SPOKANE, Wash. — The college football season got under way this past weekend with the Big Sky Football Kickoff, which brought together coaches, players, media members, and conference and school officials.
Among those in attendance was Riley Corcoran, the “Voice of the Griz,” who recently signed a three-year extension to continue calling Montana Grizzly football and men’s basketball games. He’s also called UM volleyball and softball games and hosted the Grizzly Coaches Show.
Corcoran, a Billings native and longtime Griz fan, will begin his fourth year at UM this season after replacing Mick Holien in 2016. His new contract will keep him calling Griz games until 2022.
Signing for three more years at Montana was just one of several meaningful moments for the 2011 Washington State grad in a busy summer. He also got to call professional baseball games for the first time, was presented with his award from the National Sports Media Association as the 2018 Montana Sportscaster of the Year and even drained his first hole in one on the golf course.
Corcoran, 29, sat down with 406mtsports.com on Monday afternoon to catch up on his summer, reflect on his first three years at UM and look forward to the football season.
Q: So we’re here at Big Sky media days, the official start of the football season, how does it feel to finally be here?
A: It feels great because the excitement level always builds. I think that through the athletic department year, you get to a certain point where you finally stop talking about the previous year and you start looking ahead. For me, this event in Spokane is, ‘Okay, it’s all towards 2019-2020.’ It’s fun to see people from around the league as well. The story lines that we’re talking about, I know up in Montana there’s some extra focus year round on football, but now it’s the rest of the league, you’re getting them involved with this kind of event. So, it’s just a really good kickoff and kind of maybe a reminder for all of us, including me, that alright, it’s time to start working again, football season’s here.
Q: You get to be back here at media days because you signed a new contract. Why did you want to stay on as the Voice of the Griz?
A: It’s a dream job for me. Being able to grow up in Billings and to listen to Griz games on the radio, to want to be a sports broadcaster and to have the opportunity to get this job, it’s very surreal for me. After the first three years, it was everything I thought it was going to be and then some. I know that maybe sounds cliché, but it’s certainly the truth.
Now going into the next three, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. The people that are surrounded around me, it’s just fun for me to go to work every day. The story lines with Grizzly football and Grizzly basketball, you could just keep going down the list with what coach Hauck has with the excitement, coach DeCuire’s had quite the run.
So, I’m just in a really fortunate spot, and it wasn’t even a question for me whether or not I wanted to come back. I’m just very lucky and fortunate that the people at Learfield IMG College and the administration that it was not even a question that the situation’s at the right track and we’re all moving forward.
Q: Looking back at the first three years, what moments stand out to you? There’s Cat-Griz games, March Madness games, meeting Bill Walton. What stands out?
A: I’m a big stadium junkie. So any time that I can go in a big-time stadium or a big-time arena is a highlight for me. So just being able to travel around, maybe peeking my head in at Penn State and seeing a stadium, that’s always the highlight. As far as games are concerned, I think the first game last year, when coach Hauck was back under the lights, Northern Iowa, there was so much unknown. What kind of Grizzly football team were we going to see? Just the buzz around it, it’s been certainly different the last year with Grizzly football. So I would say that that’s the highlight of football games that I’ve covered so far in my three years.
That final game last year, I know that, oh boy, I sit back and look at it and I’ll remember forever coming home after that game and just being emotionally drained. And I know the rest of the Griz fans were the same way. But just the way that that game ended was something that will stick with me as long as this career continues on the path it is.
But basketball, the NCAA tournament runs have been really exceptional. Michigan, seeing them twice, which is kind of weird being able to see them, but that’s been a highlight, too. I just feel that every single game has a different story. That’s kind of my approach to broadcasting in general. So, when you think now after three years that it’s already been over 120 stories, it’s pretty darn cool.
Q: That Cat-Griz game, they’re lining up inside the 1-yard line, are you already thinking about what you’re going to say assuming they’re going to score, or is it ‘I’ll see if they score and then I’ll say what comes to mind?’
A: I’m a guy that I never script what I want to say. I want it to come naturally to me. But I’d be lying to you if I wasn’t kind of anticipating the situation. It seemed like the Grizzlies had all the momentum, and Greg Sundberg and I up in the booth, we have this non-verbal communication back and forth. It certainly felt like it was all building up for that moment. So I didn’t script out what the potential touchdown call would have been, but it would have been a lot of excitement, let’s just say.
Q: 0-3 in the Cat-Griz games, no playoffs games in your three years here. That’s unusual for Montana and probably not something you expected coming in.
A: No, not even close. It’s something, too, when I was growing up listening, it was the playoff runs and it was that deep stretch into December. I look at it and I think the athletic department looks at it the same way with the timing of the last three years that it’s going to make success feel that much sweeter.
And especially from my chair, too, I want to call a playoff game just like all those guys want to play in a playoff game. So yeah, that has been a big surprising part of it. More than anything else, just that final game in November because potentially the Griz come out on top in say two of those three games, they’re probably playing in the playoffs. So, it’s kind of a trickle-down effect how that worked out.
Q: Bobby’s back and everyone know his success in the past. Three years when your contract comes up again, where do you think Montana could be at by then?
A: RTD’s the hashtag, right. I really do think coach Hauck, the way that he carries himself and builds the program, it exudes confidence. You know that they know what they’re doing in that coaching staff room with all the experience they have. So, three years from now, I expect the Grizzlies to be at the top of the league. I think they are building this the right way. They know what it takes, and time is the factor that always comes into play with college athletics. I think these guys will get the time they need, and I do expect Grizzly football to be at the top in three years.
Q: What’s your outlook for this season? They bring in some transfers at key positions, have a year of experience on the offensive line and some starters back at key positions. So, what are you looking at out of them this year?
