|Former standout player Meg Bulger is analyzing West Virginia University women's basketball games for the Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG.
|Dale Sparks/All-Pro Photography photo
There is a new voice on women’s basketball radio broadcasts this year, but Mountaineer basketball fans will easily recognize her name.
Former star player Meg Bulger came off the bench earlier this year to replace women’s basketball radio analyst Ya-Ya Dunning, who accepted a job with the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association in Atlanta in January.
Meg’s contract with IMG calls for her to finish out this season with regular women’s play-by-play announcer Jeff Culhane. After that, she hopes to continue calling WVU games if everything works out.
“It’s been really nice,” Bulger said recently. “My husband (Jim Gallagher) plays (professional) baseball so we’re always on the go. We’re in Pittsburgh for a few months and then somewhere else for a few months. Everything is almost living out of a suitcase, but when I heard about this I was like, wait a minute, I have my own room; I’m coming!”
In addition to a new job, Bulger is also a new mother, her 10-month-old daughter Nola keeping her quite busy during the weekdays. When Meg goes on the road with the team either Jim or her parents in Pittsburgh are tasked with watching her.
“Everything has worked out really well so far,” Meg said.
Bulger has worked the last 10 games on the radio network, oftentimes returning to Pittsburgh in the wee hours of the morning after road trips.
Bulger got into the broadcasting business almost on a whim during her senior season in 2008. She was doing an internship in journalism when Phil Caskey, WVU’s women’s basketball sports information director at the time, mentioned to an ESPN producer during Big East women’s basketball media day that Meg was interested in getting into the profession.
“The following year, in December, that producer called me and asked me if I was still interested,” Bulger recalled. “I said, ‘yeah, absolutely.’ By this time I had already been working in TV in Pittsburgh.”
Her Pittsburgh television work came about when ROOT Sports announcer Paul Alexander called her and asked if she was interested in auditioning for a sideline reporter job that was open for high school football games in the fall of 2009.
Her audition with ROOT was successful at just about the same time she got a call from that ESPN producer she had met at Big East media day.
“It was kind of nice,” she said. “I went from football to basketball and it was really word-of-mouth of getting them.”
Bulger admits her first time on camera was quite an experience with her trying to talk in front of a camera with a director in her ear telling her what to do. Directors use an IFB earpiece to communicate with on-air talent during broadcasts to inform them what to talk about, how long to talk, or what’s coming up.
It can be quite a confusing experience for a first-timer.
“In my head I’m thinking, ‘Shut up, don’t you hear me talking? I’m trying to get my thought out. Why are you getting into my head right now?’” she laughed. “After a while it really helps you slow down or speed up, depending upon the situation.”
It’s also an art how TV analysts are able to describe plays, oftentimes while seeing it for the first time. Bulger explained.
“You are coming back from break and you’re worried about describing a package on a highlight reel and it’s about two seconds from going live and (the director says), ‘Hey, we’ve got a package on Christal Caldwell
are you ready?’ You’ve got to describe it like you’ve seen it a million times and you haven’t. You’ve got to verbalize it to the point where it sounds good and smooth and then make the transition out smooth.”
Of course, in radio Bulger doesn’t have to worry about that, or being so concerned about what she is wearing or how her hair looks. On radio broadcasts she can concentrate more on what’s happening on the floor and take notes as the game goes on instead playing close attention to what the director is telling her to do.
Meg said her top objective so far has been developing on-air chemistry with Culhane.
“At first I struggled with that, but now I’ve found a nice flow where I know when he’s going to finish his sentence and I know the time I have from when the ball is inbounded to the 3-point line to get my comment in and get the heck out,” she said. “I know free throws are my time to say what I’ve been thinking, or add a little bit more to something I’ve been talking about.”
Another benefit to radio is that Bulger can put on her Mountaineer gear and root for her favorite team whenever she wants.
“Being on a West Virginia broadcast is nice because I find myself being totally biased, which before I was always trying to play it down the line,” she said. “Now I can just go for it and say whatever I want and always be for West Virginia.”
Culhane, who previously called basketball and baseball games for the Nebraska Sports Network, said Bulger is a natural at radio.
“Meg knows the team really well and she knows what Coach (Mike) Carey is all about in the huddle,” he said. “She gives good insight into the team. Plus, she gets at least 10-15 fans a game coming up to her to give her a hug or to get an autograph during the games.”
Bulger admits it has taken her a while to learn the teams in the Big 12 Conference, having once played in the Big East and most of her TV prep work coming from teams in that conference.
“It was so nice doing all of these games before because I knew what Rutgers was usually like. I know St. John’s, but now it’s who are we playing? What do they do?” she said. “It’s been a learning experience for me and it’s been really fun going to some new places. Those things never change – sitting on a bus and making comments to Coach Carey – it’s picked up right where we left off.”
However, Bulger does know West Virginia women’s basketball, how Carey prepares his teams and how he reacts to in-game situations. She’s also got an interesting viewpoint of this year’s team, now 22-3 with a big game coming up on Wednesday night against Oklahoma State.
“I think player for player, we probably had one of the best teams he’s had my senior year (in 2008),” Bulger said. “However, this team - as a team - is better. Everyone has a role, they know their role and you’re going to get that night in and night out.
“No one is going to come in and say, ‘You know what, I want to score 20 tonight.’ Everyone knows, hey, I take charges or I’m out here to get 10 rebounds and that is what I think makes this team jell so much,” she added. “They play so well together, they have fun, they’re always cheering each other on and they can score and get rebounds on top of that.”
As for her immediate future, Bulger plans to finish out this basketball season and then see where they end up later this spring once her husband signs with a team. The former Duke standout played in Charlotte for the White Sox organization last year, but he is currently a free agent seeking a new team.
“This is the first year where we’re like, where are we going to be?” she said. “It could be San Francisco, Colorado, Philadelphia, or anywhere.”
After that, she says she hopes to be back on the network doing WVU games once again next season.