By Pat Mariboe
Senior Sports Writer
After the final whistle blows at the end of a Washington College game and the fans and players leave, there is usually one man who stays behind. Phil Ticknor, who took the position of sports information director in June of 2001 and was later promoted to the position of assistant to the athletic director for communications and academic support in November of 2011, has provided a prolific amount of dedication to the sport’s world at WC for more than 15 years now.
“I actually worked at the College for CTY as a senior resident assistant the summer after my junior year in college,” Ticknor said “I had met the then-SID earlier that year and she was in the process of leaving the College for another job. I joked with her that she was leaving a year too early. Washington College had a similar sports profile to my alma mater Goucher, 17 sports, no football, so I had an interest. When the job opened again near the end of my senior year, I applied in a heartbeat.”
During his first few years at WC, Ticknor worked frantically to update and completely redesign the Washington College Athletics website to make it more accessible and user friendly. After Ticknor’s hard work and dedication, WC became the first school in the Centennial Conference to feature online statistics and a play-by-play feature for each sport.
In 2012, Ticknor was at the forfront for bringing to fruition the home of the online streaming based website that the WC faithful know and love, GooseNationTV. At different sporting events, Ticknor, Jason Bryden, the coordinator of athletics statistics & media services, and Conner Fleegle, the voice of WC Athletics, will often get approached by WC parents, grandparents, siblings, and even opposing fans, thanking them for providing a way to watch their game online when they’re at home, sometimes hundreds of miles away.
Fleegle owes much of his success to Ticknor. The two met even before Fleegle was hired in 2011.
“Phil and I started working together in the Fall semester of 2008, when I was just a 17-year-old starting my senior year of high school,” Fleegle said. “He discovered me the previous spring when I was helping Jason Bryden do PA for a couple of the Shoremen baseball games. It was a fantastic experience. From a young age, I knew I wanted to spend a career working in sports, and to be working for a guy who gave me that opportunity and a lot of responsibility at the age of 17, it was just really exciting and something I took seriously and wanted to make the most of.”
Ticknor shares similar sentiments of gratitude for welcoming Fleegle, as the dynamic duo has shared many enjoyable experiences throughout the years.
“I wish I could take more credit for him,” Ticknor said. “We lucked into having him help us out with various things back when he was in high school and he ‘grew up’ to be the ‘rock star’ of our department. When he finally ends up on ESPN, he will be impossible the replace.”
Fleegle recalled one of his first memorable moments of working with Ticknor and when he knew that he had found his home at Washington College thanks to the guidance and support of his oversight.
“Our War On The Shore win in 2013 was obviously incredible,” said Fleegle. “Phil, like always, was remaining the professional one when we scored with just over a minute left, but when the game was over you could see his excitement just like the rest of us.
My favorite moment came on March 23, 2011. That was the day of my first Washington College broadcast, way back before the days of GooseNationTV. At that point, I had done about everything for three years, from PA to spotting to on field stats and everything in between, but for Phil to show enough trust in me to set up and then execute a full broadcast of a WC sporting event for the first time, that was sort of the moment where I felt that I had arrived. And obviously everything sort of evolved from there into what is now GooseNationTV, but it wouldn’t have come without that afternoon on March 23.”
Bryden, a long time colleague of Ticknor’s and public announcer at WC, recalls when he first met Ticknor and how much of a positive impact he’s had not only in his career, but his life as a whole.
“The first time Phil and I met was in June 1996 at a conference called RYLA,” Bryden said. “We hung out quite a bit that week and stayed in touch over the years. In 2003 when I was looking to get back into athletics communications, Phil was very helpful as a sounding board for me. In the spring of 2006 he was looking for an assistant and he encouraged me to apply and I sent him my stuff to him right away. In June 2006 I had my interview, and a month later he offered it to me and I took it. And the rest, they say is history. That conference turned out to be so beneficial in my professional career. I’m not where I am today without many people and Phil is definitely one of them. The experience of working with Phil has been incredible. We work very well together and are always there for each other. He lets me try things to see if it will improve our efficiency and productivity. It’s great to know that I can try something without being worried if it doesn’t work. He definitely helps makes coming to work fun. Phil has been not only a tremendous asset for the athletic department, but for the whole college. Every student-athlete who has donned a Washington College uniform has been positively impacted by Phil’s effort and even students who never wore a WC uniform have been too.”
While the games are going on, Ticknor is usually working mostly behind the scenes. He can be found either complacently sitting in the bleachers accompanied by his laptop and smartphone or running back and forth between Roy Kirby, Jr. Stadium and Athey Park. Needless to say, things wouldn’t go too smoothly if he went missing for a few days.
“There really isn’t such a thing as an ‘average work day’ in this job,” Ticknor said. “I could be working on programs, social media, tinkering with our broadcast set-up, sitting in on different meetings, writing press releases about various awards, or sometimes just fixing stuff or finding creative solutions to different challenges. On game days, I prefer to take a supervisory role during the actual game when possible, but that’s not always the case. Since we often have multiple games going on at once, I might be punching in stats, performing PA duties, or, in a pinch, subbing in as a play-by-play caller. And of course, the game recaps never end.”
While often burdened with much of his work, it’s all worth it for Ticknor in the end, who has a family to go home to, including his wife Michelle, daughter Abigail, and cats Taco and Moonpie. On the very rare occasion when there is not a home game on a weekend, Ticknor often shares many pictures and updates on Facebook about his outings with Abigail and movie nights with his family.
“To be honest, missing my wife and daughter on some weeknights and so many Saturdays is one of the hardest thing about this job, but the flexibility I am afforded at other times is a big plus,” said Ticknor. “Abby came to a basketball game I did PA for over winter break and cheered for me instead of the team the whole time. I like that she thinks that I have a fun job. It is very, very hard to have any sort of social life, much less family life, if you are a ‘one-person shop’ and/or receive little support from your boss or the institution. Thankfully, that is not the case here. I can’t see myself doing this particular job anywhere else at this point.”
Throughout the years of attending hundreds of games at WC, Ticknor has seen both jubilance and heartbreak in almost every sport, but a few select memories inpart stand out to him.
“The first thing that always jumps to mind is the crazy 125-124 double-overtime men’s basketball game we won here in just my second year here,” said Ticknor. “We trailed 79-60 with just 3:11 left to play in regulation, then somehow outscored Wesley 30-11 the rest of the second half, then won in double overtime after almost losing the game because the officials ruled the buzzer hadn’t sounded, even though it did, and that our fans rushed the court too early. It was wild. That game is still the craziest and most memorable, but being able to call the play-by-play of our softball team winning the 2013 Centennial Conference Championship was really special. I felt so good for that team and that program. They hadn’t had a highly-decorated history and it just goes to show that any program here has the capacity to win under the right circumstances.”
It’s hard for Ticknor’s work to go unnoticed by both the school and student athletes alike, but it’s those who work closest to him who truly know the amount of blood, sweat, and tears Ticknor puts into his everyday work to make sure the games run smoothly and that the fans have an enjoyable experience.
“Phil has always been a guy who’s been willing to push the envelope and try to make whatever he can better,” said Fleegle. “He’s a hard worker and does whatever he can to help people who come to him, and I think the Athletics Department and the College as a whole should be extremely grateful for all the positive contributions he’s made over the last 15 years. I know I’m grateful for him for allowing me to live out a career in my hometown. Not many people get the chance to do that, and I wouldn’t be able to without his leadership or trust he put in me.”