RIP Mike Moran, a Presence in Rocky Mountain Sports World for 55 years
A personal note:
At the age of 22, I was over my skis. After spending two years as one of the three reporters for United Press International in Cheyenne, I was transferred to Denver, where the assignment included regular news coverage, but also all sports.
The Western Athletic Conference schools -- Colorado State and Wyoming -- were always accommodating, but then I grew up in Cheyenne and spent brief periods at both schools before deciding at the age of 20, I was ready to get into journalism.
One man who stepped up to help the kid from UPI was Mike Moran, the Sports Information Director at the University of Colorado. To get the call on Tuesday that Mike had passed away hit hard.
With a tip of the hat to David Plati, Associate AD/Sports Information at Colorado, please read on:
By: David Plati, Associate AD/Sports Information
Professional Career in Athletics Spanned 55 Years
BOULDER — Mike Moran, who served as sports information director at the University of Colorado for 11 years and went on to a prestigious career as the chief communications officer and the principal spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee, passed away from a short illness Tuesday afternoon in Colorado Springs. He was 78.
His professional career in athletics would span some 55 years, highlighted by being the chief spokesman for the USOC for a quarter century (1978-2003) and the Olympic games starting in Lake Placid in 1980 through Salt Lake City in 2002. He previously had served as the SID at Nebraska-Omaha and Colorado, and for the last 17 years, was involved in major consultant work, including as the senior media consultant for the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation as well as serving as a keynote speaker and emcee for numerous sports events.
In 2002, the USOC honored him with its highest award, the General Douglas MacArthur Award, as he joined a select group of recipients that included Nobel Peace Prize Winner and former U.S. Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger, former USOC President and Secretary of the Treasury William E. Simon, New York Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner, former USOC President William Martin, and 1936 Olympic sprinter Marty Glickman.
That same year, he was inducted into the College Sports Information Director's (CoSIDA) Hall of Fame, for a combination of his work in the SID and media relations field along with the opportunities he afforded dozens of SID's around the nation to work both Summer and Winter Olympic games. He was inducted into the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame in 2005, and also received the 2006 Distinguished Service Award from the United States Sports Academy.
He was born January 2, 1942 in Omaha, and graduated from the University of Nebraska-Omaha in 1966. He worked in television and radio in his hometown from 1963-67, with his background including stints as a TV sportscaster, radio announcer and disc jockey and photography. He played college basketball and baseball at both South Dakota University and Omaha as an undergraduate following his graduation from Omaha's Westside High School in 1960, where one of his teammates was actor Nick Nolte. After graduating from UNO, he became the school's sports information director for two years before accepting the similar position at Colorado, where he replaced a legend in the late Fred Casotti who had held the position for 16 years.
He took over as CU's SID in August 1968, just ahead of the football season. The '68-69 men's basketball team, led by the late Cliff Meely, won the Big Eight title and provided his first extended opportunity to work with the national media. Then the '69 football team gained national notoriety for defeating Bear Bryant's Alabama Crimson Tide in the Liberty Bowl, with Bobby Anderson earning All-America honors under Moran's promotional abilities. In 1971, the Buffaloes opened with road wins at LSU and Ohio State in the first three weeks of the season en route to a 10-2 year and a final No. 3 national ranking behind Nebraska and Oklahoma, to this day the only time the same conference has had the top three teams in the final polls.
In 1973, he managed the transition of Eddie Crowder from football coach to athletic director, enjoyed official scoring for Irv Brown's baseball teams, and saw the likes of Cliff Branch and George Daniels set the track world on fire. And prior to leaving for the USOC, his final challenge was managing the news that broke on Monday Night Football by Howard Cosell: the University of Colorado was hiring Chuck Fairbanks away from the New England Patriots to coach the Buffaloes.
