The most inspiring moments from Thursday night’s NCAA college basketball game between Eastern Illinois University and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in Charleston, Illinois, may not take place on the field, but at the broadcasters’ table.
Bryce Weiler, of Claremont, Illinois, who is completely blind, will provide radio commentary during part of the game, along with other commentators.
Weiler is a huge sports fan and an accomplished commentator for a variety of college sports. But for him, this goes beyond a single performance or game. It is about succeeding in life despite enormous obstacles and being given the opportunity to do so by others.
“Anyone can be successful in life if they surround themselves with people who believe in them and want them to be successful,” Weiler told Fox News Digital in a recent phone interview.
Broadcasters alongside him have also been key to helping him achieve his goals.
Weiler, 30 (who uses a cane to navigate around), has played more than 150 college basketball games in his career. He has also commentated on college baseball, softball, volleyball, and soccer games — plus minor league baseball games.
Weiler has covered Western Illinois University men’s and women’s basketball; Southern Illinois University Edwardsville baseball; University of Missouri Kansas City Men’s Basketball; and more.
Yet this is only part of Weiler’s life.
Weiler works full-time as a disability counselor, assisting organizations such as the Baltimore Orioles and software company Latch. He is also a co-founder of the Beautiful Lives Project, a New York-based 501c3 non-profit. It helps people with disabilities access meaningful experiences in athletics, performing arts, visual arts, nature, and more.
His burning desire is to help others achieve great opportunities, Weiler told Fox News Digital, just as he has been given opportunities in his own life.
‘I listen to previous matches of each team’
Born four months premature, Weiler is blind due to a condition called prematurity retinopathy. It is an eye disease that affects some premature babies born before 31 weeks.
Still, lack of sight doesn’t deter Weiler.
“Every day I try to give people opportunities, because I have been given such great opportunities myself.”
He rigorously prepares for his radio broadcasts. He usually spends 13-15 hours before each match studying team stats and player backgrounds – all to help him deliver vivid detail for listeners.
Weiler complements the styles of other broadcasters; he studies their play-by-play to determine if they give a lot of stats or stories. If they usually don’t, he’s ready to provide them.
“I also speak to each team’s head coach before the game,” he said, “and I listen to each team’s previous games.”
His broadcast preparation sometimes even takes him onto the basketball court.
“If I can, I’ll go out before the game and shoot free throws to find out if the rim is loose or tight and how the ball bounces off the rim,” he said.
Weiler chooses to call his agency work “different” rather than “challenging” as blind.
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Weiler earned a college degree in sports management and sports communications from the University of Evansville in Indiana. He then earned a master’s degree in sports administration from Western Illinois University in 2016. But it was in college that he first got the chance to name a game.
‘Bringing photos to life’
Weiler is looking forward to Thursday’s college basketball game in Illinois for two main reasons: The game will bring broadcasters Joe Pott, who calls Southern Illinois University Edwardsville games, and Mike Bradd, commentator for Eastern Illinois University, to the microphones. Weiler will work with them.
“Joe Pott allowed me to comment [previous games] with him when no one else thought I could, and Mike Bradd has provided vivid descriptions, bringing photos to life of the action going on on the pitch,” Weiler told Fox News Digital.
Pott and Bradd are equally enthusiastic about their work with Weiler.
“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to play another game with Bryce,” Pott, director of athletic communications and broadcasting at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, told Fox News Digital in an email. “He makes me better as a person who plays every time because he forces me to be so detailed in my call; I learned a lot about the work I do and the way I name a game, based on his feedback , when we used to work together.”
For Mike Bradd, a member of the communications faculty at Eastern Illinois University, Thursday’s game will be his first time working with Weiler.
“You have to admire the motivation and drive he has shown to achieve his goals,” he shared by email with Fox News Digital. “It’s an inspiring example of what one can achieve through dedication and hard work.”
No one has had a greater influence on Weiler’s broadcasting career than Eastern Illinois University men’s basketball coach Marty Simmons. Weiler first met him when Simmons coached at the University of Evansville, during Weiler’s days as a student there; Simmons gave Weiler his first shot at the microphone.
“He changed my life by giving me the chance to experience college basketball, be part of a team and really do things I’ve dreamed of,” Weiler said. “I never thought I’d be able to experience college basketball if I’m blind, but for four years I’ve been able to.”
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The gratitude is mutual.
“I was lucky enough to have him on the couch at the University of Evansville; he embodied every quality I wanted the others on the couch to own,” Simmons told Fox News Digital by email. “I admire everything about Bryce. His passion to learn, improve and his desire to help others is an inspiration to everyone who meets him.”
Simmons said Weiler delivers “one of the best broadcasts a [radio] listener could expect.” He added, “He has inspired me and my family for many years.”
‘Great friend’ and a ‘beautiful life’
Weiler co-founded the Beautiful Lives Project with Anthony Iacovone, former owner of the New Britain Bees, a Connecticut collegiate summer baseball team (yes, Weiler has also mentioned New Britain Bees games). While the nonprofit’s events often take place in Illinois, Indiana, Texas, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, Weiler said he will host events across the country.
Tony Gionfriddo, national development officer for the Beautiful Lives Project, told Fox News Digital in an email that he considers Bryce “a good friend.”
He noted: “With a disability rate of more than 80 percent by 2021, we are excited, along with our community partners, to find both education and employment for people with disabilities.”
Far more important to Weiler than any success in court is spreading awareness that people with disabilities want solid opportunities to do things that matter.
“The game isn’t the thing. It’s about whether the broadcaster lets me comment,” Weiler said.
“I have to do well when I get the chance, but people have to want to give me a chance,” he added.
His guiding motivation is simple: “Every day I try to give people opportunities, because I have been given such great opportunities myself.”
The basketball game on January 13, 2022 between Eastern Illinois University and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. Central / 9:00 p.m. Eastern. It’s at the Lantz Arena in Charleston, Illinois; anyone can tune into www.weiu.net.
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Watch this video for more background on Bryce Weiler.