Spotlighting Austin's Sports Directors: KXAN's Roger Wallace, the booth guy
Editor's Note: With the heavy turnover in Austin television news, it's easy to forget that the sports directors have been here for many years. FOX 7’s Dave Cody has 27 years, KVUE’s Mike Barnes, 23; KXAN’s Roger Wallace, 17; YNN’s Ricky Doyle, six; and KEYE’s Bob Ballou, five.
In the first of a five-part series, CultureMap profiles Roger Wallace as he talks about his KXAN sports show duties as well as his job as the radio analyst on University of Texas football broadcasts and television play-by-play of local high school games.
After 27 years as a sportscaster, 17 years as sports director at KXAN and nine years as a member of the University of Texas radio network broadcast team, you would think that Roger Wallace would be a bit blasé about his job. You would be wrong. Wallace reacts as many of us would if we were in his shoes.
"I still pinch myself that I’m doing this for a living," Wallace says.
Wallace, 49, says he never wanted to do anything else — even while earning a telecommunications degree from Indiana University, he "couldn't wait to get out of college and get to work." While at IU, Wallace did play-by-play on the university radio station and then added sports reporting on a local commercial FM station, including high school football and a heavy producing load.
"Play-by-play really hooked me," he says.
A sports internship at WXFL (now WFLA) Tampa introduced Wallace to one of his most important learning experiences. He worked for Gayle Sierens, the first female sportcaster in the Tampa Bay market, and the first woman to call the play-by-play of a regular season NFL game. Wallace calls working for Sierens a "huge benefit" because she taught him that success in the business is not just about knowing sports.
"I love Austin, love the station and love covering a university where sports are a big deal."
"She taught me to be prepared, to do my research, and to never walk into a story thinking you know it all," Wallace says. “For her, it is about storytelling, not stats. She had a sign on her desk that went something like 'a well-told story is more important than a well-worn fact.'”
What Wallace thought would be his first "real" job in late 1985 turned into a disaster. He was hired to do sports at a start-up TV station in Tyler. Unfortunately, it never started up and everyone was fired, including Wallace.
"The good news was that the guy who hired me in Tyler got a job at KSBY in San Luis Obispo, California and hired me as weekend sports anchor in 1986," Wallace says.
After 14 months, Wallace returned to Tyler, but this time to a very successful station, KLTV, the ABC affiliate. Wallace was the main sports anchor and added the radio play-by-play of Tyler Junior College games. In a more important accomplishment, he also met and married his bride, Tammi, in 1988.
In 1990, Wallace jumped up in market size to KAKE, Wichita where he began as weekend sports anchor, was promoted to the main job, and added Wichita State University basketball and baseball play-by-play on a pay cable TV network.
In the spring of 1995, Wallace got the call to join KXAN in Austin — he's never looked back. "I've gotten some calls from people I knew in the business, but I've never pursued a job from here," Wallace said. "I love Austin, love the station and love covering a university where sports are a big deal."
Wallace won the sideline reporting and post-game locker room job for UT football's radio network in 2003, and two years ago moved up to the booth as analyst beside veteran play-by-play man, Craig Way.
"I do a lot of preparation," Wallace said. "I don’t try to fool people. I'm not an 'x and o' guy."
At KXAN, Wallace anchors the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. weekday sportscasts and co-anchors the Sunday Sports Section Sunday at 10:30 p.m. He also broadcasts a high school game of the week live each Thursday night on KXAN's sister station, KBVO.
The stations have invested in a high definition production trailer which allows Wallace and his crew to be self sufficient as they do live sporting events. Wallace, his wife, Tammi, and two daughters live in Round Rock.