From IWU Magazine, Spring 2012 edition
Launching his sports-reporting career in college,
Stew Salowitz '76 continues to track the pulse of Titan athletics.
Salowitz charts the action for the Titan basketball women's 72-58 win over
North Park at the Shirk Center. The game was held in conjunction with IWU's
Pink Zone fundraiser promoting breast-cancer awareness.
If you're curious how someone grows up to becomes a university director of sports
information, try looking in his basement.
That's where Stew Salowitz, clearing out some dusty shelves, uncovered scrapbooks
he made in grade school documenting two seasons of Illinois State basketball. In page
margins, next to programs and newspaper clippings, are his game notes, neatly printed
in blue-ballpoint ink. Asterisks mark the many home and away games he watched and
studied as a boy.
Over the decades, his affinity for college sports remains undiminished — though his
choice of teams has changed. An English major at Illinois Wesleyan, he pursued a radio
broadcasting career and then became the Titans' sports information director in 1988,
succeeding Ed Alsene, who held the position 23 years before retiring.
"I thought, 'That's a job I'd love to do.'" Salowitz recalls. "It's the only job I
ever applied for, and it's just incredible to believe I've now been here longer than
Ed. I always thought of him as having been here forever. Now it's me who's been here
Now in his 24th year on the job, Salowitz will be inducted into the Illinois Basketball
Hall of Fame on April 28, chosen in the media category by the Illinois Basketball
Coaches Association. Illinois Wesleyan's first inductees, back in 1973, included legendary
IWU coach Jack Horenberger '36 and longtime Pantagraph sports editor Fred Young, Class of 1915. Since then, 23 more alumni have earned the
"It's fun, it's a nice honor, it's amazing, really," Salowitz says. "I'm going in
the same year as people I watched play so many times as a kid, in high school and
Those words, "so many times," may be an understatement. Salowitz has handled media
arrangements and statistics for over 600 IWU men's and women's home basketball games.
He called hundreds of games, first as a student broadcaster and later as a pro at
Bloomington's WJBC. Earlier, because his father was a physician working with Illinois
State teams, the boy rode Redbird buses to games. Salowitz may have seen, written
about, or shouted into a microphone about every Hall of Fame basketball player in
Bloomington, Normal, and environs for the past half-century.
"Both my mom and dad were great sports fans, so I come by it naturally," he says.
His family would frequently host athletes for meals "and a couple of kids — athletes,
of course — even lived at our house while going to college. Groups would use our garage
to build homecoming floats when I was in grade school, so I've been hanging around
college kids almost all my life."
Illinois State might have seemed an inevitable choice of college for Salowitz. But
in his senior year at Bloomington's Central Catholic High School, he visited IWU "and
loved it — loved the smallness of it."
Eventually, he found his way to the Kemp Hall basement studio that was home to Wesleyan's
radio station, WESN. Salowitz remembers the clacking noise of the Associated Press
machine, "spitting out paper right and left." He read news and did a weekly music
show, but his big break was a January "short term" internship his senior year, doing
the morning shift at WIHN-FM.
After graduation, he worked briefly at a failing country music radio station. On payday,
he says, "you went straight to the bank." His talents as the morning host and play-by-play
announcer for the Titans' basketball team got some attention and WJBC Radio in Bloomington
came calling in 1977. At the time, WJBC was among the top-rated stations in the country.
Salowitz became host of a popular afternoon show.
Salowitz launched his broadcasting career at WESN.
In his first professional job after graduation, he did
play-by-play for Titan basketball games.
"My connection with IWU basketball was strong at WJBC, too," he says. He traveled
with Coach Dennie Bridges '61 and his teams to broadcast games in Mississippi, Arizona
and California, "so got to know those players very well. By the time I started at
Wesleyan I was pretty well-acquainted with the athletic department and other key people
at the University."
Since taking on Wesleyan's sports-information duties, Salowitz's job has expanded,
from 12 to 18 varsity sports.
"The first spring I was at IWU we had nine total track meets, men only and all outdoors,"
he says. "This year we have 18 meets, men's and women's teams, indoor and outdoor
seasons. And it's that way with every sport. We didn't have swimming or women's golf
or soccer or cross country when I started."
The success of Wesleyan's athletic program adds to the work, but Salowitz isn't complaining.
He's handled media arrangements for 22 NCAA Division III women's basketball tournament
games, 17 NCAA Division III men's basketball tournament games and the 2010 and 2011
NCAA Division III women's basketball championships held at the Shirk Center.
Technology brings new challenges but also greater efficiency and the chance to reach
more fans faster. On the road years ago, Salowitz had to find pay phones to call in
game results for the next morning's newspaper. Now it's done by computers over the
Internet in nanoseconds.
In February, IWU's sports website got 332,316 page views from 19,344 visitors. Salowitz
and his student workers are now exploring new ways to connect with Titan fans through
social-media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. "Today we did our first 'iMovie,'"
he says about video from a women's basketball game. "Amazing — this morning that video
didn't exist, and now it's on the website."
"I guarantee I have learned as much from the students about computer skills as they
have from me," he adds.
On the road years ago, Salowitz had to find pay phones to call in game results for
the next morning's newspaper. Now it's done by computers over the Internet in nanoseconds.
When not documenting Titan athletes' achievements, you might find Salowitz in his
kitchen testing a new recipe or taking a day trip on his Triumph Bonneville down a
country road he hasn't been down before. He goes further when he can — a recent trip
was to London — and once a year he makes the pilgrimage to watch his San Francisco
Giants play in AT&T Park.
So how does a guy grow up in Normal but leave his heart in San Francisco?
Salowitz needs only three words of explanation.
"Willie Mays, 1962."
The Giants' Mays was the baseball's nearly perfect player — young, strong and fast,
a home-run hitter, a base stealer and a center fielder of such range that someone
said Mays' glove is where triples go to die. Little Stewart Salowitz, 8 years old,
had never seen Mays in real life, not even on television. But he'd read enough to
know Willie was his guy.
The devotion was so complete that Salowitz, at age 30 and long removed from his Central
Catholic baseball days, went to an "Old Giants" fantasy camp to work out with his
boyhood heroes. There he met Mays and discovered him to be "a jovial guy." And in
one at-bat there, Salowitz stood in against Hall of Fame pitcher Juan Marichal. He
took three balls, then fouled off a pitch before bouncing a ground ball past the pitcher
and past second base.
He loved that single. It wasn't much of a hit, "a 25-hopper up the middle." But it
wound up in short center, fielded by Willie Mays.
Salowitz is pretty sure he has a picture somewhere. He'll look around next time he's
cleaning out his basement.
To read about Stew's Crew, 41 alumni who worked as students for Salowitz, click here.
To visit the Titan Athletic website, click here.