October 5, 2010

Finally getting his shot in the booth

More news about: Ursinus
Bern Gavlick had to wait a long time before being able to pursue his passion for football.

For a long time, broadcaster Bern Gavlick didn’t get the call to be on the air.

He wanted to be the play-by-play man for Ursinus football. He grew up with a football coach for a father. He knew the Bears players and staff. He had previous experience as a hockey broadcaster.

He also has cerebral palsy.

His condition, known as spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, affects his speech and makes it difficult to shuffle through notes. Gavlick approached the local radio station with the hope of broadcasting high school football games and, ultimately, becoming a voice for Ursinus.

Instead, the radio station brought in other broadcasters, young personalities who Gavlick said had plenty of shortcomings.

“I had volunteered to do that for them at some point, and I never really got a call to do that,” the 2001 Ursinus graduate said. “In a way, I did feel a little bit passed over or like they were a little afraid to take that step forward with me, whereas clearly right off the bat, James was not.”

James refers to James Wagner, the Ursinus sports information director who helped give Gavlick the opportunity to share Saturday afternoons with his father, Bernie Gavlick, an assistant Bears coach for 13 seasons.

The younger Gavlick first got into radio in 1999 and has been broadcasting off and on ever since. He started with high school hockey games, initially doing an intermission report called “Bern Behind the Bench.” Before long, he was reporting during both intermissions as well as doing a postgame show.

He drew inspiration from such iconic Philadelphia-area broadcasters as Merrill Reese of the Eagles, Harry Kalas of the Phillies and Gene Hart of the Flyers. And, as the son of a football coach, Gavlick had enthusiasm for the gridiron.

“I always wanted to try doing play-by-play,” Gavlick said. “I found that interesting because I can’t play sports because I have cerebral palsy.”

After having little luck trying to get linked up with high school broadcasts, Gavlick pitched the idea of calling play-by-play to Ursinus about six years ago, before Wagner became the SID.

“They weren’t quite ready for me to come on board,” said Gavlick, now 30. “But when James got on, I noticed that he was using other college broadcasts to link up with, and he told me that he might be doing some games like that.”

Gavlick readily offered his services. Today, Gavlick essentially carries the Ursinus Internet broadcast by himself.

“I was grateful for the opportunity to do that,” Gavlick said. “I don’t think that everybody would be as willing or as open as [Wagner] is.”

Gavlick began broadcasting during the fourth game of 2009, a 55-50 barn-burner victory over Gettysburg. He still considers that one of the most exciting games he’s ever called, right up next to the 35-32 win at Dickinson to wrap up the regular season and keep the Bears in the postseason hunt.

Gavlick has a persistent and driving personality both in the pressbox and in his life away from the football field. After getting his undergraduate degree in exercise and sports science, with minors in psychology and biology, he wanted to build off his interest in studying the brain.

“There’s no better way to approach that than to go for a master’s,” he said. So in 2005, he earned a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. The son of two teachers now works in the school system himself as a guidance counselor.

“He’s overcome so many things in his life, and it’s just hard to imagine the stuff he’s been able to accomplish,” his father said. “He doesn’t look at himself as ... handicapped. You’re only handicapped if you want to be. We’re very happy with what he’s been able to do.”

The younger Gavlick often uses a power wheelchair to get around, though since a surgery in 1996, he is able to walk independently for short distances. He said he loves getting as much exercise as possible and said he has a “weekend warrior” streak to him.

And befitting a broadcaster, Gavlick loves to converse with people and share his insights on a range of topics. He has also done motivational speaking engagements in Pennsylvania and as far away as Canada.

Each Saturday, once game time rolls around, he’s all focus.

Gavlick is meticulous in planning for games, looking at the skill positions, memorizing stats, studying game notes and looking for those offbeat or interesting tidbits to interject into broadcasts. After games, Gavlick picks three players to spotlight and tries to interview at least two of them.

