By Lauren Anthony
EAST STROUDSBURG – Greg Knowlden is an East Stroudsburg University graduate from mid-western Pennsylvania. You are likely to see him at every single sporting event here at ESU. You may catch him on the field before and after a game talking with coaches and student athletes, or you may spot him in the press box of Eiler-Martin Stadium. He’ll be behind the dugout at baseball games, and seated on the sidelines of basketball games. There is not a student athlete that Knowlden doesn’t know, and he can recite player or game statistics that date back decades. The only other place you can find him easily is in his office buried behind stacks of game day programs.
Greg Knowlden is ESU’s Sports Information Director, and has been the man behind the scenes of every sporting event for the past five years. He is also the man behind ESU’s athletic website, and responsible for all of the information published on the page, including photos and game recaps. His to-do list grows longer by the minute, and we’ll learn in this interview a little more about what his duties entail, along with the hardest and most rewarding aspects of the job.
Have sports always been a big part of your life and how much have they contributed?
They have been. It is kind of unique because I grew up watching sports, and most people will get that from their family because it’s constantly on TV, but I didn’t have that. My parents always supported me and let me watch sports and encouraged me since that’s what I was interested in, but I was kind of a mediocre soccer and tennis player in high school and knew that I wasn’t going to continue playing collegiately. But when I was at Grove College about half-way through my 2nd year, my roommate had worked in the sports information office, so with that, I got to work there and work football games and basketball and baseball, and I figured that would be something I wanted to pursue before I got a real job. Not many people get to be a part of a career that’s a little more leisurely based.
How would you describe the responsibilities of your position?
The main goal is to be able to promote all the accomplishments of our student athletes. We have about 500. So I feel like part of it is to be able to be visible with the student athletes, so if I do have to approach them with a request, they are comfortable with me being around. Also, to be able to supply what we do with the website, all of the game recaps, press releases, and to be able to have some general background information on all top athletes in every sport. So when I have to communicate with the media, I don’t have to be like, oh I’ll get back to you because I don’t have that information available. Part of my responsibility is to have a lot of information stored away so that I can get it out when I need it.
Do you feel that you use any specific skills in order to do this job successfully?
One of the main things is being able to write information in a press release format and being able to store that information for a set amount of time, so that I can pull it out when I need to use it. Some other professional skills include using the stat crew program. Every school in the country uses this program. And also to be able to do statistics for each game and keep records. Also in the office, besides using Microsoft word and Microsoft excel, we us a program called indesign. It is a part of the Adobe creative sweep, and that’s what we design all our publications with.
The athletic program here at ESU basically needs you to run everything smoothly. What is the hardest part about running every sports game or event?
The toughest thing is when there’s a crossover from fall sports to winter or winter to spring. Even also on any given day if there are multiple events going on, just being able to prioritize what you have to do. On a Saturday in fall, we might have 7 different sports competing and 2 or 3 of those are home. So you have to be able to juggle staffing those events and have your student staff being able to handle some things independently because you can’t always be there. Also, having a system so that when you get information back on games that were played off campus, even if you can’t write a complete recap immediately, you will get something on the website so parents or family or friends can get on our website to get the information as fast as possible.
Speaking of prioritizing, do you feel that there is 1 sport that’s the most important at ESU?
The informal answer to that question would be no, there isn’t a sport more important than another. But realistically, some sports will take more time than others and the football program, given that they have 85 athletes on the team, garner most of the media coverage that we have throughout the year. Football is a primary sport in the country. Also with having coach Douds here for the amount of time he’s been here and the amount of success that he’s had, we’re fortunate that we’re 1 of only 2 schools in our conference that has every game televised. We basically have our own cable network. Blue Ridge comes and they do all our games, and they are also broadcasted on the radio. Part of my job is also making sure that they have the information they need to get the broadcast done.
Do you feel that it’s harder to get media attention for sports like baseball or lacrosse, that aren’t as big as football?
Yes, it is definitely a challenge. You hope that you have an outstanding team that merits attention so that the media just can’t ignore it. The other aspect would be, it really benefits us at ESU being Division II school and having a lot of local student athletes. If a lot of those athletes are starters or contributors, then they merit some attention from the media as well.
Do you see the need to have more athletic information personnel and more employees, or is this more of a single person job?
It’s a position that I really think you can do as much with it as you want to. So if there were 30 hours in a day, I don’t think I would use that time doing less sports information work, I would just find more things to do because that’s the nature of the position. You know information just adds up and you can’t really generate enough of it. If there was a full time assistant position, that could benefit us, and some schools do have it in our conference. But at the same time, being able to have a graduate assistant and having a good staff of student workers is good enough because they help out with certain things so I can prioritize my time.
Where do you draw a line between objectivity and advocacy in your reports? Do you provide as much information as possible about the ESU sports team, or try to keep them in a positive light?
That’s a really difficult balance and it’s one that most sports information directors really have to deal with. There are a couple different ways to approach a simple game recap. At some schools, they will only lead with their own individuals in the first paragraph and some schools will only mention their own student athletes in the entire game story. Kind of the tradition of the way that I was presented with it when I got started, was that if we host a game here, and the opposing team can’t get information on their page until the next day or so, those parents and fans of the other team can get onto our website and check it out. So part of my responsibility is to provide a somewhat balanced assessment of what happened in the game. So that if a pitcher on another team throws a no hitter, that’s the top story of the game. Part of working in sports information, a lot of times you have to write losses along with the wins. And one of the ways to promote your team even after a loss is to say, we played this team and they were exceptional that day. So that’s one of the reasons that you don’t win every time you go play. At the same time, you really try to advocate for your students as much as you can. You certainly try to get them recognition, along with local and national awards.
Sports information involves learning about all different sports, reading, writing, communicating, and doing fieldwork. What aspect of this job do you enjoy the most?
I think the most fun is when you’re able to be out at a competition and watch our student athletes compete, because without that, the rest of the work doesn’t matter. You can generate a 100-page report, but if there aren’t any student athletes out there striving to be in it, then it doesn’t really matter. That’s by far the most rewarding part.