By FRED KRONER
Two Mahomet-Seymour basketball coaches didn’t give Eric Loy a chance.
A third one did, and that decision helped shape the future course for the 1983 M-S graduate.
As a junior high student, Loy tried out for the basketball team.
Coaches Don Akers (who later coached a future NBA player, Brian Cardinal, while at Tolono Unity) and Bob Hull (who later became the head coach at Denver’s Metro State University) cut him after tryouts.
High school coach Del Ryan gave Loy a chance, just not on the court.
“We would record the games and local cable would put it on (television),” Loy said.
He went to Parkland College to study broadcasting, eventually became the news director at the school’s radio station, and before he had a diploma, was hired full-time at Champaign’s WDWS.
Now in his eighth year at Danville’s WDAN, Loy was chosen last week as the state’s top sportscaster in the Small Media Market.
Loy said he was “shocked,” when he learned about the recognition and added, “I’m used to talking about other people winning.”
His success now can be traced back to the introduction he received to the profession as a teenager.
“I loved sports,” Loy said, “but wasn’t particularly good at any sport.”
He was on the golf team and enjoyed baseball, but regardless of the season, found one constant.
“I could talk a good game,” Loy said. “That was in my favor.
“By the time I was 16, I wanted to work at WDWS. When I was there, the goal was done.”
He started on the overnight shift at WDWS and eventually held a multitude of positions.
He joined Dave Loane on SportsTalk, provided color commentary on UI baseball broadcasts, filled in for Jim Turpin for the statewide John Mackovic coach’s show, and handled production and middle-management tasks.
“What I like doing are the interviews,” Loy said.
Since venturing to Danville and WDAN — where he is the sports director — Loy does a daily sportscast Monday through Friday that runs on three Neuhoff Broadcasting stations.
“He coordinates our play-by-play teams and hosts our Friday night pre-games,” general manager Michael Hulvey said.
“We don’t have the biggest staff,”Loy said, “but we have a tremendous group of play-by-play people and give people the best possible coverage they could hope for.
“We’re lucky that we have so many people who can do it and a community that wants to hear it.”
WDAN also produces a pre-game show that airs in advance of the Illini Sports Network’s pregame show for football and basketball.
“Eric does a segment with visiting media and his ability to create interesting stories about the opponent gives listeners a real insight,” Hulvey said.
Entries for the statewide contest were judged by media members from two different states.
The first group is only required to pick a top three from all entries, but not to rank them. The second group determines first, second and third places.
Loy had been the state runner-up in the Best Sportscaster category in both 2017 and 2016.
Danville competes in a market with broadcasters in communities such as Charleston, Effingham, Galesburg and Kankakee.
While he is appreciative of the statewide recognition, Loy’s first goal is to serve listeners in Vermilion County.
“I want the broadcast to go well,” he said. “The biggest thing is, you’re in somebody else’s home, car or head and you want to make sure they’ve had a great experience.”
It’s beneficial, he said, that many of the people he talks to for the Big Ten shows are ones he has interviewed for years.
“Some of the folks I’m calling I’ve done interviews with for 20 years,” Loy said.
As for his interviews, Loy follows a tried-and-true plan.
“I want to make it a conversation,” he said “If you don’t show an interest in what you’re doing, the audience won’t care either. Be informative.”
In a broadcasting career that has now spanned 33 years, Loy has interviewed a wide assortment of people.
“I’ve talked to 5-year-olds, Little League coaches, government people, Nobel Prize winners,” he said. “I like to talk to people person to person.”
One of his favorite interviews was with former Chicago Cubs pitcher Ferguson Jenkins.
“He was such a nice guy,” Loy said.
As a youth — and even now — Loy is a dedicated radio listener.
He said numerous individuals have “shaped a little bit,” of how he conducts himself while on air.
In particular, Loy credited former WDWS colleague Jim Manley as “a huge influence. He had a laid-back style that was warm and engaging. He talked to folks like they were there with him.”
While in Danville, Loy has had the opportunity to work alongside one of the state’s most knowledgeable and respected media members, Fowler Connell.
“Fowler is one of the great people,” Loy said, “and has so much energy.”
A typical workday starts for Loy with his alarm going off at 4:30 a.m. He tries to be at the station by 5:30 to “put together what I need for the morning.”
As for the future, Loy doesn’t plan to rest on his laurels.
“Keep going and let people enjoy what they’re hearing,” he said. “The business has changed so much.
“It’s easier to do things (due to technology) than it was 30 years ago, 20 years ago, but it’s tougher because there’s fewer resources. We’re trying to do more with less people.”
For more than two decades, Hulvey has conducted a Sports Media Camp for Kids in June at Danville Area Community College. He wants area youth to realize it’s possible to follow in the footsteps of professionals such as Loy.
“The idea is that people from the area with an interest in the media can have a career in the field they love,” Hulvey said. “They can grow up here and also serve local audiences here.”
Loy’s biggest remaining goal has nothing to do with his work schedule.
“I want to be the best grandpa I can be,” said Loy, whose grandson, 2-year-old Wyatt Hooks, lives in Newport, Ind.