By: Amari Dryden, @Amari_Dryden
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Jason Yellin, Assistant Athletic Director of Media Relations for the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Jason, who has worked in media relations for countless years, was gracious enough to share his time and speak about how much networking has impacted his career and about how much he enjoys helping others progress in the sports industry.
Jason started working in sports back in 1988 when he was 14 years old at his future alma mater, Stony Brook University. He was at a football game when some workers asked him and his brother if they would like to hold the first down marker and be a part of the chain gang. “We were asked, ‘Hey, do you want to make $10 and work for the chain gang for the game?’ We said yes and ended up doing that for the whole season.”
After working on the chain gang, Jason got to know people from the athletic department. One person in particular who has influenced him is Greg Cannella, who was one of those workers who recruited him. “Greg was an assistant lacrosse coach at that time. Many years later he played a huge role in me getting hired at UMass [University of Massachusetts at Amherst].”
Jason started working for Stony Brook while he was still in high school, doing things such as operating the scoreboard and keeping stats. He eventually decided to go to school there because, “I had so many connections and was entrenched in the athletic department working in media relations, marketing and operations. I lived in the athletic department.”
He graduated from Stony Brook in 1996. While he was there, he networked and had a couple other jobs such as working for the New York Jets Confidential, a newspaper covering the New York Jets. “I covered games, wrote articles, created layouts, interviewed players and coaches. I also worked for some minor league basketball teams handling PR and media, game operations, etc.”
After he graduated, he got his first official full-time job at ESPN. “I worked on ESPNet SportsZone which eventually became ESPN.com. I would cut video, write articles, go to national events such as the NBA All-Star game or the NFL Draft. I wrote the story for ESPN about when MLB retired Jackie Robinson’s jersey number. I had the privilege to interview people like Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky, all as a recent college graduate.”
From there he went on to work at the University of Maryland handling media relations and publications for six years. Then he transitioned to UMass and had the privilege of being in charge of the Media Relations unit. He spent seven years directly involved with all aspects of communications, public relations in the major Boston market. In 2011, he had the opportunity to come to the University of Tennessee to operate the athletic media relations office. “I directly oversee all social media and we’ve increased our social media following by over a thousand percent since when I first got here.”
As the Assistant Director of Media Relations, Jason oversees the dozen media relations staff and numerous other student workers, interns and volunteers at Tennessee. “I handle the media affairs with Coach Butch Jones. I’m in the thick of it with the coach when he’s doing his interviews with ESPN before, during and after games, in the press room handling the student-athletes. I’m directly involved with making sure there’s content published on our website and social media accounts. We give announcers the information to make Tennessee sound good such as giving them storylines about different players. We also prep and mentor our student-athletes on how to handle interviews.”
Jason’s favorite aspect of his job is being able to help students and interns progress in their careers and get full-time jobs. He told numerous stories about former students and interns he has helped over the years as they secured job at places like Syracuse, Penn State, Duke, Ohio State, Stanford, Lehigh and the Boston Red Sox. One of those success stories connects back to his alma mater. “As a Stony Brook alum, I would follow their media and they would post weekly videos and there was a reporter in it named Dani Klupenger. There was an opening here at Tennessee for a reporting position and I contacted her and told her I’d been watching her videos for about two years and I knew that she was graduating and asked her if she would be interested in coming to Tennessee. She came and worked here for two years and this past year she was hired by the St. Louis Rams to be their main reporter. I have so much pride and I’m so happy for her as her career has flourished.”
Jason’s love for sports is based on his love of teamwork and relationship building. “I grew up in Queens near the Jets and Mets’ Shea Stadium. I love being a part of a team, being a part of that atmosphere. Over time my inspiration has evolved to providing information to the fans. I love the people I work with and helping people progress in their careers. I love watching people develop and grow. The inspiration of knowing I can make an impact in our student-athletes’ lives. Every student-athlete has a story to tell.”
His love for design and publication elements in sports started at an early age. “When I was younger I would send letters to all the different sports teams asking them to send me their media guide acting as an employee from a fictitious media company. I wanted to learn everything I could about all the players. I also wanted them because I was interested in publication and design. I took ideas from different media guides and used them back when I was at Stony Brook for their media guides.”
Jason stressed how much being driven and passionate about what you do impacts your productivity. “You have to always be on because digital media in professional and collegiate sports it’s a 24/7 job. You need to develop a strategy on how to handle it because it can consume you. You also must be detail-oriented.” He also believes that building relationships, networking and connecting with people is one of the most important things to do in sports. “I credit my career to networking.”
Also in technology, “staying ahead of the curve and anticipating changes in trends is important.” Jason has seen the progression from no internet to the explosion of social media. “When I started, there was no Internet. I worked for ESPN.com right when the Internet started which gave me the background for understanding the Internet from its infancy. Now with social media, everything is immediate. When I began at Stony Brook, we’d be on a road trip to upstate New York and I would have to find a pay phone and call in to the newspapers and news stations with the score of the games and highlights. Now we’re able to connect immediately with social media. We spend a ton of time on social media because that’s how we connect with our fans. At Tennessee, we have millions of followers combined with all our platforms. What’s amazing about social media is that you can connect in so many different ways. I work just as hard wherever I am to help gain as much exposure for my school as I possibly can.”
Jason’s number one piece of advice is to, “Meet as many people, make connections, get to know people and communicate. The people that I met when I was a teenager, I still talk to over twenty years later because they gave me an opportunity when I was young and I want to do the same for the next generation.” You never know what opportunities lie ahead.
We would like to thank Jason for his time and insight and we wish him the best in all his future endeavors!