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Badgering: Evan Cohen ’02

A sports radio host airs his love for his wife, broadcasting, and the UW.

Photo courtesy of ESPN.

When Evan Cohen first visited campus, he didn’t know that his tour guide and longtime childhood friend would later become his wife. He didn’t know that he’d have the chance to study under James Hoyt ’65, MS’67, PhD’70, a celebrated professor of broadcast journalism who would connect him with internships under Badger greats like Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas. Cohen knew the UW was a good university, but, at the time, he didn’t know just how great his opportunities would be.

“I have my story about why I went there, and why I loved it has changed over time, but I think UW–Madison is the greatest school in the world,” Cohen says. “It is just the most amazing place for anything you want to do. And I was so fortunate to have somebody who I knew for a long time — ultimately, it was somebody that I married — take me around the school for the first time.”

While at the UW, Cohen took advantage of every opportunity he had, including countless internships, writing for the Badger Herald, working with Lepay and Lucas in the broadcast booth for basketball and football games, and hosting on the student radio station, WSUM. Shortly after graduating from the UW, Cohen joined Good Karma Brands, a Wisconsin-based sports marketing company. The job offer helped kickstart Cohen’s career, which now boasts 20 years of on-air experience, including gigs with national and local ESPN stations and SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio. Today, Cohen serves as vice president of content at Good Karma Brands and cohosts ESPN Radio’s Unsportsmanlike, a morning sports show that began in September 2023.

When did you know you wanted to work in radio?

When I was nine years old, growing up in New York, I knew radio was the career path that I wanted to take because I had listened to a radio show in New York, Mike and the Mad Dog, and I just fell in love with the medium of radio.

How did you become involved with the UW’s student station?

Immediately [after enrolling at the UW], I started asking around about student broadcast and journalism, and I was introduced to a couple of people quickly. The most important person for me was Professor Hoyt, James Hoyt, who I’m still in touch with today. Professor Hoyt was involved in communications and journalism and was a long-time professor. [He] was involved with both the university, as well as the athletic program. He pointed me in the direction of student radio.

This was 1998. At that time, student radio was not actually on the radio. [The station] 91.7 [WSUM], what it is today was not actually on the radio. Streaming or listening on an app was not something that people did. So, for the first three-and-a-half years I was at Madison, we were not actually broadcasting anywhere except online, and people didn’t know what online broadcasting was. In fact, a friend of mine literally asked if I was typing my words to the audience, because he couldn’t understand how that would be broadcasted over the computer.

And then came [February 2, 2002], the very first time we ever broadcasted live on the radio on 91.7. There was a faculty member involved with it; unfortunately, he’s since passed — a wonderful man by the name of Dave Black [MA’03]. Dave was the one who was fighting for all of us to be on the radio. I worked nonstop for that student radio station, even though we knew we were not on the air. And on February 22, 2002, Dave Black asked me to be the very first voice ever in the history of the [UW student station] on the radio. To this day, it’s one of the biggest honors of my entire life.

Can you tell us a bit about your current show, Unsportsmanlike?

The opportunity was presented to me to start a brand-new morning show on ESPN Radio and ESPN Two and ESPNU. It’s on TV as well every single day, which is something that I had not done as a simulcast my entire career. I’m working with Michelle Smallmon — she’s a tremendous broadcaster, unbelievably talented, and someone that has done it all in radio. And then Chris Canty is so great at what he does. I don’t know that there’s anybody better at what he does. He simultaneously is a brilliant analyst of sports because he played forever, but also a great radio host that never had to play sports to just be a great radio host.

The three of us came together, each of us working our way up to this point. There was no backstory with us. We weren’t building this together. It was so awesome because here are three people that worked their hardest to move up to a moment like this, and all of us did it and started this together six months ago. We are just radio people doing a radio show, which may sound kind of trivial, but it is important to have people that are passionate about the medium on the medium.

What’s your favorite sport to cover?

Whatever the most people care about that day. We do all sports. Football is obviously the biggest sport right now in our country. It just depends on what the day is and whatever the biggest stories are that day.

Who’s winning March Madness this year?

North Carolina. As much as it pains me to say it, I’ll go UNC. Veterans all across the board. And I think when you have veterans in the NCAA tournament, that is something that carries some weight.

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