Since the 1990s, Matt Lepay has been one of the most recognizable voices in Wisconsin, especially on basketball and football game days.
After growing up listening to Marty Brennaman, the former Cincinnati Reds play-by-play broadcaster, Lepay majored in journalism at The Ohio State University. Lepay then joined the University of Wisconsin basketball radio broadcast in 1988 and added broadcasting Wisconsin football to his resume in 1994.
With just over three decades of experience under his belt, Lepay has endured some of the best and worst days in Wisconsin sports. Coming from Ohio State, where the football team was a perennial powerhouse, Lepay experienced a challenge acclimating to the Wisconsin culture, as the football team consistently performed poorly. In fact, the team totaled just four wins in the three seasons between 1988 and 1990.
But since 1993, the Wisconsin basketball and/or football team has finished with a winning record in every season. This talent has kept Lepay and his family in Madison, as he has come to identify with the city and state.
“[UW] means everything now,” Lepay said. “[I] grew up in Ohio, went to school there, but [my wife and I] have spent more of our lives here in Wisconsin than we did in Ohio, so it’s just a big part of our lives.”
Lepay’s tenure in the broadcast booth has coincided with some of the best stretches of Wisconsin football and basketball. With those impressive seasons came iconic plays, and Lepay has witnessed his share, to say the least. In football, he has seen multiple Rose Bowl wins, Ron Dayne break the NCAA rushing record and Melvin Gordon amass 408 rush yards in one game. In basketball, he has been a part of three Final Fours, including the 2015 Final Four when Wisconsin handed Kentucky their first loss of the season.
After over 20 years of calling games for both Wisconsin football and basketball, Lepay’s opportunity to call games for the Milwaukee Brewers on TV “came from the sky.” His adjustment to TV broadcasting was a smooth one, working as a substitute for broadcaster Brian Anderson for several games each season beginning in 2014.
With Lepay’s knowledge and analysis of multiple sports at this point in his career, it comes as no surprise that he doesn’t have a favorite, since it changes depending on the time of year.
“It’s whatever’s in season,” Lepay said. “I mean, right now, for me I really enjoy the anticipation of a big game. Right now, it’s probably football. If you asked me that question in the middle of January, I would tell you basketball is my favorite sport. Or if it’s the middle of May, it would be baseball.”
With Lepay’s broadcasting expansion to Major League Baseball, his repertoire and popularity have increased vastly. In fact, Lepay has earned seven Wisconsin Sportscaster of the Year Awards, making him one of the most decorated sportswriters in the state, behind only Jim Irwin, Bob Uecker and Earl Gillespie.
Lepay said the awards are a great honor, especially considering that he is being recognized by his peers. He added that, while it is cool to be recognized, he also understands that broadcasting is really subjected to what people like, so his style just happens to be liked by others. He does appreciate the recognition, though, and takes his job seriously in the full scope of things.
When asked if he would ever consider moving solely into TV broadcasting, Lepay admitted he would never say never but did acknowledge the fact that he and his wife are comfortable in Madison.
“At this stage of my life, this is a pretty good spot for us,” Lepay said. “When I say us, I’m talking about my wife and I. I don’t see a change coming, unless the University doesn’t want me around anymore.”
Lepay’s role in Wisconsin sports since 1988 has been major to say the least, rising to become one of the most recognizable voices in Wisconsin. With his passion and excitement for Wisconsin sports and sports broadcasting, Lepay has become a Wisconsin sports icon — even despite his Ohio roots.