BAR Awards Profile – Stuart O. Scott ’87

2002 Harvey E. Beech Outstanding Alumni Award
Stuart O. Scott ’87

Nothing draws alumni together like an athletics program that makes us proud, win, lose or draw. At Carolina that’s “win” much more often than not, and we’re known for players and coaches who compete fiercely but with a high degree of integrity. It never hurts, though, to be spoken of well by people in high places. And nobody does that better than Stuart Scott.

Stuart didn’t get where he is in broadcasting by leading cheers for his school. We can’t count on him to gloss over a tough defeat in front of an ESPN camera. But after the scores are forgotten, it’s his heartfelt love of and belief in the University—his insistence that Carolina alumni are “something special”—that echoes in his eloquent sports commentary.

Stuart has worked as a sportscaster for 15 years, cutting his teeth at TV stations in Florence, South Carolina, Raleigh and Orlando. It’s been almost a decade since he burst onto the national screen through ESPN. Among SportsCenter anchors whose stock in trade is the personal expressions that drive the high energy of the show, his is perhaps the most unique. What sprang from his fertile imagination—“Boo-yah!” and “He must be buttah ’cause he’s on a roll!”—is now standard in the lingo of sports fans young and old.

In addition to his work as an anchor on Sportscenter and Sportsnight, he has covered the NCAA Final Four and the NBA Finals, and hosted NFL Matchup, NBA 2 Night, and Sportsnight’s College Football Edition. He chats comfortably and authoritatively with the likes of Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Sammy Sosa—even Bill Clinton. One can only imagine what someone so young has planned for all the encores to come.

While at Carolina, Stuart was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, captain and vice president of club football, and a member of the Opeyo dance troupe. He was a dean’s list student, and graduated with a degree in speech communications. He reported for the student radio station, and his future plans were clear: He wrote that he intended “to obtain a job as a television news or sports reporter.”

In a remarkably competitive environment, his distinctive style and has made him one of ESPN’s go-to guys, and one of sports broadcasting’s true authorities. He admits that he still gets nervous. But, he says, “That’s good. If you don’t have those butterflies, your soul’s not in it.”

Still, Stuart seemed to know, when he returned to Chapel Hill in 2001 to deliver the commencement address, that successful alumni are judged anew when they come home. Let us suggest he be judged by words that leave no ambiguity about his commitment to the importance of celebrating uniqueness:

Diversity, he said, is one of the most important things we all learn at Carolina, “and you’ve probably had more diversity here than you will as you move forward. I know you want to make a difference. Keep this in mind as you do that. Remember the different walks of life you’ve seen here, all the colors, races, religions, athletes, academic nuts, hippies, fraternity boys, sorority girls, different sexual make-ups. Understand whatever is different from you is just that—it’s just different.

“Given the way the world is changing, you absolutely cannot depend on stereotypes. Do that and you might lose money. Lose a customer. Lose constituents. Lose the faith of a child. Or worse: Have a child lose faith in you. Every time you speak, you’re making someone else’s reality.

“Making a difference means being honest with yourself—about yourself. And that’s hard. That means getting out of your comfort zone, which means talking to people you might not normally talk to. Someone new in your office or neighborhood. Talking with someone who intimidates you just by looking at them. Talking to somebody you’ve got nothing in common with.

“Your view of reality, your world, is not the world. People making a difference have got to understand this. How you were raised, where you were raised, what shapes you is only a small slice of the pie. You don’t have to understand or like every slice. You just have to accept there are more slices than you’ve known.”