The Notre Dame Fighting Irish announced Chris Ackels will be their new gameday announcer at Notre Dame Stadium.
: Welcome Chris Ackels, the new Notre Dame Stadium Public Address Announcer— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) July 27, 2021
"I’m getting chills up my spine thinking about how much fun it’s going to be just to be with that community on a Saturday in South Bend."
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Per an ND press release:
Notre Dame Introduces Chris Ackels as Notre Dame Stadium Public Address Announcer
The University of Notre Dame has announced Chris Ackels as the public address announcer for Notre Dame Stadium. Ackels will serve in this position for all home football games for the Fighting Irish. Ackels resides in Chicago, and currently also serves as the in-stadium host and emcee for the Chicago White Sox. He has worked with the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks, as well as announcing at events for Northwestern University, DePaul University, Southern Methodist University and Saint Louis University. He has also been the public address announcer in multiple conference championships and tournaments (spanning from the Big East to the Big Ten and Atlantic 10). A Dallas native, Ackels attended Saint Louis University for his undergraduate degree, and earned a Master of Arts from DePaul University.
Ackels sat down with Fighting Irish Media to share his impressions and goals for his new post as Notre Dame Stadium Public Address Announcer.
What interested you about becoming the Notre Dame Stadium public address announcer?
Ever since I was a kid, I've wanted to be a sports announcer. I used to lay in bed at night with a radio underneath my pillow listening to baseball games and always wanted to do that. So, as I then started high school -- I went to a Catholic high school in my hometown of Dallas, Texas, Jesuit College Prep -- I walked into the athletic director and said, ‘Can I announce games?’ I started doing basketball games and soccer games and baseball games, and then I got to college and did the same thing. I ended up getting to announce a few games in college, and then got to grad school and was fortunate enough to work with the athletic department as a graduate worker at DePaul University.
I always had this dream of doing this. I think where I'm seeing God a lot in this is I've also always loved Notre Dame, and I think anyone who grows up Catholic, especially Catholics in the Midwest, love Notre Dame. We have Irish in the family, and we've all got that one uncle, and I do too, who is a Notre Dame grad and talks about it every chance he gets. I’ve been rooting for them since I can remember.
I’ve spent the last five years as an announcer for the Chicago White Sox, and it was actually someone at the White Sox who kind of nudged me to go for this and said, ‘Hey, we think you'd be great. I think you'd love it.’
This was way back months ago. I made those initial contacts about potentially applying, and went through the process. Notre Dame every step of the way was organized and clear, and I know for a fact there were other really amazing people who were a part of this process. By the grace of God, this is how it ended up. It's been truly a lifelong dream of mine, though, in this specific context of this job. There have been some really great people who have encouraged me to do it, pushed me to do it, and then have given me the chance to do it. So, I just have a lot of people to say thank you to.
Who are some of the sportscasters and announcers who have inspired you, or whom you hope to emulate?
As far as public address, I think my main role model is Gene Honda [current public address announcer for the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Blackhawks]. Gene is a legend, and I personally think he's the best in the world. He's been so great to me, and such a great friend and mentor over the years. I'd also say Jim Reibandt and Pat Schultz, both Chicago guys and well-loved in the Chicago sports world, are fantastic. Growing up in Dallas, I have always loved Chuck Morgan of the Texas Rangers. He has a very unique style and he's been doing it for 40-something years, so he had a huge impact on me as a kid who wanted to be an announcer.
In a general sense, it's actually really funny, because Tom Hammond is one of them, and I've never met Tom Hammond, and I'd love to meet Tom Hammond. He did Notre Dame games for what felt like my whole childhood. I know he doesn't do them anymore, it’s Mike Tirico now who does a phenomenal job. Between Notre Dame and the Olympics, I've always really liked Tom Hammond.
Particularly growing up in Dallas, the Texas Rangers’ radio announcer Eric Nadel was a hero of mine, and I did get a chance to meet him. He's very gracious and has mentored me a lot.
How would you characterize your style?
Number one, your first obligation is to get the information correct and clear, so you have to make sure you have the correct information and that you're communicating that clearly And then, I think the second thing when you're an in-stadium announcer is the atmosphere and the community of the stadium and the game day feel. That's what I'm most excited about specifically for Notre Dame because I've been to many other games as a fan. I had a very close friend in high school who played for Notre Dame. After high school, he was recruited and kicked there, and it's always had an incredible atmosphere. It's not just a fan base, it's a family. It's a community, and it's people who grew up in it.
So, when you are the stadium announcer in an environment like that, you have your primary obligation of, get the information across clearly, and then you have this second piece of being a part of this community and being a part of this game day experience that you're along for the ride with almost 80,000 people. you're along for this ride together and you feed off them just as much as they feed off you.