Broadcasting has come together as one of Gavlick’s passions. He gets to watch his father on the field on Saturdays “helping kids and teaching kids the game.” He said he grew up around football coaches and was always a part of his dad’s teams.

Broadcasting “is a really nice extension of that,” he said.

“When it comes to major sports competitively, clearly that’s not something that I can do,” Gavlick said. “So I always emulated and looked up to the athletes as I was growing up, but I also grew up enjoying the broadcasters as well.”

W&L’s coach hits milestone
Frank Miriello became the winningest coach in Washington and Lee history after a 55-29 win against Guilford on Saturday. His record over 16 seasons is 77-75-1, which is one more win than his predecessor and mentor Gary Fallon. Fallon, who died unexpectedly in 1995, was like a father-figure to Miriello, and passing his win mark no doubt brought up some emotions for the current coach. The fashion in which the game was won was no less surpising: 55 points is most the Generals have scored in a game in nearly five decades.

First of ODAC’s undefeateds fall in conference play
Emory and Henry and Randolph-Macon both stood at 4-0 going into their matchup Saturday -- and the Yellow Jackets emerged unscathed. The teams went into the half neck and neck, but R-MC broke the game open with 20 unanswered points after the break. All this while relying heavily on backup rusher Drake Sanders, who posted 112 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Austin Faulkner was crisp through the air, going 17-for-22 and netting more than 200 yards. Two more of the Old Dominion’s unbeaten teams will meet this coming weekend, when Hampden-Sydney (5-0) travels to Bridgewater (4-0).

Mules are kickin’
After two trips to the playoffs in 2007 and 2008, Muhlenberg suffered through a dismal 3-7 record last year. But after an opening week loss to Delaware Valley this season, the Mules have gone 3-0 in conference play, striking down defending Centennial champion Johns Hopkins 30-27 on Saturday. JHU outgained Muhlenberg by nearly 100 yards but also threw five interceptions, and Muhlenberg was able to put points on the board in a couple of short-field situations. For the Mules, linebacker Patrick McDonough had 13 tackles, while two of the team’s interceptions were hauled in by free safety Kevin Ryan.

Blitz package
With just nine completions, Christopher Newport quarterback Matt Long still managed to throw for 207 yards and three touchdowns to help his team over Shenandoah 28-13, the Captains’ first win of the season.

Catholic pressured Hampden-Sydney throughout much of their game Saturday, being separated by only a point late in the third quarter. The Tigers broke free for a 35-27 win. Both quarterbacks had solid days: H-SC’s Travis Lane had 319 yards and two touchdown passes, and CUA’s Greg Cordivari had 234 yards and three scores.

The matchup between N.C. Wesleyan and Ferrum was defensive battle in the first half before the Bishops tallied 24 points to topple the Panthers, who are now 0-4 in their coach’s final season. NCWC sacked Ferrum’s quarterback eight times in the game.

Moravian strong safety Matt Johnson took the reins at quarterback for his team, leading them to a 24-16 win over Dickinson. He coupled his 174 passing yards with 61 on the ground and a touchdown.

Contact me
I would be happy to hear from anyone who has questions or feedback regarding the Around the Mid-Atlantic column or Division III football in general. Please write to me at ryan.tipps@d3sports.com. I’m sure that I missed some highlights in the region. I invite you to talk about players and performances on the message board’s Around the Mid-Atlantic thread. Additionally, if there is an idea you’d like to see me write about, post it there or email me.

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Adam Turer

Adam Turer graduated in 2006 from Washington and Lee University, where he was a two-year starter at free safety. He lives in Cincinnati and covers area high school sports in addition to his full-time job as an attorney. Adam has contributed to D3football.com since 2007 and is in his second year as Around the Mid-Atlantic columnist.

2007-2011 columnist: Ryan Tipps
2003-2006: Pat Cummings
2000: Keith McMillan
1999: Pat Coleman 

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