Faces of D3 - Joe Hutzler
Inside D3 - Faces of D3
Lynchburg, Virginia - For the latest installment of Faces of D3, we focused on the University of Lynchburg’s Director of Digital Media/The Voice of the Hornets, Joe Hutzler. Joe is a Gerrardstown, West Virginia native and High Point University alumni, who found his home in Athletic Communications with the Lynchburg Hornets.
We asked Joe about what made him choose to cover DIII athletics, and it seems like it was the other way around,
“Honestly, DIII chose me. 15 emails to 15 separate schools and the two schools that got back to me were D3 institutions. Honestly, I wasn’t very familiar with DIII athletics and just saw it as a stepping stone. I had no idea that it would become such a large part of my life and my growth as a member of the sports media.”
Since 2015, Hutzler has been doing coverage for the Lynchburg Hornets Sports Network. However, his journey to the present has been in the works since his time at HPU. He credits his University with being one of the reasons he’s in the position he is today, “None of this success would be possible without my education as a Panther at High Point University. Their ability to give me hands-on experience from day one and continue growing that seed was the foundation I needed. After graduation, I took some part-time work as a sports radio host and play-by-play announcer while also anchoring sports on television at small markets back home.” Hutzler adds that those experiences laid the groundwork that prepared him for much bigger sports communication jobs in the future. “Those positions, whether I liked it or not at the time, forced me to learn the skills of producing, shooting, editing, writing, and professionally delivering information on my own.” It wasn’t easy, but now I know it was necessary. My passion for covering sports and desire to rise up the ranks was still very fresh when life told me it was time to look elsewhere. That is when the emails went out and after some freelance work with Dickinson College, it was Lynchburg College, now University of Lynchburg, that laid out an opportunity that I could not pass up.”
As far as what made him choose the University of Lynchburg, Hutzler says that their achievements within Division III athletics are what impressed him most, “The success and longevity of that success. This isn’t just on the field, but I couldn’t ignore the conference championship numbers and opportunity to cover a team in the NCAA Tournament every season of the academic year. In 4 years, I have been a part of 10 league titles alone.” From the athletes, all the way up to the faculty and staff of Lynchburg athletics, he knew that there was something special about their program.
“That longevity of success stems from the tenure of coaches here as well. There are (nine) coaches here that have called this home for ten or more seasons and just two are alums. Seven coaches came from different places and decided this is the spot to settle down. You can’t ignore that there is something special about this place, so I explored it and it took no time to realize that this athletic department is an open environment that promotes exploration of new ideas while holding true to the foundational traditions that established their winning culture.”
It seems like Hutzler’s freedom to create boded well for the program, who landed their first ESPN3 debut during homecoming just a few months ago. “My position didn’t exist when I came here, so everything was new and there weren’t many restrictions on what I could try. Over 4 years later, that same thought process applies and I truly believe that is what allows our digital team to stand out and stay on top.”
When asked what some of his challenges are while being a part of Division III athletics, Joe said, “Resources and perception. There is an inherent thought that D3 athletics is “lesser” and that not only makes it tougher for sponsorship dollars when you’re in a market with other higher education institutions, but it can make it hard to stand out on a national level. I firmly believe that is why our recent partnership with ESPN and their streaming platform, ESPN3, is crucial in changing that notion. When your games are on a schedule that includes perennial D1 powers, you can’t help but get a rush of excitement. There is also anxiousness that comes from volunteering to carry weight like that. However, the reward of other D3 schools asking the right questions and adding pieces to their digital tool belt, all in an effort to make it impossible for people and companies to ignore them, is totally worth it.” Joe is hoping to change the perception of DIII sports with this new ESPN partnership, which is a huge step forward for the Division as a whole.
Lastly, I asked him if there is anything about DIII sports that other people may not know. He points out the fact that many people don’t know how unique these athletes’ paths are before, during, and after college. “I don’t believe they realize how important academics are. DIII student-athletes aren’t given athletic scholarships so their motivations are different. Their goals for life after college don’t include playing a sport, they include establishing a career and another rung on that ladder that is standing on the foundation built by their family, friends, and institution that they proudly displayed across their chest. DIII sports isn’t just about the sport they are playing, it’s about their classes, their organizations that they have time to be a part of, and the connections they can make when away from the gym or the field.”
Joe Hutzler is a true pioneer for both DIII sports coverage for the future and DIII sports as a whole. With an already impressive track record, he has proved himself to be one of the most pivotal figures in Division III sports communication. On top of that, it seems he is on pace to give DIII athletics the exposure it so deserves.