I've been on both sides of that coin. I've been the one in the stands feeding off the announcer, but I've also been the announcer in the booth feeding off the energy of the fans. I'm getting chills up my spine thinking about how much fun it's going to be just to be with that community on a Saturday in South Bend. In terms of my style, you're a part of the family, and you're a part of the community, and you're a part of the experience, and you have to lean into that a little bit. So, that's what I'm excited for.
Who was your friend from high school, and what was it like attending those games as a fan?
His name is Nick Taush. He was part of the recruiting class of 2009. After playing early in his college career, as a junior and senior he wasn't playing as much, but it was funny because other athletes from other places might say, ‘I want to transfer,’ and he was like, ‘No, I love it here. There's no chance I'm ever leaving here. I don't care.’
Nick was one of my best friends in high school at Jesuit Dallas. He went up there, and right away freshman year he got us tickets and a whole bunch of us went up there, and that was the first of a handful of times that I've been to a Notre Dame game. The first time you walk in that stadium, it sends chills up your spine. You know you're walking on hallowed ground, and you're walking into a historic place.
Those of us who are in the sports world know this; there are certain stadiums in every sport that are iconic and that are in the fabric of not just that sport, but of American cultural history. When you're talking baseball, you're talking about Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. When you're talking about the NFL, you're talking about Lambeau Field. And, when you're talking about college football, it's Notre Dame Stadium.
So, anytime you walk in there, you have this understanding of, this is a historic place. This is a place that means a lot to a lot of people and again, I'm just humbled and honored that I get to be a part of that experience for somebody else.
What was it like to get the call that you had been selected as the new stadium announcer?
I got two different ‘Wow’ phone calls. The first one was way back in March from Nathan Bush [Fighting Irish Media Live Events Producer] and it was just, ‘Hey somebody at the White Sox has recommended you.’ I didn't reach out and apply; someone at the Sox went to Notre Dame and said, ‘You need to look at this guy.’ So, I get this call from Nathan Bush: ‘Hi, here's who I am, I’m with Notre Dame.’ He said, ‘We're looking for a new football announcer for Notre Dame Stadium, and someone from the White Sox recommended you.’ It was this moment of like, ‘Oh my gosh, someone thinks I could do this.’ That was a really, really cool moment.
Then, the actual call from Brian [Pracht, Associate Athletics Director (Marketing and Ticketing)] was really a moment of… I took a deep breath. It’s funny, Brian said, ‘OK, don't tell anyone yet, because we want to make sure we announce it. Right away, I go, ‘Can I tell my family?’ I'm shaking with excitement. It really was a fantastic moment, and I think the reason why is because of where it is.
I've announced at three different professional sports teams, four different colleges, but this is different. This is a place that really, really means something to me and really means something to a lot of people.
So, I think it wasn't just another job. it was like, this is really, really special and I felt that right away and I’m just really excited.
What is your favorite Notre Dame game day tradition?
I'm not going to say this as a selfish answer, but ‘Here Come the Irish.’ Mike Collins, I will say, is another person I'm dying to meet. I really, really hope after this announcement comes out that I get a chance to talk to him and sit down and go to lunch with them or go to dinner with him or something. Man, you talked about again, one of those moments, where you just recognize the majesty of Notre Dame, and the majesty of the moment, and how lucky you are to be a part of that moment for me.
It's because I've always loved announcers, and I've always been interested in this, and this has been my craft. That's always been such a cool moment, and there's nothing like that. I work for the White Sox, and I love working for the White Sox, but there's no moment like that.
What do you hope to accomplish as the stadium announcer?
When people go to Notre Dame games, they feel at home, and they feel like this is family, this is community, this is where I want my kids to grow up coming on Saturdays, this is where I grew up coming on Saturdays.
That's my goal, is that nobody comes to the game to hear the announcer. I am not the show, I’m not the center of attention. If I'm ever the center of attention, I feel like it shouldn't be that way. It's about the game, it's about the community, it's about the family, and I'm one small piece of that experience.
That's my goal. My goal is to be a piece of an incredible experience that people have, that parents have with their children, that grandparents have with their grandchildren, that college buddies have and will never forget. It's a large experience, and it means so much more than one announcer or even one game, or one down or one play. It means so much more than that, so my goal, and I think my job, is to be a part of that experience and complement that experience in a positive way, in a meaningful way.
I'm also not foolish enough to think that they're there to see me or hear me. They're not, and that's important. I want to be a part, a small part, of something really special in a lot of people's lives. It's as simple as that, but also as challenging as that, so that's how I'm going into it.