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Stanley Cup Finals, Olympics, Tour de France all in a day’s work for emerging NBC sportscaster
Story by Mara McGinnis, BA ’97; photos by John Emerson
After 86 Stanley Cup playoff games (25 of which went into overtime), 34-year-old NBC sportscaster Liam McHugh is enjoying that he doesn’t have to shave for a while. “Not shaving is the thing I miss most about writing,” says the former writer who has become one of the most promising emerging voices in sports television today. McHugh is on a short break after the Stanley Cup finals, but then it’s off to the Tour de France, then the Olympics in London, and then back home just in time to host NBC’s College Football coverage.
It all began while McHugh was studying communication at UB and a friend convinced him (during a late night at The Steer on Main Street) that he should write for The Spectrum and that it would be a fun opportunity to earn course credit. “I remember the headline of my first story: ‘Checkstops Irk Stymied Students,’” he says. At that point, he had no notion of his future career as a television reporter. “I dropped a public speaking course at UB after only two classes. I was petrified when I was called on to speak,” he recalls.
Fast forward to 2012 and you’ll see a poised, confident and articulate man who knows how to command an audience. Even those who are not avid sports fans may remember a pregame Super Bowl appearance on NBC by McHugh in the Giants locker room with network football analyst Tony Dungy, whom McHugh had met in the mid-2000s during his first on-air gig in Terre Haute, Ind.—home to the Indianapolis Colts summer camp. (Dungy was then the Colts head coach.) “That moment was the most surreal for me so far. It reminded me how I had come full circle—from a small town covering local sports to the Giants locker room before the biggest game in the world.”
As for his other notable career moments, sports fans likely remember Oklahoma State Football Coach Mike Gundy’s infamous rant caught on video in 2007. (“I’m a man! I’m 40!”) But what they might not know is that McHugh was working for one of the local network television affiliates when he found himself standing six feet from the coach. “It’s an odd sensation to witness a YouTube moment live, in-person. I remember calling friends back East, telling them ‘what I just saw is going to blow up on the Internet in a few hours.’”
One of the most rewarding aspects of his career in sports, he says, is watching young players grow up and become stars—McHugh covered NBA players Greg Oden, Mike Conley and Blake Griffin when they were just teenagers. “With Griffin, you could see the talent instantly, he had amazing athleticism.”
As for his own future aspirations, he hasn’t really had a chance to think about it as his rise to prime time has happened so quickly. Just a couple of years ago, he was out of work and unable to find a job for 13 months.
“I’m pretty much living the dream now,” he says. “I’m doing what I love. I’m in New York where I always wanted to be. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was covering high school basketball for a small-market Indiana TV station. By no means did I expect any of this to happen.”
Favorite sports teams
St. John’s University basketball (his father is an alumnus) and the New York Mets
Favorite player of all time
former NBA forward Chris Mullin
Memorable hangouts while at UB
Broadway Joe’s, Amy’s Place
Memorable lecture at UB
Tommy Lasorda, who spoke in 1999 as part of the Distinguished Speakers Series
Last book read
“The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz
Favorite book ever read
“The Ginger Man” by J.P. Donleavy
Last live concert attended
The Black Keys at Madison Square Garden
Where he met his wife, Margaret
Syracuse University S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications while they were both graduate students in the broadcast journalism program
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