The team of former Syracuse University basketball players known as Boeheim’s Army will be playing at Onondaga Community College this summer. The SRC Arena and Events Center has been selected as one of eight regional sites nationwide for The Basketball Tournament (TBT). The annual summer tournament awards a $2 million dollar, winner-take-all prize to the champion. Boeheim’s Army will play its first three games in the SRC Arena July 26, 27 and 28. Tickets will be available through the TBT website.
“Syracuse is a basketball city and we are honored to be chosen as a host site for the TBT Tournament,” said OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill. “The SRC Arena has established itself as one of the region’s premier facilities for intercollegiate and scholastic athletic competitions, graduation ceremonies, trade shows and countless community-focused events. We look forward to welcoming teams and fans into our air conditioned arena to watch hotly contested basketball which has become a hallmark of the TBT Tournament.”
“TBT has been a wonderful experience for our fans and former players. It’s something I look forward to every year and support 100 percent,” said Syracuse University Head Coach Jim Boeheim. “Bringing the regionals here will be tremendous for all… our community, players and fans! It will be great to see all our loyal fans coming out to support our guys!”
Joining OCC and the SRC Arena as regional sites are the cities of Columbus, Greensboro, Lexington, Memphis, Richmond, Salt Lake City and Wichita. Each regional winner will advance to Championship Weekend in Chicago August 1-4. The TBT Tournament features 64 teams competing in a single-elimination 5-on-5 tournament. Last year more than 60 players with NBA experience played in TBT including multiple former lottery pics, NBA Champions and All-Stars. The 2019 TBT Tournament will be televised by ESPN.
Major at OCC: Radio & TV (now Electronic Media Communications)
High School: North Syracuse, Class of 1981
Bill is an Emmy Award winning television sports producer with ESPN who has coordinated coverage of Olympic games, Super Bowls and several other high-profile sports events. He built the foundation for his success at OCC. “Going to OCC was a great experience. The classes were small. It was very intimate and personal.” Bill’s wife, mother and one of his brothers also graduated from OCC. “I loved my time there. OCC has been a big part of my life and always will be.”
Herren was a Massachusetts high school basketball legend who played professionally for the Boston Celtics before drug use ended his career. He now criss-crosses the country telling his story. Herren’s presentation is both moving and inspiring.
Herren will speak in the Allyn Hall Gymnasium Thursday, October 20 at 6 p.m. Doors will open at 5 p.m. The event is free for OCC students and employees with a valid Lazer card. Tickets are $5 for high school students and $10 for the all other attendees. Contact the SRC Arena box office at (315) 498-2772 for more information.
Chris Herren’s appearance is sponsored by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.
It was the fall of 1981 and Bill Bonnell was driving to the OCC campus for his first day of college classes. He didn’t have music blaring with the windows down. He wasn’t carpooling with any fellow graduates of North Syracuse High School. Bonnell was driving to campus with his mother, Janice Bonnell, whom he had made a deal with. “She was working as a nurse at Course-Irving Hospital but was a few credits short of getting her degree. I convinced her to come back to school with me and finish her work. How many kids go to college with their mom?”
Bonnell’s mother has been a central figure in his life. He lost his father to cancer when he was a freshman in high school. Bonnell’s three older siblings were out of the house by then, so it was just him and his mother. “She had to be my mom and my dad. She was always very supportive of me in every endeavor. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her never ending support.”
Where Bonnell is today is at the top of the television sports producing profession. He’s coordinated coverage of practically every major sporting event you can think of. If you’ve watched Super Bowls, Olympic Games, professional tennis tournaments, pro football or college football, you’ve seen his work. Bonnell has won more than a dozen Emmy Awards throughout his career – a career that started when he was in high school and blossomed while he was a student at OCC.
Bonnell often uses the word “serendipitous” when describing his career journey. Every opportunity has introduced him to people who have led him to future opportunities. It started as a student at North Syracuse High School where a severe ankle injury sidelined him from playing basketball. He dreamed of becoming a sportscaster, so he decided to contribute by being the public address announcer for home games.
Back in those days, Syracuse public broadcasting station WCNY televised live high school sports events. One night they showed up at North Syracuse for a basketball game with their big production truck and a large crew of workers. “To see that truck and all of those people come into your school was a big deal.” Bonnell introduced himself to the person in charge, told him he wanted to work in the industry and a career was launched. He started working behind-the-scenes on statewide broadcasts of Syracuse University football, Empire State Games, wrestling, lacrosse, basketball and more. “They really took me under their wing. For a kid like me it was unprecedented to get that kind of experience.”
Bonnell loved working behind the scenes on what is known as the production side of a telecast. “I learned very early in my career doing graphics (the words and pre-produced pictures you see on your screen) was the ground level of production. I worked hard to learn graphics.”
