How BYU radio’s play-by-play broadcaster works the mic

Greg Wrubell stands in LaVell Edwards Stadium where he does live play-by-play announcing for Cougars home football games. (Bradley Slade)

Radio play-by-play broadcasters help fans more fully understand game details from behind the scenes at many sporting events. For BYU, it’s Greg Wrubell, the Voice of the Cougars.

Wrubell grew up in Canada and has always loved sports, whether he was watching or listening to a game. He specifically enjoyed statistics and trivia about players and teams. Although he played hockey and a little bit of baseball, he could not compete well enough to play at a high level.

Wrubell’s father was the public address announcer for their hometown hockey team in Canada. Wrubell would often join his father in the booth during games.

“It was there where I became closely acquainted with the notion of speaking into a microphone,” Wrubell said.

During his junior year at BYU, Wrubell was selected for an unpaid internship with the KSL Radio sports department, where he worked with local sportscaster and sports-talk pioneer Chris Tunis. Wrubell explained Tunis, who has since died, had a tremendous impact in helping him form the foundation of his sportscasting career.

That internship got Wrubell’s foot in the door at KSL. Soon after, the news department brought Wrubell in for jobs while he was still a BYU student. He worked for a few years with KSL before a position on the BYU football radio broadcast crew opened up. Wrubell has worked for BYU ever since.

Play-by-play broadcaster Greg Wrubell in the zone at the Marriott Center. (Ari Davis)

Wrubell recently completed his 27th season on the BYU football radio broadcast crew and has been the team’s play-by-play voice since 2001.

He is currently in his 22nd season as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for BYU basketball and he recently completed his fifth season as the voice of BYU women’s soccer. Wrubell has been the long-time host of weekly shows featuring BYU’s football and basketball coaches. He also hosts a radio show on BYUradio called Behind the Mic, along with many other featured broadcasts.

“He seems to be overly prepared for everything, which makes for the quality of broadcast he presents because he is so prepared for it,” said BYUradio Coordinating Sports Producer Terry South. “In doing that, he demands that out of everybody that works with him too so that the broadcast has a certain level of quality that he wants.”

The preparation for a game has many forms, according to Wrubell. His preparation includes researching available statistics and team-prepared game notes, studying video, conducting interviews, reviewing previous broadcasts, memorizing player names and numbers, writing pre-game scripts and broadcast game notes, observing team practices and studying rulebooks.

“When I prepare extensively and thoroughly, I am never nervous about the broadcast,” Wrubell said.

A number of factors are important for the job, Wrubell said. Specific communication and projection skills are necessary, including the ability to enunciate while speaking quickly or having a voice that is appealing to listeners. Regardless of the physical requirements of the voice, Wrubell said preparation is what allows him to perform with confidence.

“I believe that a good play-by-play broadcaster is dependent on three P’s: passion, preparation and presentation,” Wrubell said. “When failing in any one of these three areas, he or she will shortchange the audience.”

Wrubell advised for anyone who has an interest in being a play-by-play broadcaster to become a student of the English language and writing. He said the spoken word is vitally important, but the ability to think and write both clearly and interestingly is reflected verbally. Wrubell also advised aspiring broadcasters to be versatile and seek to master as many media areas as possible.

Working for BYU Athletics is Wrubell’s dream job. He graduated from BYU and explained these are his teams. He loves college sports, but he especially loves BYU sports.

“I think passion is the other element that makes Greg so great at what he does. He is fully invested into BYU Athletics,” said former Wrubell intern Tanner Wilkinson. “His personal investment into the programs make the broadcast so much more real to BYU fans and to those listening.”

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