Under the bright hot lights Jamie Erdahl is cool, calm, and collected. With the confidence of a seasoned vet, the 22-year-old peers into the camera and welcomes viewers to Eye on the Eagles.
The half hour television show on American University athletics has been hosted in the past by smooth-as-ice professional sportscaster Al Koken ’74, and nationally renowned sports journalist David Aldridge ’87 also has contributed. Now, a spirit of partnership between the Department of Athletics and School of Communication’s sports communication course has opened the door for Erdahl to add one heck of a line to her résumé.
“When I looked at the people who had done it in the past, I was nervous,” said Erdahl, who’s hosted two episodes. “It was an amazing experience. When I watched [on TV] it put a new definition on be careful what you wish for—because it was happening.”
Erdahl grew up a rabid sports fan in Minneapolis, and played basketball and softball at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. But in order to pursue her dream of becoming a sportscaster, she transferred to AU.
“I had to give up playing sports in order to be in a city near more media outlets,” said Erdahl, who’s scheduled to graduate with a communications degree in December.
As a junior she interned for associate athletics director, communications, Nancy Yasharoff. A former member of the Washington Capitals’ public relations office, Yasharoff regularly speaks to SOC professor Meredith Geisler’s sports communications class, which Erdahl is taking this semester. Yasharoff was struck by Erdahl’s potential, and asked her to host Eye on the Eagles, which airs on Comcast SportsNet.
“She had complete confidence in me, which was really exciting,” Erdahl said. “When Nancy first sent me the script I was trying to memorize it, and I didn’t sound conversational. The difficult part was calming myself down enough to feel good about what I was doing.”
Erdahl quickly adjusted to the teleprompter, and the shows went off without a hitch.
“Jamie is a good example of the positive results of co-curricular learning,” said Keith Gill, AU’s director of Athletics and Recreation. “Athletics values real-world learning opportunities that complement students’ lessons from the classroom. We have more than 40 students working on projects that will allow them to create a robust portfolio that will enhance their education. We are proud of Jaime’s contributions and will continue to provide opportunities for talented students like her to gain experience that will prepare them for their life after AU.”
That’s precisely Geisler’s aim in her class. This semester her students are working with the athletics department to develop promotional ideas for a new mobile app the department is preparing to launch.
“Jamie has taken every opportunity that has been presented to her and expanded what the responsibility has been,” Geisler said. “She’s very poised, she’s very knowledgeable about sports. All the speakers that I’ve brought into the class she’s waited afterwards to ask them for advice and guidance. She’s making the most of every single opportunity that’s been presented to her.”
One of those speakers was Billy Stone ’86, ’89, an executive producer at CBS College Sports Network. He met with the class following the March 2 AU men’s basketball game and has given Erdahl advice about embarking on a sports broadcasting career.
“The main message was just put yourself out there,” Erdahl said. “He told me, ‘Go to Minot, North Dakota, get hired and make every mistake that you can make on camera. It’s a blessing and a curse that not a lot of people are going to be watching you.’”
Erdahl may follow that path, but first she’s stopping in Bristol, Connecticut. This summer she’ll work as a studio production assistant intern for ESPN’s SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight, and with internships at Fox and NBC affiliates in Minnesota already under her belt, Erdahl will enter the job market with a wealth of experience.
“I would love to work for a NBA team after I have done sideline reporting for NCAA basketball,” she said. “I used to say as a joke that I want to be a sideline reporter for Monday Night Football.”
For Jamie Erdahl, these days that doesn’t sound like much of a joke at all.