In July of 1981, a month before Bonnell would start taking classes at OCC, he went to the Carrier Dome where ABC was televising the National Sports Festival, a multi-sport competition created by the United States Olympic Committee to showcase Olympic sports in Olympic off-years. Bonnell introduced himself to people working for ABC. Two months later, he was working on ABC’s Monday Night Football.
When Bonnell started taking classes at OCC he was going non-stop. There were classes during the week, Syracuse football broadcasts on Saturdays and on Sundays he was flying to wherever the Monday Night Football game was. “The people in the Radio & TV major were very understanding and great to work with. I loved my professors, Vinny Spadafora, Cathy Hawkins, Tony Vadala, who was very new at that time, and all of those people. They knew the importance of me getting experience. I still had to do all of the work but they helped me juggle all of these things at the same time.”
Bonnell earned his degree in 1983. “Going to OCC was a great experience. The classes were small. It was very intimate and personal. It felt like family.” He transferred to Syracuse University and continued his busy work schedule outside of class. In the summer of 1984 he would get the biggest break of his career. ABC hired him full time to work at the Summer Olympics. Bonnell spent a couple of months preparing in New York City, then flew to Los Angeles for the games. He was the graphics production assistant for ABC’s prime time shows, working under legendary sports producer Roone Arledge. Bonnell’s experience was so positive he considered not returning to Syracuse University.
While working in Los Angeles he found himself having life discussions with a co-worker named Bob Iger. “Bob told me ‘You’ve got to go back. You’ve got to finish. Get your degree. ABC Sports will always be here.’ Based on what I considered to be his fatherly advice I went back and finished.” It was good advice from a successful businessman. Today Iger is well-known in his role as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Walt Disney Company.
Bonnell graduated from Syracuse University in the summer of 1985. As he was finishing his last class, he was hired by CBS Sports to work on their National Football League coverage that fall. The list of sports events he’s covered and people he’s worked with since the 1984 Summer Olympic Games are as impressive as any you will find in the broadcasting industry:
CBS Sports broadcast associate assigned to the Chicago Bears during their 1985 Super Bowl season.
Joined ABC Sports in 1987 where he worked in the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary as assistant to the producer. It was the final Olympic Games produced by Arledge.
Went to ESPN in 1989 to work on its Sunday Night Football telecasts.
Moved to NBC Sports in 1990 where another legendary producer, Dick Ebersol, hired him to work on the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. Ebersol would become his mentor and they would work side-by-side for 10 years. During that time Bonnell worked on Olympic Games, Super Bowls, Notre Dame football and major tennis tournaments.
In 2002 he was hired at ESPN as a coordinating producer, where he works today. For the last 10 years he has been in charge of the Saturday night prime time college football games broadcast on ABC. He’s also overseen Grand Slam Tennis Tournaments and high-profile ESPN events including the NFL Draft, the College Baseball World Series and the ESPY Awards. Bonnell has produced the last 10 college football Rose Bowl games and the last seven national championship games. You can see him discuss pre-event coverage plans for January’s title game between Ohio State and Oregon here.
As Bonnell’s career has flourished so too has his personal life. During one of his trips home to Syracuse to visit his mother in the late 1980s, he dropped in on her at Crouse-Irving Hospital. “I saw this lady who worked with my mother running around and asked my mom, ‘Who is that?’ She said, ‘That’s Mary Beth Dennis.’ I tried for months to get her to go on a date with me and she kept saying no.” Dennis eventually gave in and they spent their first date enjoying dinner at the Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles. “When I got home that night my mother said, ‘You have dots all over your face!’” Bonnell had chicken pox and two weeks later his new girlfriend would too. Despite the virus their relationship survived. They married in 1990. Today they have two children: 14-year-old William and 12-year-old Katherine.
While the children enjoy some down time in the summer, Bonnell’s is filled with work. In July he produced ESPN’s ESPY Award Red Carpet Show. Ten days later he was producing the Special Olympic World Games in Los Angeles. He loves coordinating coverage for sizable events. The one he dreams of working on the most has nothing to do with sports. “I’d love to produce the Academy Awards someday. I love big events. I love entertainment. I’ve worked on Olympics, Super Bowl’s, national championship games. The Academy Awards would be a tremendous accomplishment.”
Accomplishments are what Bonnell and his family are all about. His mother earned her Nursing degree from OCC in 1982. His wife is also an OCC grad. Mary Beth earned her Math & Science degree in 1985. Even one of Bonnell’s brothers, Robert, has a diploma from OCC. He graduated in 1977 with a degree in Business Administration. “I really love OCC and the experiences I had there. I know the Electronic Media Communications Department is in great hands with Tony Vadala’s leadership. OCC has been a big part of my life and always will be.”
