to come home and work in San Francisco and to cover Stanford professionally for the first time, albeit in sort of a peripheral role working for Comcast.
In terms of highlights, most of my experience has been in the studio and not play-by-play. A watershed moment for me was anchoring my first SportsCenter; covering the (San Francisco) Giants on the road during both World Series runs; and you’d have to throw in all three of Stanford’s BCS games. I was at all three of the BCS games for Comcast and being able to cover Stanford professionally and yet be a fan on the sideline and watch those games was pretty unforgettable.
Q: How about your favorite KZSU moment?
A: I did basketball and some baseball. The two that stick out from hoops that year was the transition from being just awful to the start of the NCAA Tournament-run of 11 years in a row. I had an NIT when Brevin Knight was a freshman. The first game that I’ll never forget was Stanford vs. Santa Clara and it was Brevin vs. Steve Nash. It was an overtime game that otherwise would have been pretty innocuous – Stanford-Santa Clara in November at the old Leavey Center, but it was an epic precursor of what was to come for both schools. The other game I think of is the Jason Kidd game when we beat Cal at Maples. Beating an NCAA Tournament-Cal team, which I think went to the Sweet 16 that year, was a really big deal for us.
Q: Although you are a Stanford graduate, will you try to remain impartial calling games?
A: I think all of me will be pulling for Stanford. It’s a balance, but to be honest, I think that’s where the Vin Scully influence comes in because he is as impartial and a non-homer as there is in broadcasting history and I really liked that growing up. I need to find the balance between the objectivity that I’ve had to show in everything I’ve done for the last 17 years, balance that with the fact that the audience is Stanford -- I am Stanford – I’m going to be just as excited as everybody listening when Stanford wins games. To be honest, I’m excited to see how it all plays out. I’m sure the excitement will bleed through, but I will not be the over-the-top, homer broadcaster because that’s just not in my nature.
Q: Having attended Stanford and been around so many student-athletes, what makes them so special?
A: I don’t even know if you can define it. There’s a certain ‘it’ quality that these kids have. I think it’s because they’re all so well-rounded and they’re not just athletes; they are really student-athletes, and they are even more than that. They’re so fascinating and they have so many interests that go above and beyond sports, but they’re so gifted at the same time at what they do. It’s a breeding ground for these incredible personalities. I think you need to be around them to appreciate it. We can say this until we are blue in the face, but until you’ve interacted with these kids, you don’t really get it. I do, because I’ve done it and I’ve been there.