Bullpens, Broadcasts & Bachelor’s Degrees
A Philly sports broadcaster matches South Jersey students with sports careers
By Klein Aleardi


Above: Sports icon Charles Barkley chats with Neil Hartman during Pizza with the Pros. Photo: Rowan University/Craig Terry

On any given Monday, while walking the halls of Rowan University’s College of Communication & Creative Arts, there’s a chance you might bump into a Philly sports great, a national broadcaster or a sports exec. And that’s thanks to broadcasting legend Neil Hartman. 

Hartman, an Emmy award-winning sportscaster who was the primetime anchor for Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia for almost 20 years, is now director of Rowan University’s Center for Sports Communication and Social Impact. In that role, he works to prepare the nearly 400 young adults in the Sports Communication and Media major (Sports CaM) for careers in sports media – and then actually helps find them jobs.

Hartman works with students directly, manages the school’s partnerships with orgs like the Delaware Blue Coats and connects students with companies looking for interns and full-time employees. He also enlists his friends and former co-workers to speak with students about a career in sports. With more than 3 decades in sports broadcasting, Hartman’s list of connections is longer than a football roster. 

“The majority of people who come in are either my friends or people I’ve worked with,” he says. “I’ve been doing Pizza with the Pros, which I consider our signature program, for 4 years and have never once repeated a guest.” 

“Last year, when the Phillies had their playoff celebration in the clubhouse…we had 5 students or recent graduates in there. One in PR, 2 in social media and 2 in production.”

That totals well over 100 guests, by the way. And to give you an idea of who his friends are, Pizza with the Pros has hosted Ron Jaworski (former Philadelphia Eagle), Kate Scott (Philadelphia 76ers TV broadcaster), Brian Dawkins (former Philadelphia Eagle), Dave Raymond (original Phillie Phanatic), Lara Price (COO, Philadelphia 76ers), Charles Barkley (basketball icon) and Dave Spadaro (Eagles Insider & SJ Mag contributor). 

Every Monday night during the semester, students and faculty (it’s open to everyone) pile into a Rowan auditorium for the 1-hour Q&A with Hartman’s guest of the night. Pizza is provided by Chickie’s & Pete’s and after, the guest sticks around to meet attendees. Often, students leave with a connection that could lead to future employment. 

Sports CaM graduates have gone on to earn jobs doing social media for professional sports teams, being part of game-day production teams and writing for national sports publications. “Last year, when the Phillies had their playoff celebration in the clubhouse, you know, with the beer everywhere,” Hartman says, “we had 5 students or recent graduates in there. One in PR, 2 in social media and 2 in production.”  

One Pizza with the Pros session with MLB senior social media marketing manager, Doug Gausepohl, led to a particularly special experience for Hartman and a student. “I had a student who transferred from Stockton University, and after the talk, he met Doug,” Hartman says. “Three months later, there’s an opening for a social media position with the MLB – a seasonal job, not an internship. That student landed the job. He came to me and said, ‘I’m 22 years old and I’m one of 13 people who has access to the 23 million social media followers of the MLB in the palm of my hand.’”

The students aren’t the only ones who get excited for Pizza with the Pros though. Some of the guests have ended up staying on as Professionals-in-Residence, after some encouragement from Hartman. Former Eagle Mike Quick and former Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., and Philadelphia 76ers TV Analyst, Marc Jackson, regularly visit the school to speak with students about everything from trading strategies to being a batboy for the 1980 Phillies. 

“Students say things like, ‘I’ve been listening to Mike Quick do Eagles games my whole life, and to have him right in front of me is so cool,’” says Hartman.  

Former Eagle Mike Quick, Rowan’s Neil Hartman and former Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. Photo: Rowan University/Kevin Monk

Coming face-to-face with Philly sports legends is just another day for Rowan students – but it’s still very cool. Kayla Santiago ’22, remembers meeting Voice of the Eagles Merrill Reese after his Pizza with the Pros session, which led to an internship at the Bucks County radio station where Reese is part-owner and general manager. 

“Working with Reese was one of the coolest things I did,” Santiago says. “I would do a radio script, and he would pick it apart and say, ‘Say this this way,’ or ‘Don’t say that.’ He was so intent on helping the interns and so interested in helping everyone out. You don’t always get that when talking to someone as high profile as Reese.” 

Santiago would know, seeing as she had 7 internships during her time at Rowan. And if that doesn’t tell you how passionate she is about sports, add the fact that her time at Rowan was shorter than most students. 

“During my junior year, I got a call from Neil, and he asked, ‘What would you think about graduating early,’” she says. 

At the time, March 2022, Hartman had been contacted by someone who was establishing a new regional sports network in Maryland. They were looking for someone who could be anchor, reporter and play-by-play personality and thought Santiago was the perfect fit. Hartman called her immediately, and she agreed to accept the 3-year contract almost as quickly.   

Today, Santiago is Sports Director for the network – Maryland’s Delmarva Sports Network – sideline reporter for the Delaware Bluecoats and hosted JAKIB Sports’ Eagles postgame show, working with Seth Joyner and Mike Missanelli. 

She still talks to Hartman – who she says is her greatest mentor – on a regular basis to catch up and even ask advice. Like last year, when she was offered to be a media member at the NFL Combine on the condition that she pay her own way – a very expensive venture. 

“I asked Neil if he thought it was worth the cost, the risk, for the networking,” Santiago says. “He said yes. It was tough, but it was a fantastic networking opportunity. He’s been in this industry for so long, he knows the steps it takes to make it. Neil is willing to help anyone out who is willing to put in the work.” 

Staying in touch after graduation is very common for Hartman and his students. And continuing to share advice long after the diplomas have been collected is just part of the job, he says. “I’d say about 20% of my job is with graduates,” he says. “They contact me all the time, ‘Hey, I just landed this job’ or ‘Do you think this is the right thing for me’ or ‘I have this job fair coming up, can you promote it?’ This job isn’t for everybody, but for me, I have no doubt that I’m in exactly the right place.”    

April 2024
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