POSTED ON MARCH 11, 2009:
Seasoned Sportscasters Never Die
They just take their experience somewhere else. Former Channel 8 sports director Jack Bunds tells all
Think back to the summer of 2005. Remember when Channel 8 abruptly replaced Mike Ziegenhorn with Jack Bunds as the sports director? Tulsa was shocked. Zig refused to comment time and again on the situation. Trust me, I pried.
Fast forward to the summer of 2007. Bunds was released from Channel 8 in similar fashion. Bunds, however, sat down and spoke at length about his introduction into the business, his time in the news industry and what he is up to these days.
He grew up in Coffeyville, Kansas; so, needless to say, Tulsa was on his radar at a young age. Besides, what is in Coffeyville besides lotto tickets (pre-Oklahoma Lottery) and real beer?
He attended Drake University. "People would always say Duke... great. I would never correct them," laughed Bunds.
At a football game between Oklahoma State and Iowa State, he met Bob Carpenter. Chris Lincoln was the sports director at KTUL in the fall of 1981. Carpenter worked the weekend slot.
Carpenter ascended to sports director in '81 when Lincoln departed. Bunds arrived shortly thereafter at KTUL. He toiled in sports photography and the occasional reporting gig.
"It looked like Fox was going to start doing the news. They came to me and wanted me to be the news director. We did some special updates," he said. In the back of his mind, he wasn't sure Fox would get into the evening news business any time soon. He hopped back over to KTUL after a few years with Fox.
Ziegenhorn was the sports director for 10 years at KTUL. His tenure with the company spanned 17 years in total. To this day, Bunds isn't sure Zig knows the whole truth about his release.
"There were others at the station that would constantly go to management," he said. "I imagine, at least initially, he probably thought (he was fired) because of me."
Bunds vehemently denies he had a hand in Zig's release. "I tried to save him several times. I was told by the people in charge... they would tell me they were thinking about doing this... so I let him know," Bunds explained.
Bunds was upfront with Ziegenhorn. He did not mince words when he told him that he would love to have his job if he ever left. He also said he would not sleep at night if he was responsible for Ziegenhorn's demise.
Now, Bunds can relate. In May of 2007, he had just wrapped up an evening news cast when he was told the general manager needed to see him in his office. "I'm thinking this isn't my first rodeo. This is how they fire people. I'm thinking, nah, he just told me..." remembered Bunds.
A couple of weeks earlier, he strolled through the weather department with Frank Mitchell. They ran into the same GM. At the time the GM told Mitchell "this is my favorite sportscaster of all time" with a nod to Bunds. Hyperbole? Sure, but it gave a solid feeling of job security nonetheless.
Two weeks later, Bunds is sitting in the office surrounded by the GM and human resources. "I'm kind of looking in the corners because I thought I was getting Punk'd. I sit down and I'm like, I don't see any cameras, this isn't good. This is going to happen, isn't it," he recalled.
Many sources indicate his undoing was Chris Lincoln's decision to return to the evening news. When the legendary sportscaster wanted back, somebody had to go.
During the course of our lunch (Big thumbs up to the fish tacos at Up The Creek), we hit on many subjects. Due to space limitations, I'll hit on as many as possible.
He credits his granddaughter for helping him pull through the tough times following his firing. Amazing how the little ones can change perspective.
Thoughts of a return to broadcasting have crossed his mind. However, now with two grandchildren, he is in no hurry to uproot and relocate.
"Blessed" describes how he felt covering sports in Tulsa. He understands it is a sports fan's dream job. Along the way he rubbed elbows with every president since Jimmy Carter. "I have not met President Obama," he said laughing.
We both agree on several items. Covering sports in Tulsa is much better than covering sports in Arkansas. If the Hogs are struggling, there is not much else to write about across the border.
The sports segment during the evening news should be extended. How much weather can one take? "The people who lose out? Anyone outside of football, basketball and baseball," he said.
He recounted the times he was approached minutes before a segment. "We went long on weather so you've got time for one thing," they would tell him. "Are you kidding? Now I look like a complete idiot. You feel like you're cheating the viewers," he said.
University of Kansas sports coverage on local Tulsa sports radio makes no sense. None whatsoever.
My favorite story of his? He interviewed a young Tommy Morrison after he captured the Golden Gloves at the age of 17. "He lived in a small house with a punching bag on his porch and when he'd hit it, his house would move," he recalls. Morrison's walls donned Rocky posters. How prophetic.
A year ago, his book KillerBlind was published. It's a recount of events leading up to and after 9/11. It's listed as fiction but he insisted the story is true. Check it out if you're interested in a Tulsan's perspective with some eerie details.
Now he works for Cox Communications. "Internet -- phones -- business -- the bigger the business the more fun it is," he said.
An hour and a half flew by. The restaurant was packed and bubbling with conversations. Dare I say, none were as entertaining or informative as the one at our table.
URL for this story: http://www.urbantulsa.comhttp://www.urbantulsa.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A26570