This weekend, Andy Katz is appearing on BTN pregame shows and game broadcasts in addition to studio programming and digital content.
Big Ten Network
When he saw smoke coming from the scoreboard and activity on the court Sunday at Rutgers, Andy Katz flipped his switch from college basketball analyst to news reporter.
It took a little more effort than usual. Unlike other Big Ten stadiums, the broadcast position at Jersey Mike’s Arena is high. And because of Big Ten Network’s audio issues, Katz was stationed up there rather than on the floor.
He ran down and immediately talked to Rutgers athletic director Pat Hobbs and a security person. Then he ran back up to put on commentator Stephen Bardo’s headset.
“You know, live television,” Katz said. “Get the information out as fast as possible.”
It turned out a speaker was the culprit and no one was in danger. But if a news event is going to happen at a college basketball game, it’s good to have Katz there.
“It’s in my DNA,” he said of being a journalist. “That’s who I am first and foremost, who I’ve been my entire career.”
Hopefully, the Big Ten tournament this weekend at the United Center will be void of news events. Katz, 54, is plenty busy working for BTN. He’s appearing on pregame shows and game broadcasts in addition to studio programming and digital content.
“I’ve known Andy for 25 years; we’re great friends. So I’m biased,” BTN lead host Dave Revsine said. “But I’d say the biggest thing Andy brings is hustle. No one is better at tracking down information. He has such great relationships in the business. All the coaches like and respect him.”
Katz was interested in sports journalism from the start, and college basketball was always his passion. After graduating from Wisconsin in 1990, he didn’t look solely for jobs covering college hoops, but he landed them with the Albuquerque Journal and Fresno Bee.
In 1999, he began a nearly two-decade run at ESPN, where he enhanced his journalism chops. He spent about three years as the backup to the renowned Bob Ley on the sports news magazine show “Outside the Lines,” which he loved.
In March 2020, Katz began hosting the digital show “NCAA Social Series,” which initially focused on COVID but branched out to cover concussions, race relations, mental health and myriad other topics. This week, Katz interviewed new NCAA president Charlie Baker.
“I thoroughly enjoy doing that show and shining a light on a lot of different topics,” Katz said. “It fills that void for me of doing other things because I’m not one-dimensional and don’t prescribe to be and don’t want to be defined by that, either.”
Katz’s most enterprising project combined college basketball and the U.S. presidency – Barack-etology.
Leading up to the 2008 election, ESPN produced stories about Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama with sports angles. McCain’s covered his love of auto racing, and Obama’s examined his connection to basketball. ESPN assigned Katz to interview Obama.
In October, Katz met with Obama at a Hampton Inn in Dunn, North Carolina, where Obama was giving a speech. That morning on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” retired Gen. Colin Powell endorsed Obama, which was big news because Powell, a Republican, was abandoning his party. It required Obama’s aides to rework his speech. They told him and Katz, who had completed his interview, to hang tight.
“That meant we had about 30 minutes there to talk,” Katz said. “We talked about families and basketball and so on. I had an epiphany. I stood up, and I said, ‘Senator, I’ve got a great idea: If you win, how about I come to the White House in March, and we do the bracket together?’ And he’s like, ‘Hey, great idea.’ ”
Obama stayed true to his word, and Barack-etology was born. Katz visited the White House for all eight NCAA Tournaments during the Obama administration.
“It was always conditional on what’s happening, and we were lucky in that window,” Katz said. “No national disaster, no natural disaster, no military engagement. There was no crisis that week for all eight years. We lucked out because clearly if something had happened, he’s not gonna do it.”
But Katz’s epiphany didn’t save him in 2017 when he was among the roughly 100 staffers ESPN laid off.
“I was deeply hurt,” Katz said. “I was not angry, I was hurt. I knew I did nothing wrong. I knew it was all financial. I knew I had done all this great work. I knew I was well-liked and well-used. So I didn’t take it personal like that.”
“And I know this to be true: The way I reacted, not going on social media throwing flames, helped me get what I wanted.”
Katz had two years left on his ESPN contract, but for those laid off to receive their full salary, they couldn’t work. That didn’t fly with Katz.
He’s convinced that ESPN loosened its restriction for him because of how he handled himself, paving his way for jobs with BTN and the NCAA. Mark Hulsey, BTN’s senior vice president of production, and Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s senior vice president of basketball, worked up a “carve-out” deal for Katz, and ESPN agreed to it. Whatever BTN and the NCAA paid Katz, it would be deducted from what ESPN owed him.
And the network still hasn’t replaced him.
“There is no one doing my exact job there,” Katz said. “I don’t feel anger because it’s not like they chose someone else over me.”
Katz has more than moved on. He also appears on FoxSports.com, NBA TV and NCAA.com, and he’ll be a sideline reporter during the NCAA Tournament next week.
But for now, his focus is with BTN, which hired him six months after ESPN let him go.
“I love the family atmosphere, the people are great, they have taken care of me tremendously,” said Katz, who commutes from Connecticut. “I’m biased; I think we’re the best conference network. We’ve got great respect and credibility in the space, which I take a lot of comfort in.”