ESPN’s Buccigross speaks at QU

Matt Eisenberg

John Buccigross remembers his days working at TV stations in Cape Cod and in Providence. Even though he is now a high-profiled anchor at ESPN, he still works as hard as if he was trying to get his foot in the door.

“Whatever you want to do, it is there for the taking right now,” Buccigross said when he spoke at Quinnipiac Wednesday afternoon in front of an audience of more than 100 people. “If you just have any kind of energy, any kind of heart, any kind of willingness, any kind of humility.”

Wearing a light grey sweatshirt, dark grey jeans and light grey sneakers, Buccigross spoke for 45 minutes in Buckman Theatre to answer students’ questions, varying from how he prepares for a broadcast to the creation of his “#BucciOvertimeChallenge,” a hashtag he uses for hockey fans to guess who will score a game-winning goal if a post-season NHL game goes into overtime.

“John provided essential information for students to learn if they wish to pursue careers in sports journalism,” said Rich Hanley, associate professor of journalism and director of the graduate program in journalism.

Buccigross, who attended Heidelberg University, emphasized the importance of having a strong work ethic not just in sports, but in all careers. He said he didn’t call in sick in his five years when he worked for Cape 11 News in Cape Cod or his two years for WPRI-TV in Providence. He said he didn’t miss his first day at ESPN until his 11th year.

“My Ripken streak was over,” Buccigross said with a laugh.

An ESPN employee since 1996, Buccigross provided the crowd with honest answers about his thoughts on other professional broadcasters (he admires the detail Mike “Doc” Emrick puts into broadcasting), the emergence of Fox Sports 1 in comparison to ESPN (“We are a monster.”) and his prominent hashtag during the Stanley Cup Playoffs and other select hockey games (“I never in a million years thought it would take off like this.”).

“I thought everyone in attendance was very receptive to what he had to say,” Q30 General Manager Jon Alba said.

Buccigross said his passion for sports rooted from his adopted father. He grew up watching legendary Boston Bruins players like Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito, and his love for all sports — not just hockey — took off.

“I just couldn’t get enough,” Buccigross said.

Buccigross typically co-hosts the 11 p.m. weeknight edition of “SportsCenter,” but occasionally broadcasts college hockey games. Last year, he broadcasted the Frozen Four for ESPN.

“I was just blown away,” Buccigross said, recollecting memories of the first Frozen Four he attended. “It was the coolest thing. The Thursday/Saturday games, the bands, people walking around outside with jerseys. It had a big impact on me. I was hooked from that moment on.”

When Buccigross anchors and broadcasts, he said he has three goals in mind when telling a story. He wants to entertain, inform and inspire.

“Those three things were always my kind of foundation,” he said.

Added Alba: “I think that would be something valuable for people to pick up on.”

The most rewarding part of his job, he says, is the paycheck so he can continue to make a living. But No. 2 on his list is the ability to meet people, from athletes like Ray Bourque to other ESPN personalities.

“I’ve been into sports since I was 4, I will be until the day I die,” Buccigross said. “It would be harder if it was something that you didn’t truly love.”

Hanley, who helped organize the event, said the key element in Buccigross’ session was how he emphasized persistence, hard work and trying new things. As an example, Buccigross said he helped “SportsCenter” come up with its “3 Stars” segment toward the end of its show.

“The guy’s at the top of his game, and he’s constantly trying to get better,” Hanley said. “He knows he’s not good enough, and that’s the thing that drives him.”

When he first took the stage, Buccigross was reminded of when he was a college student: wide-eyed, naive and with high hopes to make it in the real world.

“I love coming back and letting them know there is a chance,” he said.