Matt Mahony is the voice of Georgia Gwinnett College’s athletics, serving as the Grizzlies video and broadcast coordinator.
Matt Mahony is the voice of Georgia Gwinnett College’s athletics, serving as the Grizzlies video and broadcast coordinator. He came to GGC from Union College in Barbourville, Ky., where he served as broadcasting director for the Bulldogs’ 23 athletic programs.
In this installment of “Getting to Know …,” Mahony talks to staff writer Christine Troyke about a variety of topics, including just happening into a broadcast career, starting the bowling program at Union College and applying for the GGC job while on his honeymoon.
CT: Where did you grow up?
MM: I grew up in Gainesville, Fla., a little town just outside of there. I grew up a Gator fan my whole life. I went to a brand-new high school they built in my hometown. They had one high school in the county, then they built one in my hometown and so it’s funny, I’ve been here (at GGC) for six months and it’s cool to compare how far my high school has come in 13 years and how far we could go in 10 or 12 years. I’ve actually drawn some comparisons for the hurdles we had to overcome then and now.
CT: What sports did you play?
MM: (chuckles) I played ball year-round. I can honestly say at about middle school, it was football in the fall, soccer is a winter sport in Florida, baseball in the spring and then camps all summer long. Football camps, passing academies, baseball tournaments, travel soccer tournaments. Then right back into football season in August. For five or six years of my life, I never had a day off — and I was OK with it. It was great.
CT: How did you end up going to Union College?
MM: Out of high school, I went to Lake City Community College. Small world, that’s where (GGC assistant baseball coach) Scott Ward went. He was there about four years before I was, but we played for the same head coach.
Our pitching coach at Lake City played for coach (Bart) Osborne at Murray State. I’ll never forget it, it was a July weekend and we drove up there, met the staff and I fell in love with the place. It was awesome. I had been in Gainesville my whole life and kind of wanted to get away and be independent.
CT: Any major adjustment period going from a place you’d been your whole life to a small town in Kentucky?
MM: It snowed. And I was not comfortable with it. At all. Up there, it’s a small rural area so they have the salt trucks and the snow plows to where they can have three or four inches of snow and still expect you to go to work. I didn’t like that at all.
And actually I’ll never forget, my first spring, we go to Union University in Tennessee and our first game of the season, it was 34 degrees and sleeting. I thought to myself, ‘I’m going home tomorrow.’ If I had known what a transfer paper had looked like, I would have signed it and gone home.
It was the coldest I’ve ever been in my life. It was so cold, there was a bathroom attached to the dugout and there was an exhaust fan — not even a heater — and our hands were so cold we put our batting gloves inside our helmets and underneath the exhaust fan so it was halfway warm.
So you’d have eight guys in the bathroom with their gloves, fixing to go hit.
CT: Broadcasting has changed considerably over the last decade, moving from radio stations to Web streaming. Was that part of your thinking when looking at it as a career path?
MM: I’ll be honest with you, I went to school for athletic administration. I wanted to be an AD. I was lucky enough to get a graduate assistant under Darin at Union and I learned a lot about college athletics at that point. My debut on air, I was still an undergrad, and our assistant baseball coach at Union had a master’s in communication. His responsibility was just for the local cable channel. They just wanted football and basketball games. He came up to me and said, ‘I’m calling the football game this Saturday, so you want to join me?’ I thought that would be a ton of fun. So that was how I got into broadcasting.
He gave me a mic and we took off with it. I really didn’t have career aspirations to get into it and once I put my toes in the water, I was neck deep. It was awesome.
CT: You stayed at Union after you finished your degree. What jobs did you have?
MM: After I graduated, I did everything from a linesman during volleyball games to organizing music for football games to PA for baseball games, budgeting. It was an invaluable experience. I started the bowling program, too. And that taught me more about college athletics than any job I’ve had. It taught me how important recruiting is and scheduling and budgeting.
CT: And 23 teams that you broadcasted for?
MM: We had 23 varsity teams at Union. We broadcasted about 12 of those.
CT: Are there any sports you haven’t broadcast you might like to?
