John Popovich is a TV sports legend based in Cincinnati, where he worked for 40 years before retiring in 2019. But Popo, as he’s known in Queen City, says his legendary career began in Athens, Ohio with WOUB.
“The professional staff on the WOUB editorial board treated the student volunteers like employees,” Popovich said. “They asked you to do something, expected you to do it, and you were held accountable. It was really good preparation for a media career.”
Popovich graduated from Struthers High School near Youngstown, Ohio in 1969, where he worked at a student-run radio station WKTL.
“We did news and weather and played music, I could do play-by-play for sporting events,” Popovich said. “I thought that was great.”
So when it came time to pick a college, Ohio University was a perfect fit for Popovich for a number of reasons.
“Both of my older brothers went to Ohio University, so I already knew a lot about the place,” Popovich said. “I knew the school had a great reputation for communication and as that’s what I wanted to study it was perfect.”
Based on his experience at WKTL, when Popovich joined WOUB, the telecoms major thought he knew everything there was to know about radio. But he quickly realized that wasn’t the case.
“WOUB was an enlightening experience,” said Popovich. “I came to WOUB and realized I didn’t know anything.”
Although Popovich enjoyed covering sports, as a college student he realized that there were many more career opportunities in the news. So Popovich worked on the news site at WOUB.
“The professional contributors, Doug Caldwell and John Chalfant, took anything I wanted to do and made me do it,” Popovich said. “I was working on the morning radio show with my fellow student Don Benson. During my time at WOUB I mainly did radio. I was just doing some TV.”
“WOUB really prepared me for the real world. Expectations from the students were high,” said John Popovich.
After graduating in 1973, Popovich got his first job in Dubuque, Iowa, on radio news. He then moved to WOC in Davenport, Iowa.
“WOC was a radio and television station, so I got into television,” Popovich said. “I was originally doing news and then about three years later the athletic director quit. And the news director asked me if I was interested in playing sports. I’ve always been more of a jock, I thought that suited my temperament. So I started the sport.”
In 1979 Popovich was hired by the WCPO in Cincinnati and that was his last career stop.
“I was hired at WCPO primarily to do sports coverage about high school and college kids,” Popovich said. “They were sometimes humorous, sometimes sentimental profiles. I’ve done many different things and the WCPO has given me free reign to do it.”
About a year into his time with the WCPO, the broadcaster asked Popovich to start a program titled Sports of All Sorts on Sunday nights at 11:30 p.m.
“I started hosting this show in 1980 and then became an athletic director a few years later,” Popovich said.
Popovich hosted the program for 33 years and then spent the remainder of his time with the WCPO as a weekday sports presenter from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. In 2019 he retired.
Popovich is immensely proud of his career and commends the solid foundation he has built at WOUB.
“WOUB really prepared me for the real world. The expectations of the students were high,” Popovich said. “The other thing is that at WOUB I was surrounded by so many good people for the first time. Surrounding yourself with good people raises everyone’s level of achievement. I learned from all these people, fellow students and professional staff. It was invaluable.”