When Adam Corey was a student at Cortland High School he discovered what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. “My junior year I took a course in our video production program and loved it. A student who was a year ahead of me in the program, Mike Kaminski, decided to attend OCC and got me interested in it. I came up to OCC, checked it out and the rest is history!”
In the fall of 1989 Corey enrolled in OCC’s Radio and TV major. “The leaders within Radio and TV; Cathy Hawkins, Vinny Spadafora, Tony Vadala and Nancy Licata created a great environment. It was very professional but felt like a family.” We all hung out together and helped each other with our projects. There was a lot of hands-on learning and it was fun. Everyone was looking out for everyone else.”
One of Corey’s professors, Tony Vadala, hired Corey as a production assistant with SUper Sports which produced telecasts of Syracuse University sports. Corey would do whatever was needed to assist with football and basketball productions. He would get more meaningful opportunities with SU’s olympic sports broadcasts running camera, directing or working on graphics. “I was very fortunate Tony opened up that door for me. We were all working 20 or 30 hours on weekends but it didn’t feel like work. It was fun and exposed me to a lot. It helped me choose the direction I wanted to go in.”
Corey earned his degree from OCC in 1991 and transferred to SUNY Oswego. He kept working weekends with SUper Sports. After graduating from SUNY Oswego he was hired by Syracuse University to work on a monthly TV show and recruiting videos. In 1997 Corey got a video editing job in Boston and also began freelancing regularly with ESPN, running their graphics on college football and MLB telecasts.
Corey would go from Boston to Washington, DC for a job editing network promos and commercials with Team Sound & Vision. He worked his way up to creative director where he was in charge of the graphics division. Corey worked on projects for the History Channel, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel,TLC and Travel Channel. He continued to freelance with ESPN covering the X Games, Women’s Final Four, Tennis, U.S. Open Golf and the British Open.
In 2010 Corey and a colleague whom he worked with at Team Sound & Vision started their own company, “dc collective.” They specialize in live action commercial production, motion graphic design and post-production. Five years later they have offices in Washington, Providence, Rhode Island and Charlotte, North Carolina. Their work is of the highest quality. The entire team has been nominated for every major industry award. “We have a unique philosophy. We don’t have titles for people. We believe in hiring the best people, letting them do their jobs and not micromanaging them. Our goal was to do things different and put the creative process first. We’ve accomplished that.”
Corey loves what he does and regularly works 60 to 70 hours a week. His tireless work ethic which began when he was a student at OCC have paid off. As he reflects on the route of his career path he has advice for today’s students:
Try everything. I thought I would enjoy covering live sports and I did, but I discovered I enjoyed creative directing and editing network promos and commercials. I still enjoy working on sports but in a different capacity.
Let your career evolve and put the time in. There’s going to be a lot of times when you friends are going out for the weekend and you can’t because you need to work. You have to put in your time.
If you’re not passionate about what you are doing find what you are passionate about. It’s such a broad industry now with production on the web.
You have to do things to learn. You will make mistakes. Don’t make excuses for your mistakes, learn from them.
Learn how to work together. 80% of what we do in this business is working with people. The technology part is important but you need to know how to deal with personalities.
Get as much as you can from your time at OCC. My experiences there continue to be key in helping me obtain my career ambitions as they evolve.
Corey maintains regular contact with the people running OCC’s Electronic Media Communications (EMC) major, formerly known as Radio & TV when he was a student. The high school friend who he followed to OCC, Mike Kaminski, is now co-chair of the department. The other co-chair is Tony Vadala who helped Corey get his start with SUper Sports. “OCC is really in a great position with Tony, Mike and (professor) Mark Ballard there. They are great instructors who also continue to work in the industry at a high level and are respected for what they do. They know what it’s like in the real world. It’s great that today’s students are learning from them.”
Tony Melfi came to OCC with out-of-this-world dreams. “When I was 12 years old I decided I wanted to be an astronomer and the first professional still photographer on the moon.” Melfi never made it to the moon, but his experience at OCC helped him climb to the top of his profession as a videographer.
Melfi graduated from Syracuse’s Henninger High School in 1987 and enrolled at OCC. He started taking astronomy courses but figured out quickly his childhood dream was never going to happen. “About the same time I realized I wasn’t good at math I heard about a major where I could be a photographer shooting video.”
Melfi switched to the Radio and TV major and was impressed with how quickly the hands-on learning started. “I remember day one at OCC we were turning on cameras and shooting in the studio. Day two we were editing reel-to-reel voiceovers we had done ourselves. Day three we were editing video. At a lot of four-year schools you aren’t doing any of that before your junior year.”
