When Brian Sullivan became the sports director and sports anchor at Bangor’s WVII-TV Channel 7 in February, 2009, he felt he needed to find a way to get to know the coaches he was going to cover on a regular basis.
“I wanted to build up a rapport with them,” explained Sullivan.
So he came up with the idea of putting them on the air as guest sports anchors.
“It gave me a chance to hang out with them for an afternoon and build a rapport with them,” said Sullivan.
He had a coach or local sports celebrity anchor once a week throughout the summer and it was well-received.
So he has brought it back again this spring and summer.
“I actually wanted him to bring it back earlier,” said WVII news director Cindy Michaels.
Michaels explained that it gives their viewers an opportunity to “connect with the coaches.
“Some of them mess up and some do a great job. But it’s all in fun,” said Michaels.
Sullivan and all-purpose reporter Aaron Jackson work with the coaches/celebrities during the afternoon leading up to the 6 p.m. newscast.
University of Maine men’s hockey coach Tim Whitehead and Husson men’s basketball coach Warren Caruso were two of the guest anchors this past month and both said they were very well tutored by Sullivan and Jackson and were received with open arms by co-news anchors Michaels and Tony Consiglio.
Whitehead had anchored once before back in 2009.
“Everyone made you feel like part of the family,” said Whitehead “You couldn’t have asked for a better group to work with. They made it very easy for me. They did the tough part.”
“Brian and Aaron made it fun. They told me to relax and that it was going to be fun. Everything was ready for you,” Caruso said.
“They were great coaches. I was real lucky to have them,” agreed Whitehead. “They had the outline of what I was going to say and had the (video) clips ready to go.”
Caruso said he came in earlier in the day for 30-45 minutes to get a feel for the process and “get the copy down.
“And Cindy and Tony were great. They embraced me. They made me feel like part of the team,” said Caruso.
Sullivan admitted that he gets nervous before the guest anchors go on the air.
“I’m like a father watching his kid play Little League,” said Sullivan who added that he also feels “proud of them” after they finish.
Caruso and Whitehead thoroughly enjoyed the experience and said they would gladly do it again.
“It’s a blast,” said Whitehead. “I read the parts I needed to read and ad-libbed the parts I needed to ad-lib.”
He gained a greater appreciation of the multitude of tasks sportscasters have to manage like shooting film, conducting interviews, editing the copy and putting the script together.
“I was impressed with the fact sportscasters have to wear all the hats they do,” said Whitehead. “They need to have skills in a lot of different areas. And I was impressed with how much they were able to accomplish in a day.”
“It was a lot of fun,” said Caruso. “It was very unique being on the other side of the camera live. That made it challenging.
“This gave us an opportunity to do something we’re a part of,” added Caruso, who noted that he has been interviewed plenty of times during his 17 years at Husson. “I gained a greater appreciation of what they do and what it takes to put a show together. It was educational.”
Caruso said he was surprised how fast the three-minute segment goes.
He said the toughest part was balancing reading his script while the highlights were being shown.
“You can’t read and watch the highlights at the same time,” said Caruso.
Sullivan said the guest-anchor bit gives the viewers some “variety” and gives the station some recognition.
“I’ve heard a lot of positive things about it,” said Sullivan.
Caruso and Whitehead said they heard positive feedback from their friends about their stints.
“I got a lot of feedback. I had a good time with it,” said Caruso who added that Sullivan and the station did an exceptional job promoting it ahead of time on TV and radio.
“A lot of people watch that station. I got a lot of positive feedback,” said Whitehead.
Among other former guest anchors have been Maine football coach Jack Cosgrove and baseball coach Steve Trimper and Maine quarterback Chris Treister.
The guest-anchor bit will continue throughout the summer.
Husson University women’s softball coach Amanda Davey will be the guest anchor next Wednesday.