A: I think a playoff team for sure. You look at the roster, it’s amazing we’re in Spokane right now and kind of looking at the rest of the league, everyone pretty much through Eastern Washington, UC Davis, Weber State would be at the top. Bobcats obviously making the playoffs last year, they’d be in the mix. But I think the consensus is the biggest X-factor in the league is Montana, and that’s exciting for everyone that covers the team.
I think this team is capable of winning nine or 10 games. I also think with the schedule that’s in place, they could be a lot better than last year but the record might be the same just because there’s a lot of games on the schedule. I think one signature win would maybe get the momentum rolling. That UC Davis game in late September, homecoming Idaho State, just to get the ball rolling for momentum that ‘Hey, we can beat a big team. We belong here in the top.’
Q: You’ve also had a lot of other exciting stuff going on this summer. Calling some Osprey games, first professional baseball games you’ve gotten to call, I believe.
A: Yes, first professional baseball games. To get that opportunity with SWX, it was unique timing how it all worked out, but I’m very grateful for that. I’m a baseball guy. Played for the Billings Scarlets and coached, and I’m a huge Dodger fan, so I follow baseball year round. So, to get the opportunity to do that was great. It keeps me busy also in the summertime. Just working with SWX, any kind of experience to get more TV reps is always the key. But it’s been really fun covering baseball and just seeing the Osprey from game to game, and I’m busing back for that tonight, too. So, never a day off.
Q: And you get to see some potential future Diamondbacks who your Dodgers might be playing down the road.
A: Well, exactly. Tonight, they’re even playing the Ogden Raptors, the affiliate of the Dodgers, so even more there. It’s fun seeing the stories. I think story telling is the business that I’ve chosen. It’s play-by-play broadcasting technically, but really you’re storytelling. You’re telling people what’s going on. You’re telling someone a backstory of a certain player. To me, that’s where I eat it up. I love the prep, that aspect of it, to find those stories. With minor league baseball and with it being on television, it’s the perfect medium for that.
Q: You summer also included going to North Carolina to pick up the Montana sportscaster of the year award. You knew about that for a while, but when you got there, what was that experience like?
A: It was very gratifying. To be there and to be selected by your peers is an honor, first off. But to get that whole, I went six years ago and it came full circle for me because I went to the event, the NSMA awards, six years ago in North Carolina searching for a job. To come back six years later as a state winner, it’s just reassurance that ‘Hey, if you stick your head down and work hard, that good things can happen.’ So it was kind of a moment for me to reflect a little bit, to also enjoy the company that I was able to be around. I mean, guys like (CBS sports announcer) Ian Eagle or some that I look up to a lot, Doc Emrick, voice of the NHL basically on NBC. Just to be able to have a conversation with those guys, for a guy from Montana, it was really cool. So, it was an honor, and again, very grateful.
Q: Anyone else you were excited to meet or talk with?
A: I had a great conversation with Bob Ryan (former Boston Globe sports writer). I know from the sports writing world he’s an absolute icon. Tony Kornheiser (currently ESPN, formerly The Washington Post) was there. Peter King (currently NBC Sports, previously Sports Illustrated). And then even more on the local level, talking with sportscasters of the year from Delaware, Rhode Island and just comparing the difference. In Rhode Island, they’ve got the Pawtucket Red Sox, Providence and then they cover Boston sports. I said, well, out in Montana, it’s a little different. We’ve got the Griz, we’ve got the Cats, we’ve got high school and that’s about it. It’s just fun being able to be around people that are as passionate about their job as you are.
Q: Hole in one also this summer at a Griz golf tournament. What do you recall about that shot?
A: That one’s almost like a script, right, to have a hole in one, at a Griz tournament, I’m an avid golfer. I will admit that. Anyone that knows me knows that’s probably the case, especially in the summertime. To get my first hole in one at that tournament was pretty cool. What I remember from it is I was actually talking with Andy Larsen, a Griz great, and he was in the group behind us. We were waiting on the tee box at the par-3. He was talking to me about his hole in one that he had seven holes ago. So we’re mentioning it, and the group I was playing with told me to hurry up to come to the tee box because I was lagging behind. This is a lesson to all golfers out there: I put no thought into the shot. I slapped the tee down, just swung, it one-hopped, hit the pin and dropped in. We all went crazy. It was really, really cool.
Q: First hole in one, or have you had one before?
A: First hole in one. First time ever seeing a hole in one. So for how much golf I play, and I play a lot with Kris Nord, who’s the women’s golf coach at Montana, and he hasn’t had a hole in one, too. So all I know is that it is certainly luck because if you play as much golf as someone like Kris Nord, you’re the golf coach and don’t have a hole in one, it’s just a matter of right timing. I’m just glad that I got one out of the way.
Q: Anything else exciting you’ve done this summer?
A: A lot of family time. Going up to (Flathead) Lake. One of the biggest advantages to the job that I have is the quality of life. I have a lot of family still here in the state. To be able to see them, spend some time at the lake and just take in what Montana has to offer, I think that’s important to be able to do that to kind of refresh your engines for next year. So, it’s been golf, hanging out a little bit. But don’t get me wrong, I’m really excited to get back in the booth.
Q: Lastly, how are your Dodgers looking?
A: I think the Dodgers, the problem with the Dodgers is as good as they are, for me, I don’t want to get too excited because it all comes down to October is what it’s going to be. If they win 120 games but falter in the World Series, I know I’m still going to get grief from everyone else, including Shaun Rainey over there. Really optimistic. It feels different this year. I’ll go on record saying I think they’re going to pull it off, and I’ll probably disappoint myself in October.