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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

From College Hill to ESPN: Tom Odjakjian ’76 inducted to Maroon Club Hall of Fame

Odjakjian ‘76 began his career at ESPN as manager of program scheduling. (Photo courtesy of American Athletic Conference)

Tom Odjakjian ‘76 can remember when the Maroon Club Hall of Fame was first established during his time as a Lafayette student. Now, his nearly 50-year career in sports television has earned him a spot on this year’s list of inductees.

A two-sport athlete and holder of several positions in the athletic department, Odjakjian was a familiar face in Lafayette’s sports scene.

“I don’t think there was anything in athletics that I wasn’t involved in on campus,” Odjakjian said.

Apart from his stints on the freshman football team, JV baseball team and club ice hockey team, Odjakjian was the sports editor of The Lafayette, the sports director of WJRH, the chair of the Student Government athletic committee and an employee of the Sports Information Office and press box.

“I did everything I could, and without that, I never would have gotten the start that I did,” Odjakjian said.

After leaving Lafayette, Odjakjian’s first job was with the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) before accepting a position in Princeton University’s athletic department. He then returned to the ECAC as assistant commissioner.

After two years in this role, Odjakjian transitioned to a position at the newly-founded ESPN.

“My first day at ESPN was the day after my fifth reunion,” he said. “At my fifth reunion … maybe one person had heard of [ESPN]. Back for my 10th reunion, everybody has heard of it.”

Odjakjian started at ESPN as a manager of program scheduling, which meant he was in charge of deciding which games and other programs would be aired at what times. He then became head of college sports programming, where he was tasked with negotiating contracts with different conferences and deciding which games would be televised.

The organization of Championship Week, a week-long series of conference championship basketball games, is one of Odjakjian’s proudest career achievements.

According to Odjakjian, broadcast networks only televised games on weekends. “How [Championship Week] started was convincing conferences to play their championships on other nights of the week. We just kept adding and adding and adding, and then everybody wanted to be a part of it, and then it was just putting the puzzle together,” he said.

One of the most exciting aspects of Odjakjian’s time at ESPN was giving airtime to smaller, less well-known schools. “It’s the big schools … that paid the bills at ESPN, but it was getting the small schools on [television] that I really found rewarding,” he said. “And I think people at that level really appreciated that. I tried to find room for them and treat them fairly when they weren’t necessarily going to be big ratings-grabbers.”

Odjakjian’s efforts earned him the designation of “Most Influential Person in College Sports” from “College Sports Magazine” in 1994.

After leaving ESPN, Odjakjian worked for the Big East Conference until 2013 when he became the senior associate commissioner for broadcasting and digital content for the American Athletic Conference (AAC). He retired from this position in October of 2022.

Odjakjian remains involved at Lafayette in his role as President of the Class of 1976, as well as by attempting to serve as a mentor to current Lafayette students.

“There were so many adults that were nice to me when I was a student,” he said. “I’ve tried to be the unofficial alumni coordinator for all the Lafayette people in the sports or media business. I try to mentor as many Lafayette students as I can,” Odjakjian said.

Because of Odjakjian’s love for Lafayette, this Hall of Fame induction is particularly meaningful.

“I’ve been very blessed to have other professional recognition … But this one means more to me than anything because it’s Lafayette, and that’s where it all started,” Odjakjian said. “Without Lafayette, I never would have been able to achieve anything else, so I’m very appreciative of all the opportunities that Lafayette gave me.”

Odjakjian has two main pieces of advice for Lafayette students looking to break into his field: “hustle” and “talk to everybody.”

“My first job in radio for the city station was getting water for the announcers. Some people were chuckling at me, but I was willing to do anything,” Odjakjian said.

“Everybody knows somebody,” he continued. “I always say make sure you never have a conversation with somebody that doesn’t give you at least one other person to follow up with.”

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About the Contributor
Madeline Marriott, Editor-in-Chief
Maddie (she/her) is a senior English major with a Government & Law minor. As the Editor-in-Chief, a Mentor Writing Associate, a Senior Student Contributor for Lafayette Communications, a Communications Intern for the Office of Sustainability, co-founder and Vice President of English Club, and a Senior Interviewer for Lafayette Admissions, no writing happens on campus without her knowing about it. Her Google Calendar would make your head spin. She is a die-hard Swiftie and Phillies fan, a collector of tote bags, a builder of a Hay Day empire, and an avid Goodreads and Letterboxd user. She smokes cigars and uses an old-timey typewriter and notepad in the newsroom.

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