Eye on the World of Sports – Andy Italiano, ’85

Andy Italiano discovered his passion at OCC. His desire to succeed has literally taken him around the world.

When Andy Italiano started taking classes at OCC in the fall of 1983, he was an ordinary student, unaware he had an extraordinary talent. Like many 18-year-olds, Italiano wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. His father Joseph taught Astronomy at OCC, but Italiano didn’t see his future in the stars when he graduated from Syracuse’s Nottingham High School. During his first semester at OCC everything abruptly came into focus. “As I was walking down the hall I passed the TV department and realized you could ‘do TV’ and make money at it,” Italiano said. In the last three decades he’s done much more than make a living at it. Italiano’s ability to operate a television camera at some of the biggest sporting events have literally taken him around the world.

Italiano (right) with EMC Department Co-chair Tony Vadala, '83.
Italiano (right) with EMC Department Co-chair Tony Vadala, ’83 in the control room of OCC’s television studio.

 

Italiano got his first break shooting live sports while he was a student at OCC. Tony Vadala, ‘83, who was an instructor’s assistant in what was then called the Radio TV department, remembers when he met Italiano. “He said to me, ‘I want to be the person up there on the scaffolding running camera at big sporting events.’” Italiano said it to the right person. When Vadala wasn’t teaching he was working on local cable sports telecasts. He got Italiano a job running camera during high school football games. “Tony gave me an opportunity. He trusted me. He put me in a situation where I succeeded, and it gave me the confidence in myself to know I could do it. He was so generous and gracious with me,” said Italiano.

Italiano continued shooting local live sporting events through his graduation in 1985. He transferred to SUNY Fredonia, where he majored in Communications Media and would graduate two years later. He returned to Syracuse and got another break, working for CBS when the network would come to the Carrier Dome to televise big Syracuse University basketball games. He was doing whatever was needed: running and getting things for people, hanging banners, helping in any way possible. It wasn’t operating a camera, but it was a foot in the door and a chance to make contacts.

Regular work, however, was hard to find, so Italiano packed up his car and headed west to Los Angeles. “I had enough money for three weeks. If I didn’t find a job, I planned to return.” After two weeks without any solid prospects, he took a job installing carpets so he could make money and stay in California longer. In his spare time Italiano kept making contacts in the television industry, either by phone or by knocking on doors. Eventually he was hired to work in a television studio, “Heart of the Nation,” which focused on religious shows. He did everything there from sweeping floors to running cameras to technical directing.

Italiano got his big sports break a short time later when someone who was supposed to work on a television crew covering boxing called in sick. “I wound up holding a microphone all night. At the end of the night the woman who hired me told me, ‘Andy don’t beat anybody up, work hard, and you’ll get a job again.’”

From there his sports career took off. Eventually he wound up where he was most comfortable: behind a camera. Today he is one of the most-sought after sports cameramen in the world. His annual calendar is a sports fans dream:

  • Every two years he operates a camera at the Olympics for NBC, most recently at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
  • Live photographer at the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament for CBS.
  • All San Diego Padres (MLB) home games for Fox Sports West.
  • Weekly NFL games on CBS, which require him to be in a different city every weekend from September through January.

Italiano has run camera at multiple Super Bowls, World Series, Baseball All-Star games, NBA Finals, and Olympic games, which are his favorite. “The whole world is represented there and the whole world is watching. There’s a real sense of brotherhood at the Olympics.”

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To accommodate his busy schedule, Italiano has homes on both coasts in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and San Diego, California. Despite his globe trotting and world-renowned success, which has resulted in him winning five prestigious Emmy Awards.

Italiano has never forgotten his roots. In between working the Winter Olympics and the NCAA Tournament, Italiano recently visited Onondaga and spoke with students in an Electronic Media Communications class. He gave them valuable advice:

  • Be persistent.
  • Always work at your craft.
  • Respect the job you have by acting professionally.
  • Embrace fear and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You’ll do your best work when you are really on the edge.

Students listened intently to Italiano’s message and were impressed with what they heard:

  • “I learned it doesn’t matter where you come from. If you work hard, you can accomplish anything.” -Jake Zahn
  • “It was very impressive to hear that he started at OCC and now is doing all of these amazing things.” -David Breur
  • “I was inspired when I found out he graduated from the same high school as me.” -Traevon Robinson

Robinson’s dream is to be a professional music video photographer. Ironically, it’s shooting music which Italiano says helped him improve his skills exponentially when he stepped away from sports for a year-and-a-half and went out on the road shooting exclusively with heavy metal band Metallica. “With music there are no rules as long as it looks good. I really got to know the camera and its capabilities better than ever before. When I returned to sports I was able to be more creative in the way I was shooting. It definitely made me a better photographer.”

