A week in the life of BYU radio commentator Greg Wrubell
BYU men’s basketball was set to play Creighton in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on a Saturday at 11 a.m. in December. The “Voice of the Cougars,” Greg Wrubell, planned to arrive in Sioux Falls on Friday evening.
Unfortunately, a blizzard derailed his plans.
Wrubell’s Friday night flight from Minneapolis to Sioux Falls was canceled, leaving him 233 miles from the stadium with limited options to proceed. Scrambling, Wrubell rented a car and drove through the snow-filled night.
Due to extreme weather conditions, the normal 3.5 hour trek took Wrubell seven hours, landing him at his hotel at 2:30 a.m.
“It’s the toughest drive I’ve ever had,” Wrubell said.
Commitment like this is why Wrubell was named the 2021 Utah Sportscaster of the Year, but this commitment is not exclusive to game day.
Preparation for a broadcast starts as soon as the previous one ends. Wrubell maintains a number of databases using the final stat book and analytical stats from each game, with the stat-gathering process starting Saturday night after the last game of the week and going until Tuesday.
As Wrubell pieces together the picture of what happened in the previous game, he also writes the script for Coordinator’s Corner, a Monday morning show, and the Coach’s Show, which airs on Tuesday night.
On Wednesday, Wrubell looks ahead to the next opponent. His study includes watching film and creating spotting boards, which show an outline of the offensive and defensive formation along with each player’s name, number and stats.
Wrubell then creates his own game notes and writes his pregame script. This is coupled with travel when needed. He typically leaves for a Saturday game on Thursday night or Friday morning.
Despite calling basketball games for 26 years and football games for 21 years, Wrubell still listens to parts of each broadcast throughout his weekly preparation. Whether he’s driving in the car or working at his desk, Wrubell will place himself in the shoes of the listener.
Wrubell listens for the frequency of time and score, accuracy of the call, precision of descriptions, variation of vocabulary and levels of audio. With so many particulars to focus on during the broadcast, re-listening to the game helps Wrubell give the listener a complete picture.
After the week of prep, game day arrives.
For most people, game day starts Saturday morning; for Wrubell, game day gets underway Friday night. He runs through a series of memorizing exercises with his spotting boards before he goes to bed. After sleeping with the information, Wrubell wakes up and repeats the same exercises, naming the player and position based on their jersey number.
For an afternoon game, Wrubell heads to the stadium once he’s completed his drills and eaten breakfast. For an evening game, Wrubell watches football, tweets and stays involved with the storylines of the game before heading to the stadium, arriving one hour before the pregame show and three hours before kickoff.
Wrubell’s booth, sitting around the 35-yard line on the north side of the LaVell Edwards Stadium press box, consists of six to seven people.
Inside the booth are Wrubell, color-commentator Riley Nelson, engineer Mike Wimmer, statistician Ralph Sokolowsky, a player spotter and one or two interns. Sideline reporter Mitchell Juergens is also at the stadium monitoring on-field storylines.
There are typically an additional seven to eight people in the BYU Broadcasting studio, combining for a total of 15-16 people on-site to work a broadcast.
Wrubell’s desk setup consists of his script, game notes, spotting boards, tablet, laptop, radio receiver, binoculars and a can of soda. Throughout the game, his front window will crowd with stat-filled sticky notes.
By the time the broadcast is underway, it’s eight hours of non-stop go. “I really don’t even note the passage of time,” Wrubell said.
The pregame show starts two hours before kickoff, followed by a four-hour game, topped off with a two-hour postgame show.
Although the Tucanos press box meal helps, Wrubell says being in the booth isn’t the same experience as enjoying from your at-home recliner with a plate of wings. “It’s a high-energy environment, an intense environment. I’m pretty demanding of everyone’s places and roles during the broadcast to make sure we’re all on the same page.”
It’s easy to understand why Wrubell is demanding of those working the broadcast. While his voice is the final product that goes over the air, the behind-the-scenes work can play a large role in what is said.
The spotter uses spotting boards to point out which individuals are involved in the play, in case Wrubell is not able to clearly identify. If they fulfill their role, they are able to provide a clearer picture, allowing Wrubell to broadcast the players involved. However, a mistake from the spotter could lead Wrubell to call out the wrong name.
Sokolowsky, the lead on stats, notices game trends and unique stats to enhance the broadcast. He will hand Wrubell sticky notes to place on the glass window, containing anything from scoring drive recaps to a rare feat that hasn’t been accomplished in 25 years.
Wimmer, the booth engineer, is responsible for setting up booth equipment a day prior to the game. During the broadcast, Wimmer sits behind Wrubell and controls the audio levels for the entire eight-hour span, constantly adjusting levels based on the moment.
Having now spent three seasons working with Wrubell, Wimmer is aware of Wrubell’s standards. “He (Wrubell) expects perfection out of himself and has high expectations of everybody on the crew to match his level.”
The behind the scenes work does not mean Wrubell has time to relax. During commercial breaks he is scouring his stats book for trends or potential records. Wrubell will send out multiple tweets during breaks, oftentimes finishing his last one while talking over the air as the broadcast returns from commercials.
In the face of all that goes on during the broadcast, Wrubell doesn’t get nervous. “I take care of all the nerves by preparing. If I’ve done as much as I can in preparation for the game, I feel confident going into the booth that I can do a good job with it.”
While it’s hard to miss the passion in Wrubell’s voice, it’s easy to overlook the preparation that goes into his broadcast.
“He works so hard to make it look so natural,” Wimmer said.
Wrubell’s preparation is what Wimmer remembers from his first time working a broadcast. Wimmer walked into the booth at Neyland Stadium to see Wrubell getting quizzed on the names, numbers and pronunciations of the opposing Tennessee Volunteers.
This preparation is what leaves Wrubell ready to deliver time and time again. Whether it’s Beck-to-Harline, Jimmermania, the Mangum Miracle or anything in between, Wrubell has been ready.
“I embrace the preparation. I love everything that goes into getting ready for a broadcast,” Wrubell said.
The BYU alum has never lost his passion despite 26 years behind the mic. In fact, Wrubell has only missed one game in his entire career for a reason other than working a different broadcast taking place simultaneously. The one game Wrubell missed was because his daughter returned home from the completion of her church missionary service on the same night as a BYU basketball game.
Twenty-six years and Wrubell has never missed a game due to sickness, injury, traffic, storms or anything else thrown his way. Not even the largest day of snowfall since 2018 in Sioux Falls could stop Wrubell from putting on his headset.
Given his dedication, it should come as no surprise Wrubell loves his job. “It’s the best job in the world. It’s tied to things that are close to my heart.”
So the next time you hear the Voice of the Cougars sign off with his coined phrase, “in the meantime and in-between time,” understand that for Wrubell, the meantime and between time means back to work.