When you talk to Clarion alum Mike Kalinowski (’92, ’96), you’d probably expect him to be on the radio. His voice has a depth that is commanding, but gentle enough to make you feel like you’re in the company of a friend.
And that's probably the best way to describe Kalinowski – he's a friend to the university. As Clarion University's announcer for football for the past 31 years, he delivers play-by-play and color commentary, all while staying positive about the team and university he loves.
"As an alumnus, I want to see the school be successful and the football team be successful," Kalinowski said.
His love of the broadcasting game started early.
"As a kid I was a big Pirates and Steelers fan," Kalinowski said.
He also was a fan of Lanny Frattere who was the play-by-play announcer for the Pirates at the time.
So when Kalinowski got his first Clarion University degree in 1992, it's no surprise that it was in communication.
As a student, he started announcing on the university AM station WCCB, 640 AM, and then he announced on WCUC, 91.7, for the football team.
"Once it's in your blood, you're done. I couldn't imagine doing anything else on a Saturday," Kalinowski said.
He still remembers the first time he ever announced on air.
"It was scary," he said. "I really underestimated the amount of content I needed."
Kalinowski said an announcer needs to do his homework completing research on sponsors, players, the game – anything that might fill the time in an interesting way. Another good trick is to have a good color commentator on air with you.
Joe Lodanosky has been his on-air partner for the last 10 years and their friendship helps fill the time in that the pair can almost predict what the other is going to say.
"I think we work pretty well together," Lodanosky said. "We've never gotten in one another's way. From day one, we've just sort of been in tune with one another."
"It almost is seamless in how you talk," Kalinowski said of his on-air conversations with Lodanosky. "I've learned a lot from him."
And Kalinowski always tries to remain positive about the players "giving credit to a player that truly deserves it" even if the player is on the opposing team.
There is one time that Kalinowski isn't particularly proud of, but served as a good teaching moment.
As a student, Kalinowski he let an expletive slip at a California University of Pennsylvania game. A new engineer was taking a long time setting up, leading Kalinowski to lose his cool on air – only he didn't know he was on air. Soon, he said, a tiny voice in his ear told him he was live.
"You have to be so careful," which is what he tells his students.
Kalinowski is now a high school English teacher at Commodore Perry High School in Mercer County. He also teaches speech and media classes there. He obtained his secondary English teaching degree from Clarion in 1996.
He believes his real world experience is beneficial to his students.
He also remembers what is was like when he was new to broadcasting and was mentored by the late Gene Sobolewski, who was a former football coach and professor at Clarion.
One time Sobolewski stopped an interview and gave Kalinowski some pointers on things to ask and the type of information that alumni would want to know.
"He really got me started right," Kalinowski said.
So much so that he's continued doing it for the past 31 years grabbing the attention of Clarion Sports Information Director Sean Fagan, who nominated him for the PSAC George Heaslip award.
The PSAC George Heaslip Award is chosen annually by the league's sports information directors and is named in honor of the late Cheyney University Sports Information Director George Heaslip. According to PSAC Sports, "this award recognizes a media professional for his or her meritorious service while covering the conference's student-athletes, coaches and teams."
"In my brief time working with Mike, the thing that has stood out to me the most has been his professionalism," Fagan said. "It's a cliché to say that the devil is in the details, but with Mike it is absolutely true. With him, it never matters how any particular game plays out or the overall direction of the season. He brings the same preparation, enthusiasm and attention to detail to every broadcast, which is no easy thing, and relishes in the opportunity to promote the university and our student athletes. When I nominated him for the George Heaslip award, I did so because I think his work ethic and passion are unique in our community and among his peers in Pennsylvania college football."
Part of the reason for his enthusiasm is his sincere love of the game and the division.
"I like football. The quality of Division 2 football is amazing," Kalinowski said.
Kalinowski explained that Division 2 football has acquired some great talent in recent years because players who may have sat the bench in Division 1 football have decided to attend Division 2 schools where they can see real playing time.
Kalinowski calls Division 2 the premiere league that has seen the talent of Reggie Wells, who went on to be a lineman for the Arizona Cardinals, and Julian Howsare, who was signed with the New York Jets as a fullback/defensive end, but now plays for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Ontario, Canada.
"We've had some really decent talent over the years," Kalinowski said.
That doesn't mean there haven't been some low times that have made it hard to be positive.
Kalinowski recalls the year the team didn't win a single game and how hard it was for the players and the fans.
On the flipside, he also remembers a year in which they beat California University of Pennsylvania. "We probably shouldn't have beaten California that year."
And he remembers the hot streak the Golden Eagles were on a couple of years ago. "Seven wins in a row. It was an opportunity for a resurgence of the team."
Although he's an optimist about the game and his team, he also realistically knows that in order to have the kind of team that wins consistently, it takes money. However, he thinks there are ways to make that support a reality – show the university that you love its sports teams.
He remembers the 80s when the stadium was packed. He believes one of the best ways to help the team is to simply buy a ticket and become a fan.
Although you probably wouldn't hold the title of biggest fan. That title belongs to Kalinowski.