The man who gave Italiano his start in 1984, Tony Vadala, is now Co-Chair of Onondaga’s Electronic Media Communications department. “Andy is very down to earth. None of this has gone to his head,” said Vadala. “Seeing him come back, share his stories and wisdom with students, and knowing it all started here is remarkable. It really validates everything we do.”

One of Italiano's five Emmy Awards.
One of Italiano’s five Emmy Awards.

Italiano has won five Emmy Awards for excellence in the television industry:

  • 2011 World Series, FOX
  • 2008 Summer Olympics, Beijing, NBC
  • 2008 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony, Beijing, NBC
  • 2004 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony, Athens, NBC
  • 2002 Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City, NBC

In 2014 Italiano was named one of the College’s “Alumni Faces” for his professional achievements and contributions to the College and the community. “It’s a tremendous honor,” said Italiano. “To be recognized at the place where everything really started for me is a great feeling.”

Italiano was named one of the College's Alumni Faces in 2014.
Italiano with his Alumni Faces plaque.

 

2014 Celebration of Success

2014 Alumni Faces honorees (left to right): Andy Italiano, '85, Gabriel Bol Deng, '04, Stella Barbuto Penizotto, '90 and Cody Jamieson, '08.
2014 Alumni Faces honorees (left to right): Andy Italiano, ’85, Gabriel Bol Deng, ’04, Stella Barbuto Penizotto, ’90 and Cody Jamieson, ’08.

Onondaga Community College’s annual “Celebration of Success” was held Wednesday, October 1 in the SRC Arena and Events Center. The event honors extraordinary alumni and scholarship recipients. Four graduates were named “Alumni Faces” for their professional achievements and contributions to the College and the community:

Gabriel Bol Deng, ’04, Mathematics – Humanitarian

Deng was 10 years old when militiamen led a violent attack on his village of Ariang in South Sudan. He fled, not knowing the fate of his parents or siblings. After surviving a perilous journey to reach a refugee camp in Ethiopia, Gabriel received a life-changing opportunity when he, along with other “Lost Boys,” was resettled in the United States in 2001. After completing his associate degree from Onondaga and bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Le Moyne College, Gabriel went back to Ariang and used his education to bring people hope. Gabriel founded HOPE for Ariang Foundation in 2007, building clean drinking wells and a school that provides education to over 600 children. Today, Gabriel shares his story and mission with schools and organizations around the world.

 

Andrew P. Italiano, ’85, Radio/Television – Sports Videographer

As soon as Italiano visited the Radio/Television department at Onondaga, he knew what he wanted to do with his life. Through hard work and determination, Andrew became a world-renowned sports videographer. He has spanned the globe covering everything from the rock band Metallica to the Olympic Games, Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournaments, and regular season and championship games for the NBA, NFL and MLB. Through it all, he credits the faculty in the Radio/Television department in giving him a start in the business and looks to provide similar help to others whenever possible.

 

Cody R. Jamieson, ’08, Recreational Leadership – Attack, Rochester Knighthawks (NLL)

Considered by many to be the best lacrosse player in the world, Jamieson led Onondaga to two national championships during his tenure at the College. During that time he was a two-time All-American. In 2007, Cody was the first and only lacrosse player to win the Dave Rowlands Award given to the Junior College Athlete of the Year. After graduating from Onondaga, Cody became a star player at Syracuse University before being drafted by the Rochester Knighthawks of the National Lacrosse League with the first overall selection in 2010. Cody has gone on to lead the Knighthawks to three world championships and was named championship game MVP in 2012 and 2013.

 

Stella Barbuto Penizotto, ’90, Human Services – Child Care Professional

Penizotto is the co-owner of “Shining Stars Daycare” with three state-of-the art child care centers in Onondaga County. Stella credits Onondaga for a solid foundation in education and the College’s Small Business Development Center for its guidance when she expanded her company. Today, she employs over 70 people and services 330 families. Stella frequently holds fundraisers to benefit several area non-profits while also assisting local students with employment opportunities. She was named “NYS Small Business Person of the Year” in 2010 and represented New York at a White House event where she met President Barack Obama.

During the celebration each recipient spoke at the podium. Newschannel 9, WSYR TV Managing Editor and News Anchor Dan Cummings emceed the event. The annual Celebration of Success is possible thanks to our generous donors and sponsors including:

Diamond Sponsor: M&T Bank

Gold Sponsors: MVP Health Care, Welch Allyn

Silver Sponsors: Bottar Leone, PLLC, Learn As You Grow Child Care Centers

Bronze Sponsors: Dunkin Donuts, INFICON, National Grid, Pioneer Companies, SRC, Inc., Stickley Audi & Co., Visual Technologies

Copper Sponsors: Appel Osborne Landscape Architecture, Cayuga Tree Service, Inc., Geddes Federal Savings and Loan Association, Hueber-Breuer Construction Co., Inc., Ironworkers Local 60, ONEGROUP Bailey & Haskell Insurance, Research and Marketing Strategies, Inc., Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 267 .