Doleman called up to the major leagues

By SHANNON HEFFELFINGER
Alumni News staff

It was Dec. 28, 1992. Bill Doleman was 26 years old. He was single. He had gotten his big break hosting a Husker football show for the Nebraska ETV Network for the past few months. Since graduating from the University of Nebraska with a broadcasting degree in 1989, several of his dreams had come true, and those that hadn’t would surely become a reality soon, he thought.

Life was great. And Doleman was miserable.

“I wanted to feel as if I had ahold of the world, but the world had ahold of me,” Doleman said. “I hadn’t been sleeping for a month. That night, I called my mom and told her I was miserable, and she said, ‘Let’s pray.’ That night, I found my answer.”

Doleman, who “rededicated” his life to Christ that night, found and continues to find his answers in his deep Christian faith. Doleman no longer questions the significance of a career in sports broadcasting as he did during the first four years of his career. He sees his many successes during his 10-year path down his career as blessings, even though there have been hardships to overcome along the way.

A native of Fairbury, Doleman graduated from Fairbury High School in 1984 and arrived at the NU ready to conquer the news-editorial department. His desire, Doleman said, lasted about one day — until he heard about the sports broadcasting program.

“It was a way to stay involved in sports,” Doleman said. “I was such a mediocre athlete in high school that it was my only chance to keep sports in my daily life.”

As Doleman worked toward his broadcasting degree, he discovered another way to remain involved with sports — the Nebraska Sports Information office. Doleman began working there as a sophomore in 1985 and continued to work there for six years, despite earning his degree in broadcasting in May of 1989.

While at Sports Information, Doleman began pursuing a freelance broadcasting career, calling play-by-play during baseball and basketball games for ETV. He never made more than $20,000 a year during the first five years of his freelance career, but Doleman never seriously entertained thoughts of working full-time for anyone.

“People would say to broadcasting majors that our first job would be at the Fairbury radio station,” Doleman said. “Maybe if we were lucky, we could move on to Lincoln by the time we were 30. I didn’t want to wait, so I took my chances.”

Beginning a career in freelancing proved difficult for Doleman, he said, because he did not have an example to follow. No other Nebraska broadcasting alum he knew had taken the rout.

But Doleman’s gamble has paid off, he said. And the biggest bet placed on him, Doleman said, came from none other than Tom Osborne. The former NU football coach sat in the congregation of St. Mark’s Methodist Church in 1994 when Doleman told the story of his rededication to Christ.

Osborne wrote a letter to Doleman congratulating him on his testimony. A few weeks later, the coach asked Doleman to attend a planning meeting about the football coach’s show. Doleman was picked to host the show, which led to an opportunity to host the Terry Pettit volleyball show, the Paul Sanderford women’s basketball show and the Husker Highlights program. Doleman also helps produce the shows.

NU broadcasting professor Rick Alloway, who taught Doleman in a sports broadcasting class, said Doleman’s persistence and his ability to manage his inconsistent income has led to success.

“Bill has had the ability to continue to work over the years and not question himself and his place as a sports broadcaster,” said Alloway, who invites Doleman to speak to the sports broadcasting class every year. “It’s not an easy business, and many people don’t succeed. But he made the early commitment that this is what he wanted to do, and he never let himself quit.”

Doleman now finds himself halfway through his most successful year yet. ESPN scheduled Doleman to do play-by-play on its regional Big 12 Conference men’s basketball broadcasts this season. Doleman has also called two men’s basketball games for ABC — Oregon vs. Washington on Jan. 16 and Texas vs. Oklahoma State Feb. 21.

Doleman takes his success in stride, for it has not been without its ups and downs. He works “eight days a week and 25 hours a day” during football season, and the freelancer has had to deal with personal struggles as well, such as the death of his mother due to diabetes in October 1997. But, Doleman said, he is finally happy with his life, and he is excited about a possible broadcasting future with the major networks.

“I feel like I’m a minor league baseball player who’s been called up to the majors to see if he can hit the ball,” Doleman said of his gig with ABC. “Its very exciting. I’m not nervous. I just want to do really well. I think about it every day, and there’s no way a shy kid from a small town could be doing this without the help of the Lord. Everything I have accomplished has truly been a blessing.”

In April Doleman was named Nebraska sportscaster of the year by his peers.