Sports Information honors exceptional assistants, broadcasters

Will Kuntz ’06 (second from left) spoke at a ceremony that honored Deford Award winners Anna Spellman’ 17 (left), Hannah Atkinson ’17 (second from right) and Jackson Myers ’17 (right). Photo courtesy of Sports Information.

Last Thursday, Sports Information recognized six seniors for their contributions to the College’s Sports Information department. Held in Griffin Hall, the awards ceremony began with an introduction by Sports Information Director Dick Quinn and featured speaker Will Kuntz ’06, vice president of soccer operations and assistant general manager for the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC).

Grant Raffel ’17 won the eighth Aaron Pinsky ’06 Student Broadcasting Award, and Hannah Atkinson ’17, Jackson Myers ’17 and Anna Spellman ’17 received the 28th Frank Deford Award.

Created in 1990 in the name of acclaimed sportswriter Frank Deford, the Deford Award honors outstanding Sports Information assistants, students who write game stories and compile statistics for Williams teams. The Pinsky Award was established in 2010 to commemorate Aaron Pinsky ’06, who passed away from brain cancer earlier that year. While at the College, Pinsky was a play-by-play broadcaster for football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball.

“Aaron Pinsky did everything with great joy and passion,” Quinn said. “He has not been forgotten.”

“When you talked to Aaron, you felt like you were talking to someone you had known your entire life,” Kuntz said. “Aaron lives on with everybody in the class of 2006.”

Both awards are believed to be unique in collegiate athletics.

For the first time in history, Sports Information presented two Outstanding Achievement Awards. As students cannot win the Pinsky or Deford awards more than once, the Outstanding Achievement Award was created to recognize continued excellence, Quinn said. Previously, only one Deford or Pinsky winner, Jacob Cerny ’10, had won an Outstanding Achievement Award. Justin Edwards ’17, a 2015 Pinsky Award winner, and Scott Shelton ’17, a 2016 Deford Award winner, were recognized this year.

Edwards’ first broadcasting assignment was a 2013 field hockey game. “I had never seen a field hockey game before, let alone done a broadcast, so I spent a lot of time just trying to learn what field hockey was all about,” he said.

On Saturday, Edwards served as the color commentator for the Dick Farley Invitational, becoming the first student to broadcast all 18 Williams sports that the Northeast Sports Network covers in its webcasts.

“I’ve loved being invested in all the teams,” he said. “The more I have covered the sports, the better my experience has gotten as I have learned more about the teams, experienced rivalries as they developed and followed the athletes’ careers.”

Shelton has written game stories for women’s soccer, men’s tennis and women’s tennis and recorded statistics for men’s and women’s ice hockey. He has traveled twice to the women’s soccer NCAA Div. III Final Four in Kansas City, Mo., creating a Twitter feed to provide in-game updates.

After presenting the awards, Quinn gave way to Kuntz.

As a first-year at the College, Kuntz secured an internship in the New York Yankees’ front office from then-owner George Steinbrenner ’53. He remained with the team after graduating and eventually became manager of pro scouting. Kuntz earned a World Series ring in 2009 but left the Yankees in 2014 to become director of player relations for Major League Soccer (MLS). In January, he joined former basketball teammate Tucker Kain ’05 at LAFC, an expansion team that will join the MLS in 2018.

Kuntz played on the men’s basketball team at the College and was a member of the 2003 squad that won the NCAA Div. III Championship. Over Kuntz’s four years on the team, the Ephs went 93-24.

Kuntz’s speech addressed connections between professional sports and American society.

“Sports journalism is not just writing about sports but writing about the very fabric of American values and society,” he said in his speech. “The distinguished honorees are part of this endeavor.”

He emphasized that sports journalism, as well as all objective writing, “matters now more than ever” given the recent phenomenon of alternative facts.

“Facts in the news have become arbitrary,” Kuntz said. “Depending on whether you go to one website or another, the information you get is going to be wildly different. There are no alternative facts in sports. No press secretary can stand in front of a room of reporters and say that a team won when it lost.

“Many of you will not go on to cover sports, but you have been involved in Williams athletics, either by playing a sport, following a sport or managing a team. Whether you know it or not, you’re already dealing in objective facts. The generation before you lost sight of that, and we need you to go out in the world and get us back on track. Drag us by the ear if you have to.”

Later in his speech, Kuntz reflected on his experience at the College. He credited Williams with helping him adopt a standard of excellence and with teaching him the work ethic that has allowed him to succeed.

“Coming out of high school, I thought I was a great student and a great basketball player,” he said. “When I got to [the College], I was at best average in both respects. The only thing I could do was work.”

It is the relentless pursuit of excellence, Kuntz said, that defines the College.

“Excellence is average here,” he said. “No one is willing to settle for less.”