Moran was at CU during a golden age for Big Eight Conference SID's, most of whom made it into the CoSIDA Hall of Fame. He worked for Casotti (inducted in 1996) and with Harold Keith (Oklahoma, inducted in 1969), Harry Burrell (Iowa State, 1970), Bill Callahan (Missouri, 1972), Don Bryant (Nebraska, 1975), Pat Quinn (Oklahoma State, 1977) and Bill Hancock (Big Eight Conference, 2005). Moran joined the group in 2002, and his co-SID for two years in the mid-1970s, Steve Hatchell, was inducted in 2018.
He had moments that captured the entire world at the USOC, topped by the U.S. Hockey team's win over the Russians and subsequent gold medal in 1980. He also had to deal with media circuses around the U.S. pulling out of the '80 Moscow Olympic games and the "brouhaha" between Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding in 1994.
Services and a celebration of Mike's life are pending. Following are comments from several people who worked with him throughout his career:
Bob Condron, Retired USOC Director of Media Services & Operations
"Mike's passing just left a huge void in the Olympic movement. He was "The Library" when it came to what has happened in the history of the U.S. Olympic Committee and that knowledge will go with Mike. He was a friend to me as college SIDs, he brought me to work with him at the USOC, and I saw him as the best PR practitioner in the history of the Olympic Games.
"He loved the Buffs and the athletes at CU. He made a difference in college athletics and the Olympics and that difference will continue for generations. He was one of a kind." (Condron joined Moran at the USOC from SMU in 1984 and worked 16 Olympic games with him.)
Bill Hancock, College Football Playoff Executive Director & Former Big Eight Conference SID
"Mike had limitless energy, wit and intellect, and a stunningly broad range of interests. He was as comfortable discussing college football as he was extolling the virtues of field hockey. And baseball! I remember the night he rounded up a bunch of us for a rollicking night at Bush Stadium in Indianapolis (home of the city's AAA team from 1931-96), lecturing on the time Babe Ruth played there. He took the best of college athletics to the Olympic world, then channeled it right back down a two-way street through the SID's he introduced to international sports. Nobody ever did more for others, or had more sincere passion for life. He will be greatly missed."
Steve Hatchell, President & CEO, National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame
"He put us all on the map. He was the best of friends for over 50 years. I worked for him, with him, and shared so many twists and turns in life. Always so smart, so quick, so talented, so thoughtful to me, and so incredibly talented. He loved the Buffs and was a committed friend. Just so very sad. An accomplished and prolific public speaker, another sad part is, the best emcee for Mike's services would be Mike Moran." (Hatchell, a CU graduate, was co-SID with Moran at CU in 1974-75.)
Bill Marolt, Former CU & U.S. Ski Coach
"I am so sorry to hear about Mike. I was a young ski coach when he arrived on campus and replaced the Count (Casotti) as the sports information director. It was always fun to work with him and be around him because he was from Nebraska and that was a great entree into teasing him. But, he was always a loyal Buffalo and enjoyed the many personalities among the coaches and athletes. He had a tremendous work ethic, a good touch in working with people and a willing personality to create interest in CU sports. His work as the SID was legendary, he was loyal, and became one of the great 'Golden Buffaloes.' While this is a sad day, it brings back many fun and positive memories."
Candy Casotti Nesheim, Daughter of the late Fred Casotti and Longtime Friend
"I always will remember how my dad told me how he hired Mike. He gave Mike $20 for gas to drive out here to interview for the job. Remember, this was the summer of '68. Once here, dad showed him around, showed him how to wipe down the press box and said, 'You're hired.' Mike drove back to Omaha, gathered his belongings and returned in time for the start of the (football season). My dad called everyone by a nickname, and he tagged Mike with, "Morgan.' After that, he was always known as Morgan in our household."
Tom Osborne, CEO/Colorado Springs Sports Corporation
"Today we lost a good friend and colleague today. Mike was a true artist and contributed so much to the sports world, not only in Colorado Springs at the Sports Corp but nationally and internationally with his 25 years at the USOC."
