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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


From Camp Randall to Oval Office: Andy Katz making waves at ESPN

UW alum’s interesting journey out of Madison will have his work enshrined in Smithsonian
Wikipedia Creative Commons

The story starts the same. A sports fan from a big city has dreams of one day converting his immense sports knowledge into a career covering his favorite teams and heroes.

For most, the story usually ends with an uneventful culmination writing for their school paper before storing away their typewriter and taking a more stable career. But one former Badger isn’t a typical journalist.

Andy Katz went from Bascom Hill to the White House with lots of color in between.


Katz has built a career on thinking outside the lines, spring boarding a job as a beat writer for the Wisconsin men’s hockey team into working for ESPN and becoming President Barack Obama’s senior executive on all things March Madness.

After writing for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel his senior year at UW, Katz seized an opportunity to become the beat writer for the New Mexico Lobos basketball team.

“It was a total gamble, but I wanted to challenge myself, which is much in the same way that I chose Madison,” Katz said. “I knew that if I succeed at a Big Ten university then I could succeed anywhere and I used that as my own barometer. If I can stand out there and be successful, then I could do it anywhere.”

Though that gamble paid off, Katz had a rude awakening for how things operated in Albuquerque. The young writer had the uneasy opportunity of traveling with the very person he replaced at the paper.

Katz had to deal with the horror that came with living with someone twice his age who was incredibly bitter about losing his position to a younger writer. The roommate still worked for the paper but was demoted, making the situation all the more unpleasant.

“That was a nightmare,” Katz said. “Here is a guy twice my age, very bitter, not the cleanest of people. I literally used to dread going back to the room. I would hide in the lobby and when it was time to go to sleep he would try to work me. ‘You don’t really belong here. You should go back.’ Total mind games on me.”

Despite the challenge, Katz was able to persevere and spent five years in New Mexico before moving to Fresno, California, where he was able to bide time and use his talent to catch the eye of an upstart website, ESPN SportsZone.

Based in Seattle at the time, SportsZone was far from the behemoth that has become today. On a trip to Washington to cover the NCAA tournament, Katz made his case to the website and after impressing the editors with his basketball acumen, he was asked to contribute to their growing college basketball section.

Over the next few years, Katz rose through the ranks and embraced a new TV-based role where he became one of the lead analysts for ESPN’s college basketball coverage and a back-up host for Outside the Lines.

After settling into his dual role at ESPN, Katz truly came across the opportunity of a lifetime.

As he was interviewing then-U.S. Sen. Obama for a feature in Outside the Lines, by luck’s chance, a speech change gave Katz an hour of unscripted face time with the soon-to-be president and he suddenly had a golden idea.

“I had an epiphany,” Katz said. “I said, ‘If you win, how about I come to the White House and fill out the bracket with you.’ And he said, ‘Great.’ So I looked at David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs, who were his top advisors at the time, and said, ‘You guys heard that right?’”

Eight years later, they have done much more than just humor his idea.

 Katz and Obama have an annual date each year in March to fill out an NCAA tournament bracket. In addition, Katz was recently notified his unique idea will be enshrined in the Smithsonian as they will be placing his and Obama’s “Barack-etology” in an exhibit on American Pop Culture.

When asked if Katz, originally from Newton, Massachusetts, ever thought he would end up in the Oval Office, all he could do was laugh.

“No. Never ever ever … I was just that kid that loved reading the Boston Globe,” Katz said. “My dream was to write for the paper that got delivered to my door step.”

Though he has yet to achieve that dream, he has certainly accomplished quite a few others. Despite his success, however, he still has some regrets from his time in Madison.

Because Katz was offered a position to cover the football team as an underclassman, he missed out on the opportunity to truly experience life as a fan.

“I wish I had a little bit more fun,” Katz said. “I jumped right into it and I never experienced being a fan. All my friends are going to the fifth quarter and I am in the press box. So that’s my regret.”

Even though he missed his opportunity to Jump Around and party during the fifth quarter, he’s enjoyed the spoils of covering the “Big Dance” with the president.

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