MM: Tennis. April 2 we are going to do it here. I’m looking forward to that.
CT: How difficult a decision was it to leave Union?
MM: It was hard. It was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. I had things really good there. A good schedule and great coaches. Even hosted a high school football show on Friday night on local radio that I adored and was part of building. So it took a really special circumstance to get me to leave Union.
I don’t know if I could have built in my mind the place to leave Union. This opportunity presented itself and it was too good to pass up. Going from 23 sports to six sports, being on the ground level and the foundation of something. It only takes about five steps on this campus to realize there’s something special going on here. It was hard to pass up that — and the weather.
And (my wife) Ali got on board with it too because we’re exactly halfway between both families. We can leave in an afternoon to go back to Kentucky or to visit my folks in Gainesville. It was a plus in every category.
CT: How did the process go?
MM: (laughs) So last spring, I was invited to broadcast the NAIA softball World Series in Columbus. The production crew went down there, broadcast it. On my way back to Kentucky, Darin said, ‘Hey, stop on by, check the place out.’ They had just moved into this athletic building. I said, ‘Sure,’ checked it out and didn’t think anything of it.
He calls me the week of my wedding. Both families are down in St. Augustine, Fla. He calls me on Tuesday and says, ‘The funding is going to clear, we’re going to have this position, would you be interested?’
I was like, man, there are a million things falling off of my plate right now. But it was a good chance to talk with all the family and Ali. The funny part of the story is a week later, the job was posted. So I actually applied for this job from the resort lobby during our honeymoon on a public dial-up access computer. It took me an hour to apply for this job.
By the time we got cellphone signals and were back on the mainland, I called Ned and Darin and we worked out an interview over the phone.
CT: How did you meet your wife?
MM: One of my best friends that I played baseball with at Union, he married a girl from Kentucky and Ali was her best friend. So both of us were in the wedding party. Still to this day I give her a hard time because she wouldn’t dance with me at the reception.
But we hit it off. I got her number.
She was living in Lexington, about an hour away from Union. So we just started talking and went on a couple of dates. She ended up moving back home, closer to where I was, and it worked out.
CT: Do you remember the first official date?
MM: I picked her up from her apartment in Lexington, we went to what I found out later was her favorite restaurant, Cheddar’s, and to the movies. I’m pretty sure we saw “Stepbrothers.”
CT: Is the excitement of starting something new, not just new to you, but new in general pervasive around here?
MM: Absolutely. I think that’s one of the reasons Darin got me here — we started the Bulldogs sports network at Union. We didn’t have anything like that before. Drawing from those experiences have been key the first six months. The Grizzlies live at Newk’s is a great example of that. Ned came to me right before we left for Christmas and asked me to put together a format for a TV show. We got back from Christmas, the first full week we were back, and he says, we’re talking to Newk’s right now and this TV show may be a reality. Two days later, it was a go. The first show was four days after that.
CT: If you have any free time, what do you like to do with it?
MM: I have discovered the game of golf. I started when I quit playing baseball. I was a GA and I had some buddies who were student assistants so we picked it up. I love it. They tease me. I’ve been in team sports my whole life and I put winning before any of my stats. But I love the challenge of golf. If you don’t put in the work, you’re not going to get any better. I get a lot of enjoyment from the direct results of playing golf.
CT: Any favorite courses around here? Or have you had a chance to play much since moving?
MM: I haven’t had a chance. Darin hasn’t taken me to Bear’s Best, yet. So I’m waiting on that invitation. (laughing)
But I’m very aware of where I am.
CT: Is there any kind of music you listen to most often?
MM: I don’t discriminate. There’s only good music and bad music and it comes in all genres.
CT: Any TV shows you try not to miss?
MM: I’m pretty dedicated to “How I met your mother.” From a production standpoint, I really get a lot out of watching “College Gameday.” That’s where it starts and stops with ESPN programming. I’ve just gotten into “Brain Games” on National Geographic. “Ducky Dynasty” is a pretty regular one. Any sort of documentaries. Fox Sports 1 had the one-on-one interviews. I love that sort of stuff. I just watched the “Blackfish” documentary.