Staff Writer: Juliana Fiorilli
When ESPN executives offered Wingate University professor Ralph Frasca the opportunity to be a founding co-anchor of the cable network’s SportsCenter show, his first concern was how he would fit his television duties around his class schedule.
“They brought me to New York and said they wanted to pair me with a young guy, right out of college, named Bob Ley,” Frasca said.
The network executives had been familiar with Frasca’s work as a sports interview columnist for a nationally circulated sports magazine, and a telephone interview confirmed for them that he could talk sports and had a “broadcast voice.” So, bringing him to Manhattan was largely a formality, to introduce Frasca to Ley and have him sign a contract.
“I asked them how we would be able to schedule my work on SportsCenter around my classes,” Frasca said. They asked if he was taking a college class or two. “No, high school,” Frasca said.
Frasca was a 16-year-old high school junior at the time.
“They never asked me how old I was,” Frasca said. “They just assumed.”
Ley spent a long broadcast career with ESPN from 1979 until 2019, while Frasca’s offer was revoked due to his age. “We can’t have a 16-year-old kid doing national sports reports on television,” the ESPN executives told Frasca.
After having the opportunity of a lifetime being taken away, Frasca graduated from high school and went to college to receive his B.A in Journalism.
Frasca worked as a daily newspaper reporter and radio DJ before returning to school for his M.A. In 1994 he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa.
He eventually transitioned to teaching and ended up at Wingate University to become chair of the Department of Communication and Art.
Dr. Frasca has been at Wingate University for two years and has already drastically changed major requirements and course offerings.
“I am excited about the changes that were recently made to the Communication curriculum,” Interim Dean of Arts and Sciences Carrie Hoefferle said. “With the support of our former Dean, Dr. Merrill, Dr. Frasca did a great job of aligning the curriculum to the needs and interests of Wingate students, as well as the demands of 21st century employers.”
She also believes that Communication students will benefit from this change for better learning and future job opportunities.
Frasca teaches four courses this Fall semester – Public Relations, Senior Seminar and two sections of Public Speaking – and advises 35 students.
He is also the chair of two search committees to hire new full-time faculty. “Running several searches to fill faculty positions is a very time consuming process, and I’ve been leading those searches,” Frasca said.
One student spoke highly about Dr. Frasca and his teaching skills.
“He cares about his students,” Communication major Drew Cotrill said. “He is pretty strict, but just wants to see everyone succeed.”