September 23, 2013

Buckli, Sullivan to Receive Blugold Spirit Award

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) - Two local media personalities who have a long-term connection with UW-Eau Claire athletics will receive the 2013 Jim Mueller Blugold Spirit Award.

Ron Buckli, who began writing for the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram in 1956, and Mike Sullivan, who became sports director at WBIZ Radio in 1974, will be honored at the Blugold Hall of Fame banquet September 28.

The award, named in honor of its first recipient Jim Mueller, recognizes non-staff individuals for long-term support of the Blugold athletics program.  The recipients must have demonstrated exemplary interest in and concern for Blugold student-athletes and coaches.  Their pride and spirit as a friend and ambassador of the Blugold program epitomizes the true meaning of a Blugold.

Both Buckli and Sullivan fit the description of the award exceptionally well.  While Blugold athletics is not their only “beat”, no other media personnel have covered Blugold athletics to the extent that this pair has.

Buckli, known to his legions of readers as “Buckshot”, is a native of Eau Claire.  He not only is a polished writer but was an outstanding athlete for much of his career.  He followed his brother to UW-Eau Claire where as a freshman in 1952, he had one of the longest runs in school history, a 74-yard TD jaunt.  He signed a pro baseball contract with the St. Louis Browns (who became the Baltimore Orioles) but returned home after one year of minor league baseball due to the sudden death of his father.

Buckli worked fulltime for the Leader-Telegram for 40 years including serving as sports editor from 1982 until his retirement in 1996.  Since his retirement, he has continued his column and still assists the sports staff with coverage of local events.

He was instrumental in the expansion of the L-T’s sports coverage to make it a regional section.  As a result, he covered many athletes who starred at the prep level in Northwest Wisconsin and went on to wear the Blue and Gold during their collegiate years.  Many of those Blugold athletes continued careers as coaches in Northwest Wisconsin and Buckli continued to follow them.  Other Blugold athletes have had children and grandchildren that Buckli has ended up covering as well.

His fastidious record-keeping and historical perspective on Chippewa Valley sports, including the Blugolds, brings instant credibility and integrity to his reporting.

Reflecting on Buckli’s writing, former Blugold football player Dan Pedersen, said that if Buckli wrote an article, it was the most accurate reflection of what happened and what was said.  And Pedersen speaks as a person whom Buckli covered as a prep athlete, college athlete and area coach for nearly 50 years.

Sullivan, who grew up in the Twin Cities suburb of Edina and attended Swarthmore College just outside Philadelphia, has been the voice of Blugold football and men’s basketball in particular since 1978.  The station has prided itself in being able to broadcast both home and away games in those sports throughout Sullivan’s time in Eau Claire.  In addition, he has done hockey and women’s basketball games.

While riding the team buses to away games, Sullivan developed long-lasting friendships with many Blugold athletes. 

He coordinated the stations that covered conference schools to provide telephone lines to visiting stations as a cost-saving measure to insure coverage of games.  At one time, he had Blugold games on a network in Northwest Wisconsin.  Since the inception of the internet, Blugold alumni around the world have had the opportunity to listen to “Sulli” call Blugold games through live streaming.

Both Buckli and Sullivan are easily recognized personalities in Northwest Wisconsin but also are well-known throughout the state.  Both have been previously recognized by the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with the Tom Butler Award for their coverage of conference sports.

-TP-