Rob Hipp is no stranger to the KSAM 101.7 airwaves, but there will undoubtedly be a different feel the next time he cracks the mic.
Hipp, who joined the station last August as the radio voice of Sam Houston State athletics, is set to begin a new role Monday as KSAM’s sports director. He will also provide on-air sports updates and assist in a variety of other roles.
After commuting to Bearkat games last season from his hometown of Georgetown, Hipp has relocated to Huntsville — and is excited to become part of the community.
“I take a lot of pride in my hometown, and Huntsville reminds me a lot of Georgetown,” Hipp said. “The people, the culture, everybody is extremely friendly. That's one of the reasons I'm excited to be a part of the community.
“I've never really lived anywhere outside of Georgetown, but I know the importance of getting involved in the community. I want to be active with the chamber, and I'm a rotarian, so I want to get involved with the rotary club in Huntsville. I want to show the community that I'm a part of it, I'm not just some outside person that is there for a job.”
Hipp already has an array of plans to enhance the station’s sports coverage, for both Huntsville and Sam Houston State.
“We're planning on broadcasting more than just (Sam Houston State) football and men's basketball now, which is exciting,” Hipp said. “We're planning on broadcasting baseball this season, maybe not the whole season, but at least some select games. That'll be exciting because I know KSAM hasn't had baseball on the radio in a while, unless it was the playoffs. We'll also be covering women's basketball.
“Then on the flip side of that with the high school, I'll be covering the Huntsville Hornets and doing their play-by-play whenever there isn't a conflict with Sam Houston. And we're looking into the possibility of doing more than just football.”
One of Hipp’s immediate goals is to help boost the station’s digital presence, something that general manager Dave Donahue notes is pivotal to KSAM’s success moving forward. This will include pregame, halftime and postgame video coverage on social media, as well as hopes to potentially provide live football broadcasts this fall.
“It's a big area of growth for us, because we haven't really ventured into that yet — and we're about to,” said Donahue, who arrived at the station in February. “I came from iHeartMedia, which has a huge digital presence … and if you combine that with our increased sports presence, we're going to be doing things that we've never done before.”
“We're still going to be broadcasting on the radio, but we're going to simulcast some video on social media, which I'm really excited about,” Hipp added. “If we have football — and hopefully we do, I know that's still up in the air — video is going to play a very important role.
“UIL lifted Friday night football video restrictions, and my goal for Huntsville football is to have live video broadcasts.”
KSAM operations manager and morning show host Steve Rixx noticed the impact that Hipp — who worked in IT for over a decade, before chasing a lifelong dream and starting his own sports broadcasting company in 2015 — was able to make during his first year as the Bearkats’ play-by-play voice, and is excited to have him around the station on a daily basis.
“Last year was Rob's first year, and we were really excited to get him onboard,” Rixx said. “He just brought a level of talent, professionalism and knowledge. The way he prepares for games is like study time for him, he's already a week ahead. Plus he's technically savvy.
“He was an IT guy for 15 years, so the problems we had prior to that with computer issues were erased. That eliminated my personal stress about getting a game on the air almost instantly. He's an extremely knowledgeable sports guy, obviously, and having him in the building is going to be a giant asset.”
Hipp, who is moving into town this weekend, already feels at home in Huntsville. He attributes this to how he has been embraced by the Bearkat community, and particularly by color commentator Brian Adams — a former Huntsville and Sam Houston State standout, who will be calling games alongside Hipp for both teams this upcoming season.
“None of us would be where we're at if someone else didn't lay the groundwork,” Hipp said. “The people at Sam Houston State just embraced me, and that meant a lot. They provided the resources I needed for what I thought was a very successful first year, and I think we're going to build upon that.
“And I really enjoyed working with Brian Adams. His knowledge of the community is so critical to my success, and I'm looking forward to working with him again.”