From Rio to Lexington: NBC Team Will Share How Olympics are Covered

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 3, 2016) Four members of NBC’s Olympic team will share their experiences covering the Games in Rio de Janeiro as the University of Kentucky College of Communication and Information’s School of Journalism and Media presents its Gidel/Lombardo Sports Communication Lecture.

The program will begin 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5, in room 321 of the Don & Cathy Jacobs Science Building. Admission is free and the public is invited.  

The panelists will be Jack Felling, who served as producer for features and producer for the track and field events; Tom Hammond, who was the anchor for the track and field events; Billy Matthews, who served as producer of gymnastics; and Kenny Rice, the boxing announcer.

Tom Eblen, columnist and former managing editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader, will moderate the discussion while sharing his own experiences covering two Olympic games.

Jack Felling, a graduate of Clemson University, has won nine Sports Emmy awards. He oversees NBC Sports Group’s feature unit, which produces documentaries and profiles for the Olympics, NFL and Triple Crown horse racing. For the Olympics, Felling produced profiles of U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated American Olympian, and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who became the first athlete ever to win gold in the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints and the 400-meter relay in three consecutive Olympics. In addition, Felling produces live track and field and horse racing for NBC Sports Group.

Felling led production of "Operation Yellow Ribbon," the story of how the town of Gander in Newfoundland, Canada, provided refuge and support for passengers on United States-bound airline flights during and immediately after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Tom Hammond, a UK graduate and a 1995 inductee into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, is an Olympics veteran, having covered 12 games. His first was the 1988 games in Seoul, Korea, when he did play-by-play of the men’s and women’s basketball competition. He announces figure skating, one of the signature events of the winter games, and he anchors the track and field events during the summer games. This summer, he called the record-setting dashes of Usain Bolt.

Hammond’s résumé is filled with a plethora of other events. He hosts annually for NBC Sports the Triple Crown races, beginning with the Kentucky Derby, and the Breeders’ Cup series. He also calls NBC’s figure skating and college basketball and has called NBC’s NFL Wildcard playoff game. He served as the lead play-by-play voice on Notre Dame football on NBC from 1992-2013.

Billy Matthews has worked for NBC Sports for more than 25 years. He served as gymnastics producer at Rio, where Simone Biles of the United States won a historic five medals, four of them gold.

Matthews has won 14 Sports Emmy awards. The Rio Games were his 12th Olympics. He began his career at NBC in 1990 and has worked on production teams for multiple Super Bowls and NBA Finals, NHL and golf coverage, and the Ironman World Championships. For the past seven years, Matthews has served as a producer of NBCSN’s coverage of horse racing’s Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Championships. Matthews is a graduate of Rutgers University.

Kenny Rice, who is also a UK graduate, is a play-by-play announcer for thoroughbred racing and boxing. In 2000, he joined the thoroughbred racing coverage for NBC. Since 2012, he had been the announcer for NBC’s “Fight Night” boxing coverage.

Rice's television career began right after graduation in 1980 when he became the sports director for WTVQ. In 1988, the State Horsemen Association named him Kentucky Broadcaster of the Year. In 1996, Rice was presented with the Englehard Award by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association for lifetime achievement in reporting on thoroughbred racing and breeding. In 1996, Rice won an Eclipse Award for outstanding local TV coverage of thoroughbred racing. 

Tom Eblen, who will serve as moderator, is a graduate of Lafayette High School and Western Kentucky University. He is a 2016 inductee in the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame. Eblen was the Herald-Leader’s managing editor from 1998 to 2008. He worked for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 14 years as a regional and national writer and a business reporter and editor. Before that he worked for the Associated Press in Louisville and Nashville and as the correspondent in charge of the Knoxville, Tennessee, bureau.

Eblen taught journalism ethics at UK for four years and has been on the faculty of the Mountain Workshops, an annual documentary photojournalism workshop, since 1995.

The Gidel/Lombardo Family Fund for Academic and Program Excellence was established in 2006 by Robert and Linda Gidel and members the Lombardo family. This fund honors their son, Robert (Rob) W. Gidel. Rob is a 2006 graduate of the School of Journalism and Telecommunications. He is a real estate attorney in Tampa, Florida, and was recently appointed to the Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission. The commission reviews candidates for appointments to the federal judiciary on behalf of U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio. Because of Rob's interest in sports broadcasting, a sports journalism lecture is presented annually.

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