For Ricky Hazel, Stetson’s omnipresent and affable associate athletics director, sports broadcasting has always been “kind of what I wanted to do.”
Hazel’s bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama is in broadcasting, and he remembers yelling Bama’s iconic “Roll Tide” since he could first talk. Plus, with more than two decades of experience in sports media relations at three other universities (Southern Miss, Marshall and Troy), along with the past nine years at Stetson, Hazel has plenty to share with college fans.
Now, he has the platform: Hatter Chatter … The Podcast, presented by Insight Credit Union.
Actually, Hazel created the platform. During any other springtime, Hazel would be running from one athletics event to another, city to city, state to state, with Hatter teams. Of course, this isn’t any other springtime.
So, with all spring sports canceled at Stetson and nationwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he sought to keep the fires burning throughout Hatter Nation. Jeff Taylor, director of Stetson Broadcast Productions, helped out with a few audio details at the outset. Hazel is doing the rest, with host contributions from his staffers, Cris Belvin and Jamie Bataille.
The show is the official Stetson University Athletics podcast. It will bleed Hatters.
“This is a first, both for Athletics and for me. … We wanted to keep talking to keep the interest in Stetson Athletics alive. We’re going to do that by talking to the people involved,” said Hazel, who mostly handles media relations for football, baseball and the golf teams, and oversees athletics department communications, licensing, branding and game broadcasts.
Those people could be current student-athletes, coaches and administrators, as well as people from the past or those on the periphery “who you might recognize at games but don’t know who they are.”
The idea is the story-tell, inform, entertain and reminisce.
The Hatter Chatter name dates back to early 1890 — the name for a society/gossip column that appeared in every issue of the original Stetson Reporter newspaper on campus. Hazel plans to stick to sports, with podcasts perhaps twice weekly, but the topics will range widely.
The first podcast featured Athletics Director Jeff Altier, followed by women’s golf coach Danielle Shelburne, men’s tennis coach Christophe Noblet and beach volleyball coach Kristina Hernandez — marking the one-year anniversary of the Hatters’ historic win over the top-ranked University of Southern California at the 2019 Beach Volleyball Championship.
“I was honored to be the first podcast,” Altier said. “And within minutes of the broadcast being put online, my phone started to light up, and I was getting texts and email messages from alumni, fans, ticket holders and student-athletes, expressing their appreciation for a connection to Stetson. In other words, they want to watch Stetson sports, but in the absence of games, the conversation is a great way to fill the void.”
Expect a few surprising stories, such as tales about Noblet’s life growing up in Toulon, a naval town on the southeastern coast of France. Noblet is the product of a military family that moved often during his early years while his father served in the French navy. Noblet then moved to the United States and became a collegiate star.
In upcoming podcasts, learn about the football (and personal) journey of coach Roger Hughes, one that ultimately put him in the lead role of Stetson’s return to football after a 57-year hiatus. Fact: Prior to Stetson, Hughes coached 74 All-Ivy League players and several All-America selections.
And did you know that men’s golf coach Larry Watson once met Elvis Presley at Graceland, in Presley’s backyard? Watson was making a delivery for his father, who worked for Pepsi. Watson also met President Gerald Ford on the golf course after the President mistakenly thought he was golf great Tom Watson, his cousin. It’s a long story, but you can hear it on the podcast.
“All I’m doing is asking questions,” said Hazel, the winner of more than 50 awards for writing and page design during five years as a sports editor. “The focus is on letting people who are on the podcast talk about their background and their history.”
There’s also a little business. The podcast, as the name suggests, is presented by Insight Credit Union, a first-year sponsor of Stetson Athletics, with branding that was planned to be rolled out this spring. Additionally, Hazel is working to involve other sponsors during this period of unprecedented inactivity. He wants to keep that ball rolling, too.
In the meantime, the podcast is there for some good, old-fashioned cheering.
– Michael Candelaria
Editor’s note: Aside from GoHatters.com, Hatter Chatter is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher and other podcast platforms. Also, listeners can provide feedback, ask questions or make suggestions for future guests via email at HatterChatter@Stetson.edu.