STATEside caught up with Mike Sondgeroth ’85, who has succeeded Steve Adams as the public address announcer for Redbird Football.
A math teacher and assistant athletics director for University High School, Sondgeroth isn’t new to sports announcing or Hancock Stadium. He brings 27 years of announcing for the Pioneers as well as Illinois High School Association (IHSA) events. We asked Sondgeroth for some inside information on the man behind the microphone.
Have you always wanted to be in sports broadcasting?
When I came to ISU in 1981 I was initially a communications major with the hopes of being a radio sports broadcaster. After my freshman year my communications advisor told me that to advance in the field you either had to be really good or have contacts. I grew up in a small town, so I didn’t have contacts. We weren’t really sure how good I was going to be at that point in time, so she asked if there was anything else I was good at. I said math. She said, “Congratulations! You’re going to be a math teacher!”
After graduating I began working for U-High as a math teacher. Eventually they needed someone to do the PA, so it was a natural second chance to get in front of the microphone. For the last 27 years I have been doing PA for the Pioneers in Hancock Stadium.
Had you been eyeing the Redbird Football PA announcer job for a while?
Steve Adams was already the PA when I came to ISU. It’s one of those things that I thought about, but never expected to happen because Steve had been there so long and did such a fantastic job. When Steve announced he was stepping down, I talked with my wife and we decided it would be a chance for me to have an active role in the ISU Athletics program. To be a part of that college game day experience is fantastic.
Steve Adams held the position for 37 years. Is it intimidating to follow him?
You never want to be the one to follow a legend, because you are always compared to that person. You want to be the second to follow. I received a nice note from Steve wishing me well. He has been nothing short of supportive in me taking over.
What goes into a day of announcing?
When I do a PA for U-High I might walk into a game with six pages of notes. The first book I got from LB Nagle (assistant athletics director for marketing) was 18 pages. The hard preparation starts 48 hours out when we’re getting the book and reviewing promos, checking rosters, and working on pronunciations. We’re at the stadium about two hours prior to get our space set up, and we start 23 minutes out with our first PA announcement.
What would be your biggest nightmare in announcing?
I lived it in my first game. I referred to the Redbirds as the Pioneers twice. I realized it right away and I wrote it down. In the second half I started to again but I caught myself. That’s the biggest nightmare—that you’re announcing the wrong thing. Fortunately in game two there were no Pioneer references.
What has been your best moment in announcing?
Comiskey Park offered the right to do an inning of play-by-play in a press box there. My wife bought me an inning for my 30th birthday. It wasn’t broadcast, but I still remember the feeling of being able be able to announce an inning of White Sox baseball. More important was the idea of being in the professional press box and sitting in the same kind of booth where all of the famous announcers have served.
Do you eat or drink while announcing?
I drink to keep my throat moist and calm. I usually have a cold Diet Pepsi. I am still in the old press box where there is no bathroom. I have about 10–15 minutes at halftime when the marching band is on to sprint down the spiral staircase, use the facilities, and sprint back up. So I drink just enough to keep my throat working.
What can we expect to see from the Redbirds this year?
I think they’re young. We can expect some growing pains and mistakes. But Coach (Brock) Spack and his staff have done a good job of getting them to understand and learn from their mistakes. I think you will be seeing continuing improvement for the rest of the season.
Sondgeroth is married to Debra (Kieso) ’86, M.S. ’88. They have three children. Two have graduated from U-High, and the other is a senior.
Steven Barcus can be reached at srbarcu@IllinoisState.edu.