Sochi’s U.S. Olympic medalists are lining up to talk with Kevin Kugler.
The 22nd Winter Olympics is the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications graduate’s fourth Olympic games in the broadcast booth. Kugler is doing play-by-play for Westwood One Radio for long track speed skating and is also co-hosting a two-hour nightly talk show about the games.
"The novelty of working the Olympics never wears off," Kugler said in a recent Skype interview from Sochi. "It is really a cool experience. You get to meet a lot of great people who are excited about the extra coverage and attention that an Olympics offers their sport."
So far in Sochi, Kugler has interviewed American medalists including slopestylist Devin Logan, skier Julia Mancuso, snowboarders Kaitlyn Farrington and Kelly Clark, skeleton racer Noelle Pikus-Pace and the slopestyle gold-silver-bronze trio of Joss Christensen, Gus Kentworthy and Nick Goepper. The interviews are available online at http://westwoodonesports.com/kevin-kugler/and broadcast locally from 10 p.m. to midnight on the Omaha’s KOZN (1620 AM).
The Olympics in Russia are the latest sporting adventure for the 1994 University of Nebraska–Lincoln alumnus. Kugler is also the voice of Westwood One's Sunday Night NFL Football broadcasts, its lead announcer for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament and Final Four, the voice of the College World Series, the host of "This Week in the NCAA" and the play-by-play man for other sporting events like The Masters and college football.
Closer to home, Kugler — a nine-time recipient of the Nebraska Sportscaster of the Year award — appears on the Big Ten Network and hosts the weekly "Big Red Wrap-Up" broadcast on NET.
Not too shabby for a Lincoln High School graduate whose career started in broadcast studios formerly located in Avery Hall, the home of University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s journalism school when Kugler was in college.
"I never dreamed I would have these opportunities," Kugler said. "If you had walked into (Rick) Alloway's sports broadcasting class 20 years ago and told me that I would call Olympic speed skating in Russia, Team USA basketball in China or the NCAA Final Four, I would have thought you were crazy."
Kugler said those days at University of Nebraska–Lincoln were a key part of his success.
"I absolutely learned lessons at University of Nebraska–Lincoln that I've been able to apply in this career," he said. "Earning that degree helped me learn how to succeed in this business. It helped me create a base that I was able to build into a decent career."
For current students looking to break into sports broadcasting, Kugler said he recommends taking advantage of every opportunity University of Nebraska–Lincoln offers.
"The sports broadcasting program at University of Nebraska–Lincoln has expanded and presents so many opportunities that I wish we had," Kugler said. "The one thing students need to do — and this is something that I applied very early in my career — is never say no.
"Do everything you can. Take advantage of every opportunity. And, this is difficult, but your social life has to come second because when you do sports broadcasting, you will be working weekends and evenings. That can't be avoided."
Though he works 65 to 70 hours a week and can be away from home for weeks, Kugler is married and a father to two daughters.
"I've missed a lot of dance recitals and concerts due to my career, but I do take advantage of the time we have together," he said. "Working in this business and maintaining a relationship is difficult. Luckily, my wonderful wife is extremely understanding. She runs our household and I couldn't do this without her support."
Kugler returns to the United States on Feb. 24. Two days later, he'll be at the University of Illinois broadcasting the Illini’s men's basketball game against the Huskers.
"The schedule gets a bit hectic but, honestly, I'm blessed to be a part of this," Kugler said. "I'm so fortunate because I get paid to do what I love."