Famed Wildcat alum Dan Hicks a sportscasting success story
Diane and James Hicks knew their son was going to grow up and be a sportswriter from the time he was 9 years old.
“When he was a little bitty boy, he would say, ‘I’m going to have an NBC Sports job,’” Diane said, flattening her palm at her knee to show how small he was at the time.
Dan Hicks accomplished his dream and now works as the golf play-by-play analyst for NBC Sports. Hicks is in Tucson for the World Golf Championships Accenture Match Play, which is being played in Marana at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain until Sunday.
Hicks, a UA alumnus, received an “Alumnus of the Year” award from the journalism school and had an open question answer session with faculty and students Thursday morning.
Hicks, a Tucson native, graduated from the UA in 1984 with all the hopes in the world of working in television as a sports broadcaster. There was only one problem.
Hicks had no experience in television, having worked his way up the media ladder at the Arizona Daily Wildcat — a job he did not land until his junior year — and as a public address announcer at women’s volleyball games.
“I answered an ad in the Arizona Daily Wildcat after a fraternity brother of mine said, ‘This is you!’” Hicks said. “I was already announcing our intramural basketball games. [I was making] $25 per game.”
There were also stints as a baseball announcer at Kindall Field/Sancet Stadium when former head coach Jerry Kindall was still the UA coach.
After graduating, Hicks worked on local radio stations until he landed a gig at the KVOA news station in Tucson in the hopes of starting his career as the sports anchor.
“The news director at KVOA told me I had a nice voice,” Hicks said. “I bugged him to do an on-air audition.”
Hicks was awarded the weekend sports casting job after the news director “saw something on the tape” that made him think that Hicks would be suitable for the job, he said.
But it wasn’t an immediate success for him.
“My first night on the air was an absolute nightmare,” Hicks said.
The teleprompter malfunctioned within “the first three seconds,” causing Hicks, who did not have the time to put on makeup — “I looked like Dracula on air” — to improvise off the bat.
Hicks left Tucson for the first time at age 26 when he was hired by CNN as a sports anchor. It was at CNN that he met Hannah Storm, another sports broadcaster, who he later married.
Storm currently hosts ESPN’s flagship show, “SportsCenter” from 9 a.m. EST to 3 p.m. EST Monday through Friday.
“She’s a heck of a studio anchor,” Hicks said.
Hicks has worked every Olympics since Barcelona in 1992, covering swimming in the Summer Games and speed skating in the Winter Games, but in a move to further challenge himself, has agreed to broadcast alpine skiing at the Winter Olympics next year in Sochi, Russia.
As for Hicks’ immediate future, he has been selected to cover Notre Dame football next season as a part of the NBC Sports package and got an early start preparing for it, broadcasting the play-by-play for this season’s Houston Texans vs. Cincinnati Bengals game in January.
Hicks may have covered the Olympics for 20 years and some of the biggest stops on the PGA Tour, but there is one more box on Hicks’ checklist that has gone unchecked thus far.
“In television, there are two mega events in broadcast sports that have absolutely [protected themselves] against declining ratings,” Hicks said. “The Super Bowl and the Olympics. They are the greatest spectacles in sports. I think there would be no greater thrill than doing play-by-play for the Super Bowl.”
Until Hicks gets that chance, the Sabino High graduate and father of three is more than happy as the play-by-play man for golf, one of his favorite sports.
“Dan feels blessed with what achievements he’s made, and he’s worked hard and he has the talent, but he is very humble about how rapidly he progressed through the sports television,” James Hicks said.