Brent Stover earned the honor of Outstanding Wildcat Freshman for Kansas State cross country in 1995 and went on to have a respectable four-year cross country and track career. 20 years later, he’s better known for his work in sports media, as a play-by-play announcer and now studio host for CBS Sports Network.
You can flip over and catch Brent virtually anytime through Saturday during breaks in this week’s NCAA tournament games as the host of Inside College Basketball, March Madness 360 and Bracket Breakdown. But first, he took some time to discuss his career path as well as how he continues to support K-State, especially as the ‘Cats prepare for the biggest game of the Bruce Weber era.
Part of our conversation is below, and you can hear more of it, including a closer look at the matchup with Kentucky plus Brent’s thoughts on Bruce Weber in a podcast later today. Keep an eye out for that, and be sure to follow Brent on his new Instagram, BrentStover_.
LT: You were a cross country runner for four years at Kansas State, correct?
BRENT: Yeah, that was a long time ago. I grew up in Emporia and came from a good program there. We won a state title, we got second year and my senior year three of us had the opportunity to go to Division I.
One went to KU, one went to Georgia Tech and I ended up at K-State. The other two guys had much better college careers than I did. I was solid, certainly not spectacular in the Big 12.
LT: Yeah, and so during that time you’re working on getting your journalism degree and so what kind of experience did you get while you were at Kansas State that helped you?
BRENT: Yeah, I was in the Mass Communications department, which was really good. At the time it was good, but it was sort of a little bit under the radar in my opinion and so I was able to step in and I guess it was called DB 92 at the time, the FM radio station on campus and I think by second semester my freshman year I became the sports director and shoot, we were calling K-State football from up on top of the pressbox.
We were getting to do men’s basketball from up top, not courtside but right up top there and K-State volleyball, women’s basketball, so I came along at a time where it felt like the radio station was really starting to come into its own and I was able to get on-air opportunities right away.
BOTC: Very cool. So how tough was it to balance that journalism stuff with athletics and did you get any inside scoops as an athlete?
BRENT: I did get a little bit of an inside scoop from Ben Leber and a couple of the football players because we obviously shared the same opportunities in terms of getting tutoring and mentorship with being a student-athlete.
It was really challenging, and looking back I didn’t handle it as well as I wish I would have. I really got so wrapped up in the radio stuff which I guess looking back was a good thing because it turned out pretty well for my career but I would say my social life suffered a little bit because of that.
I probably wasn’t quite as locked in on the running as I would have been because that needs to be like a 24/7 thing when you’re doing cross country, indoor track, outdoor track and I had a little bit of trouble balancing it. So, hindsight being 20/20, I would have focused just a little bit more on the running and just a little bit less on the broadcasting but at the same time, 20 years later it worked out pretty well.
LT: But then after college, looking at your resume, even before you got to CBS, it’s pretty impressive with the Big Ten Network, the Rams, the Cardinals, did some stuff with the Pirates. How did you break into that big-time sports announcing?
BRENT: Well, I was at KSNT there in Topeka which is a small market, but at the same time you get a chance. Obviously, you cover KU, you cover K-State, the Chiefs, the Royals. It’s the perfect sports market to be in, so I was there for about a year and a half and I hired an agent and I got a pretty big break when he got me a job as a reporter at Fox Sports Midwest in St. Louis and then from there I was able to kind of have a little bit of opportunity, cache maybe, to get to Fox Sports Pittsburgh and then move to Chicago and Big Ten Network.
It seems like things have always sort of fallen into place pretty nicely and looking back, I remember along each step of the path it felt like things weren’t happening quick enough. But looking back I’ve been pretty lucky to ascend to certain spots, certain positions and obviously working for CBS Sports Network is just pretty cool.
LT: So now at CBS, you’ve done a lot of play-by-play and you’re doing a lot of studio hosting for the March Madness stuff. Was that a difficult transition at all to go from play-by-play to the studio stuff?
BRENT: I get that question a lot and believe it or not, it’s been pretty seamless. They definitely have their differences but they also have a lot of similarities. I feel like going into the studio my job is to simply set those guys up, with some of the greatest college basketball players and former coaches you can come across.
And when I’m out calling games I’m calling games with a guy like a Bob Wenzel, who did the NCAA tournament for 14 years, or Jordan Cornette, who’s one of the best in Notre Dame history, or Steve Smith, I did a game with this year. There’s many similarities in setting those guys up and getting out of their way and not overtalking and I feel like I’ve been able to find a pretty good comfort level with that.
LT: So through all this, how much do you still follow Kansas State athletics and do you still consider yourself a fan? I know some people get into journalism and feel like that goes away.
BRENT: Absolutely. It’s funny you ask that because that game against UMBC the other day I literally couldn’t sit still. I think people saw a little bit of a different side of me. I was pretty uptight. I was pretty tense.
You follow every game and you root for your team but obviously there’s certain games that mean a little bit more and that was a big one the other day. So absolutely I bleed purple. I love having the football team be relevant every season. I think a lot of programs don’t get to have that and the job Bruce Weber has done getting K-State into the tournament four out of the last six years and then finally getting over that hump and into the Round of 32 and then back into the Sweet 16 for the first time in eight years has been really fun.
I’m nervous about this Kentucky game, I’ll tell you that. If they don’t have Dean Wade, I’m concerned. I’m concerned either way.
LT: So I’m curious, when you were cheering for K-State against UMBC, were you the only one in the studio not rooting for Cinderella?
BRENT: Absolutely. Especially here in New York, they get tired of me talking about K-State. So any chance they get they kind of pull against me. The biggest thing was a 16 seed, it was an awesome story, what UMBC did, and I think everyone wanted to see them make the Sweet 16 so I don’t fault all of my compatriots for pulling for UMBC but at the end of the day I think that they were pretty happy for me, too.
LT: What do you think needs to happen for K-State to spring the upset (vs. Kentucky)…other than Dean Wade playing, obviously?
BRENT: The defense has been outstanding the first two games. I think they can keep the game tight no matter what because of Barry Brown and the way he can lock down. I mean, you saw what he did against Marcus Foster in the Round of 64 and just overall the team defense, holding a team in Creighton that scores about 82 a game, holding them to 59.
Holding UMBC, which had beaten Virginia by 20, who, Virginia is as good of a defensive team as there is in the country, and they scored 73 against them and so to hold UMBC then to 43, if they continue to play defense that way they’re going to be in the game. But they’re going to have to knock down more shots and the style of offense they played in the last round was tough, where it feels like a lot of isolation with the clock down under 10.
I think they need to play more like they did in the regular season and if they’ve got Dean Wade in there, where the offense can flow through him, I think they’ve got a shot
LT: Alright. I think it’s about time to let you go, but first you want to give us a prediction for Thursday’s game?
BRENT: Well, I’ve got to go Kansas State, right? Why not? Everything else has happened in this tournament that you wouldn’t expect. I mean, this has been the best tournament I can remember in terms of just entertainment and storylines and upsets and I’m going to go K-State in a tight one. I think they pull it out by two.