Calling the game

“Dunn, at the buzzer! He hit it! He hit it! Oh, my goodness!”

Thousands of people watching the Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks compete on live television have heard veteran announcer Mitch Strohman call hundreds of basketball buzzer-beaters and last-second football field goals. Every call carries with it genuine excitement – a passion for NAU Athletics that is unique for someone who grew up and studied far from Flagstaff.

Strohman attended St. Cloud State University in central Minnesota, receiving a degree in broadcast journalism. He worked in Iowa, Lake Havasu City, Phoenix, and Flagstaff prior to coming to Northern Arizona University to be the primary announcer in 2004, and he has never looked back. Now known as “the voice of the Lumberjacks,” Strohman does not hesitate when asked what he loves most announcing.

"Working with students is the best part of my job, without question,” Strohman says. “I love that I have the opportunity to work and mentor many students with NAU Television Services.”

Interacting with students

In addition to mentoring and teaching students who are looking to get an edge in broadcasting, Strohman enjoys his interactions with the student-athletes at the university, who have nicknamed him “Stroh.” They often chat with him before and after games about the nature of his work. Strohman says his interactions with these student-athletes are extremely meaningful to him.

“These are 18-to-22-year-old young men and women who are working hard to get their college education and to be as exceptional as possible on the field of competition,” Strohman says. “They go out of their way to talk with everyone involved with putting games together, and that is a reflection of who they are, and what kind of environment this university has.”

Strohman goes farther in his support of the university’s students by serving on the board for the Lumberjack Athletic Association (LAA), which helps raise money for scholarships for student-athletes. Giving back in this way, he says, helps ensure that Northern Arizona University’s student-athletes have a base of support. 

"Working with the LAA is a way for me to help give back to student-athletes by helping to raise money for their scholarships,” Strohman explains. “That financial reality of collegiate athletics is that you have to raise money to help pay for these scholarships, and it's a challenge, especially in these tough economic times. It’s difficult to ask people for money, but I know it’s going to the right place and the right cause.”  

Hard work paying off

The best announcers make the difficult job seem effortless and easy. Strohman is no exception. On camera, he is a natural at pulling out facts, trivia, and stats for viewers—behind-the-scenes, however, Strohman says it can take him a whole week to prepare for a single game, which requires him to perform in-depth research and preliminary interviews, all while balancing this collection of information against the need for the impromptu and completely unpredictable announcing required by sports.

When not announcing games, Strohman hosts a cooking show featuring local chefs on NAU-TV called What’s Cooking – “they try to teach me how to cook some of their best stuff,” he says – and leads two other sports talk shows, one on Fox Sports Arizona, and the other on radio. He also emcees events for NAU Athletics and the community, acting as a confident speaking ambassador for the university.

Over the course of more than two decades of living in Flagstaff and working with the athletic program, Strohman is thankful he had a chance to watch the university develop into its current form.

“The university has really grown and matured into an institution that is becoming nationally and regionally known for its accomplishments, both in the classroom and on the field of competition,” Strohman says. “I feel like I'm a part of it, and it makes what I do fun every day.”

Strohman’s only regret is that he doesn’t have a time machine.

“I wish I was a student again,” Strohman says, laughing. “If I was younger, I'd be in these stands. I've got pictures of me back in the mid-80s coming to games when I had a big beard and I was rooting for the Lumberjacks. I was quite a vocal fan and a very enthusiastic one. I’m just happy I now have the opportunity to call these games.”