Larry Zimmer, KOA-Radio/Longtime Voice of the Buffaloes
Mike was the sports information director at CU in 1971, my first year broadcasting the Buffs. I can't count all the ways that he helped me in covering football that first season and the seasons thereafter. We became good friends and continued our friendship after he moved to the U.S. Olympic Committee.
"Mike and I were together at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid when I was covering for KOA and was part of the CBS Radio team. Mike had enlisted many of his colleagues from the Big 8 to handle the media at various venues, so it was like old home week. I watched in awe how he handled the international media on a day-to-day basis and always looked forward to our drink at the end of the day at the bar at the Press Center. His talent showed through when the U.S. hockey team beat the Soviet Union and Coach Herb Brooks refused to allow his players to attend a press conference, or to even be interviewed. Mike worked through the night to convince Brooks that he must let the players appear. Brooks relented and the next day the media got their interviews.
"We have lost a giant in the sports media industry and I have lost a dear friend. Rest in Peace, Mike Moran."
Jon Burianek, Retired CU Associate AD, Business & Ticket Manager
"We started full-time at CU at approximately the same time. We worked right across the hall from each other in the stadium offices – Mike was settling in and getting used to everything. Fred (Casotti) would come downstairs and always called him 'Morgan.' The department was so much smaller back then and we'd all gather after games. The camaraderie back then was different, we were like a large family. The 1971 season in particular was special, when we finished No. 3 in the country behind Nebraska and Oklahoma, and the media coverage of the program skyrocketed – he handled like an old pro and he wasn't even 30 years old. Mike was instrumental in organizing the old Big Eight Skywriter's Tour and making it a success and fun for everyone involved. I'll always remember how he wound run the event and then turn it over to Fred and he would tell his famous limericks."
Tim Simmons, Former CU Sports Information Director (1979-81)
(Simmons replaced Moran in early 1979) "I knew Mike for over five decades and thought of him as one of the real characters of the sports information profession. I really appreciated Mike more when I replaced him at CU and he left me with a staff that included two future Buff SID's - John Clagett and . Mike showcased his abilities at the USOC where he was the face of the U.S. Olympic Committee for years. He was a great mentor for the collegiate sports information profession in the United States where he utilized numerous SID's at international athletic events for years. Although he grew up in Nebraska where he followed the Cornhuskers, Mike will always be known as a 'Buff4Life'!"
John Clagett, Former CU Sports Information Director (1981-84)
"I am shocked and saddened by the news of Mike's passing. He will forever be a sports publicity legend with Hall of Fame credentials. Mike afforded me the opportunity to learn the craft of athletic SID work as a fledgling student assistant, and I am forever grateful that he gave me that chance. It was a career defining moment that will never be lost on me. A rush of memories comes over me from those days in the SID Office in the fieldhouse annex. He expected excellence and you didn't want to let him down."
David Plati, CU Associate AD/Sports Information (1984-present)
"I am where I am today 100 percent due to Mike. I had applied to five colleges out of high school, thinking maybe I could latch on as a statistician -- I wasn't even thinking sports information. I sent Mike my high school portfolio of statistical work, hoping to hear back; I did and he offered me a student assistant position in the SID office. He told me I could be on the football and basketball stat crews, update the stat sheets, and do some other work in the office. He actually wrote to me every few weeks or so, so I was getting a little bit cocky back in high school – but he eventually told me he used to joke about it and tell people: 'I got some sucker from New York to do my stats for me.' But that was his sense of humor, and some of his funnier moments came when he was cursing out the ditto or copier machines, which John Clagett can attest to. He left just four months into my freshman year, but we stayed in constant touch for the 42 years since, had some great conversations about sports and life in general. I will definitely miss one of the mentors in my professional life.
"And he never forgot our profession. After he left, he invited many SID's from across the nation to work the Olympic games, summer and winter, in the states or abroad."