As time went on Melfi noticed a unique sense of camaraderie within the Radio and TV major. “It never mattered what grade you were in. We all had the same professors and were always working on the same things, just on different levels. We all worked together, helped each other and had a great time.”
Outside class Melfi was getting real-world experience helping cover Syracuse University sports for the cable television organization “SUper Sports.” He was doing a little bit of everything: shooting and editing video, keeping statistics during games and even some on-air work.
Melfi’s excellence inside and outside of class earned him high honors when he graduated in 1989. He was awarded the Radio and TV department’s Curriculum Honors Award.
Melfi transferred to SUNY Fredonia where he would earn a degree in Broadcast Journalism two years later. After graduating he worked multiple jobs to make ends meet and gain valuable experience. He continued working for “SUper Sports,” interned with a sports talk show at WHEN Radio, interned at WIXT TV (Channel 9) where he shot and edited video of high school sports events and wrote scripts to match the video, and also had a job at the old Community General Hospital so he could have health insurance coverage.
Melfi got his first big break when he was hired to be a news videographer with WUTR TV in Utica. It’s also when he started to see the true value of his OCC education. “Our professors, people like Tony Vadala and Vinny Spadafora, had worked in the business. When I got to WUTR I found out everything our professors told us was true because they had done it. Maybe the technology had changed, but the fundamentals of doing things was the same. Everything went as they said they would go.”
Melfi also learned his OCC education gave him a distinct advantage over his co-workers. “I worked with a lot of kids from other colleges and their learning seemed to be much more theory based. They were very lost compared to OCC graduates. What we learned carried right over into the workplace automatically.”
Six months after starting at WUTR he received an offer for a similar position at WTVH TV in Syracuse that was too good to pass up. “I remember walking through the newsroom for my interview and seeing (longtime news anchor) Ron Curtis and so many other faces I had watched growing up. I was very nervous.” Melfi aced the interview, had a resume tape which showed he had the ability, was offered a job and accepted it.
Melfi flourished at WTVH. “There were so many people of all different levels of experience there who really cared about the product and helped each other. It was a great environment.” Melfi learned from everyone he worked with including a fellow newcomer he was often paired with, a young reporter named David Muir. Today Muir is the anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight.
Melfi spent four-and-a-half years working at WTVH. His strong work ethic coupled with his growing skills earned him a videographer position at ESPN. “When I left WTVH I thanked everyone there who I worked with. I told them that without this station and these people I never would have gotten to ESPN.”
When Melfi arrived at ESPN in 1997 he hit the ground running and never stopped. “I spent 20 days on the road covering the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs and Finals. I thought, ‘Wow… this is pretty cool!’” Melfi was a road warrior, spending about 180 days a year living out of his suitcase. He covered Super Bowls, World Series, NBA Finals and NCAA Basketball Final Fours. “My favorite was baseball spring training. For many years I went to Florida every year and traveled everywhere working with legendary baseball reporter Peter Gammons. I also spent several spring trainings in Arizona working with Tim Kurkjian. Both were great to work with. They both love baseball and it would really come through in the work they did.”
Melfi spent nine years at ESPN. In his later years he got married and had a son. He knew starting a family meant he couldn’t spend as much time on the road anymore. Melfi and a co-worker at ESPN, a producer named Evan Hathaway, made the decision to go out on their own and start a production company, “13 Productions.” They are freelancers who produce commercials and shoot sports features. “We do everything we did before but now we work together and for each other. I shoot video. We both edit and package everything up for the client.”
“13 Productions” is now in its tenth year. Melfi has cut his travel back to about 60 days a year. When he’s not at work his life is non-stop at home. Melfi and his wife Regina have three children: 10-year-old Luca, 8-year-old Ronan, and 4-year-old Nina.
Melfi’s professional excellence has earned him two Sports Emmy Awards. During his more than 20 years in the business he’s worked with people of all ages and all levels of ability. Along the way he’s gathered valuable advice for today’s students:
Just because you graduate with a degree doesn’t guarantee you anything. You have to knock on doors. You have to ask people to give you a chance. When you get that chance you have to nail it.
Behind you there are probably a thousand people who can do what you do and half of them can do it better. You need to push your way in and show what you can do right away. Show you are willing to learn. Prove you can do it day after day after day.
You have to be able to communicate with people. You have to bring ideas and execute them as promised. Technology changes but those things stay the same. They are as important today as when I was starting out in the business.
“I tell my sons I barely remember my 20s and it’s true. I spent the whole decade working. In the end I wouldn’t change anything. I’m pleased with how everything turned out. I’m glad I went to OCC. It’s where I figured out what I wanted to do. It’s the best decision I ever made.”
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