For many people, being within inches of an Emmy is a dream many are unable to fulfill, yet on Monday night many students were see one up close.
On Monday, April 11, Ferris State alum and current ESPN Senior Researcher Gilbert “Gil” Bransford returned to Ferris State to talk to students about his career at ESPN and his job producing statistics for a multitude of shows and sports across ESPN’s platform.
With the trophy sitting on the table in front of him, Bransford started his presentation by giving a quick rundown of his life at Ferris State and how he got his initial job at ESPN. This included working for Bulldog Radio before going to a conference that allowed him to network with ESPN.
After being given multiple tests to test his sports knowledge, the company offered Bransford a part-time job in the stats and analysis department. He would work two jobs in Bristol, Connecticut before earning a full-time job in that department.
As Bransford explained, in 2019, after spending his first nine years in the stats and analysis department, Bransford transitioned to the research department.
This transition allowed Bransford to create graphics for SportsCenter and give research to on-air talent such as Kevin Negandhi. In 2020, during the pandemic, Bransford’s work for SportsCenter helped earn the show its first Emmy award since 2004 by winning Outstanding Studio Show – daily.
Bransford described his feelings after learning he had won an Emmy.
“It was just honestly a surreal experience, I always talk how important my granddad is, he’s literally been there for everything. And for him not to be here specifically for this kind of thing sucked. But yeah, it was a surreal day, because I’ve only been a researcher for three years.”
During the evening, Bransford described the many events he helped cover. During which, Bransford showed students clips of some of the graphics that he helped create, including graphics presented during SportsCenter, Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s last game at Duke, and the College Football Playoff.
Once everything was done, students were allowed to come to the front of the room and get a picture next to the Emmy alongside Bransford.
The event was held by the Sports Careers RSO and the Sports Communication program as a part of the Sports Speaker Series, a program that brings in successful figures in the sports field to talk to students about their jobs and what it takes to get to their positions.
For Sports Careers RSO President Niko Lagreca, it was important for the RSO to present these speakers to students to show them that with hard work they could do in the sport field.
“I think us bringing in somebody like Gil or anybody in the sports industry is an integral part of the Sports Careers RSO.” Lagreca said. “To have somebody who’s made it this far, to come in and share their story to hopefully get young and inspiring students to follow in their footsteps or create their own paths to ultimately success is very important.”
Sports Communication professor Dr. Sandra Alspach has been leading the Sports Communication program since its inception. She explained that the Sports Speaker series allowed for students to meet prominent sports figures and create a large splash on campus, but as Alspach explained, the sports speaker series evolved.
“So, it was an idea at the beginning of the program that that reshaped itself around what Ferris students need to hear. Having a flashy person wasn’t what they needed to hear. Having the promise, they could do it too. That’s what they needed to hear.”
Bransford was happy to come back to Ferris and present in front of students.
“We didn’t necessarily have students that will come back and show their progress and show that there is a career out there. From a small school in Big Rapids, Michigan, you hear about people that go to broadcasting schools and different things like that, and they have careers in sports. So, it’s kind of to show that just because you go to a small university, it’s not necessarily a deterrent for you advancing and to have a career.”
Bransford was the final Speaker in 2022’s Sports Speaker Series, but next year will see several former Ferris alumni in sports return to Big Rapids.