Dan Nolan  |  Published August 24, 2020

Memories in the Booth

No final sign-off for the voices of Monmouth football and basketball, but Thomas Witty and Grant Powers called a lot of big moments during their three years together.
Because the COVID-19 pandemic canceled Midwest Conference sports, the broadcast team of Thomas Witty, left, and Grant Powers, won't get t...
Because the COVID-19 pandemic canceled Midwest Conference sports, the broadcast team of Thomas Witty, left, and Grant Powers, won’t get to call Fighting Scots football games at April Zorn Memorial Stadium. 

MONMOUTH, Ill. – When Monmouth College lead webcast play-by-play man Thomas Witty signed off of the final football broadcast last season with the words “The Monmouth College Fighting Scots are Midwest Conference champs,” little did he or his broadcast partner, color analyst Grant Powers, know it would be their final time calling the action from April Zorn Memorial Stadium as students.

By March, the coronavirus had wreaked havoc on athletic competition worldwide. This summer, when the Midwest Conference suspended fall competition, it became painfully clear that the two seniors — Witty is a communication studies major from Northbrook, Ill., and Powers is an exercise science major from Keller, Texas – would not be together again in Monmouth’s broadcast booth as students.

“I was sad. Some of my favorite memories on campus have come from that broadcasting booth,” said Witty. “We were both anticipating our time in the booth. We may be done, but it was so enjoyable for the three years that we had. I’ll never forget the fun times that Grant and I had broadcasting games for this college.”

Powers reflected on the disappointment after he and Witty – both of whom are members of the Fighting Scots’ baseball team – had their spring season on the diamond cut short.

“We had already gotten our (baseball) season taken away, and now we were getting something else taken away that we really enjoyed doing in the offseason,” he said. “Our webcasting experience was unfinished because our senior year would’ve given us time to realize it was going to be our last time doing it. We’d get to sign off for the final time.”

Starting as freshmen

Witty, who had broadcast experience while a student at Glenbrook North High School, began in the football booth as a freshman and was joined there by Powers the following year. The roommates began working together during the basketball season of their freshman year and quickly formed a cohesive tandem.

“My experience was really fun, and I learned a lot,” said Powers. “I had never done this before, but it was really cool getting to learn about all of the things that go into broadcasting games. I was super nervous in that first broadcast, and I stuttered a lot on air during the opening. After I got that out of me, I felt fine.”

The duo experienced a broadcasters’ dream in Glennie Gymnasium when, as freshmen, they broadcast the men’s team’s first Midwest Conference Championship in nearly 30 years.

“We were lucky enough to broadcast football conference championship games in our freshman and junior years, as well as the basketball conference tournament our freshman year,” said Witty. “All three of those were so special. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but winning the basketball championship at home in front of a packed house was so awesome. Seeing that team develop and get better, culminating in a championship banner, was really special to watch.”

Special, too, said Witty was the opportunity to be an exclusive outlet.

“Coming from a bigger high school where we had several different broadcasters for games, it was so cool to have something that felt like our own,” he said. “We grew into the role from our freshman to junior years. There was definitely a learning curve, but we really embraced the challenge of making the broadcasts our own and unique to anywhere else in the conference. My hope is our viewers think we accomplished that goal.”

Planning for the unexpected

Witty also learned the pitfalls of a solo broadcast while working alone his freshman year for a Monmouth versus Illinois College football game that experienced numerous weather delays.

“It had three lightning delays and lasted about eight hours,” he said. “For some reason, I stayed on the air the entire time. I didn’t eat all day, and by the end of it I was exhausted, but it was a very interesting experience.”

“We were lucky enough to broadcast football conference championship games in our freshman and junior years, as well as the basketball conference tournament our freshman year.”
– Thomas Witty ’21, communication studies

Wrapping up their senior year and preparing for their careers – whether it be in the broadcast industry or someplace else – Witty and Powers have had time to reflect on their broadcast and college experience.

“I did think that it would go back to normal in the fall,” said Powers. “The spring season cancellation was a shock at first, but I never thought that it would have lasted this long and impact another year of school. I think the most important way to spend Saturdays now is to just hang out with the friends that are closest to me. Spending some quality time with them will be cherished memories before we go our separate ways.”

Another chance to make history

Witty said it was disappointing that he didn’t get to broadcast a historical first this fall.

“I know we were all hoping to witness our school’s first-ever night home football game to open the season against Wartburg,” he said. “It would have had a different feel and been a lot of fun to broadcast. (Broadcasting) is something I’m very interested in. I want to work in the collegiate/professional sports business at some level, and if that came about because of broadcasting, I would definitely be interested.”

After broadcasting nearly 100 football and basketball games for the Scots in the past three seasons, Witty and Powers offered their advice to the next generation of Scots’ webcasters.

“Be yourself,” said Powers. “People don’t like it when they are listening to someone who sounds fake. They want someone they can relate with. Also, learn the names of the players like the back of your hand. It will really help with a smooth broadcast.”

Witty concurred with his broadcast partner, adding a personal observation.

“Just have fun with it and make it your own,” he said. “We were lucky enough to get a perfect seat to watch and commentate on some of our friends who play sports that we love to watch. It doesn’t get much better than that. Of course, none of this would have been possible without our boss, (Sports Information Director) Dan Nolan. He gave us the opportunity as young kids to step in immediately and take over the broadcasts. He also was always there to help us set up the equipment and give us advice as a long-time broadcaster himself. For that, Grant and I say ‘Thank you, Dan.’”

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