Navy fans are spoiled in so many ways, it is hard to keep track. From having winning teams in almost every sport in the past decade to an athletic department that always puts the interests of the fans first, times are good for those who follow the Midshipmen. However what would winning sports teams be in the age of information without the compelling stories that go along with them?
It's great that Navy junior quarterback Ricky Dobbs is about to set a new NCAA record for touchdowns by a quarterback, but what makes the story interesting is getting to know Dobbs. The responsibility to tell Dobbs' story and the stories of dozens of other Midshipmen athletes each season is in good hands. And while there are currently three beat writers covering Navy sports, and football in particular, the undisputed number one source for news about Navy athletics is the
Prior to taking over the Navy beat for The Capital, Wagner or ‘Wags' as he is called by many, began his journalism career while a senior at St. Mary's High School in Annapolis. Current sports editor at The Capital, Gerry Jackson recalls some of Wagner's first days in the office when he was responsible for answering phones and taking down the information about the area's high school football games. It was busy work and a normal assignment for someone so young. However,
"The main thing I remember from those days is how talkative Bill was, and he still is today. But at one point, Al Hopkins, the former sports editor, had to say to Bill, ‘Look son, will you just shut up,' joked
However, back in those days, jobs in sports journalism were hard to come by right out of the gate. In order to work on his craft, Wagner attended
"Bill had an enormous amount of energy, and you could tell right away that he was going to make it as a sports journalist," said Schlehr.
While Wagner was a student at
"It was a fun job, but starting off losing their first 21 games was a bit depressing," said Wagner.
After graduating from
"Although I was looking to find something in the sports department, I honestly just wanted to get my foot in the door. I was just happy to be employed," said Wagner.
Even though there were no openings in sports,
"It was a great place for a self-starter," said
"While there, most of the stories that he worked on were news stories and it was a great way for him to cut his teeth in the business," said
Wagner agrees it was a great way to start his career.
"I had to cover the whole gamut of issues from crime to the environment. It was a lot of pressure though because it was just me. If I missed something, it wasn't like I could look around and blame anybody else. It was a tough job, but I learned a lot," said Wagner.
His experience with the Brooklyn News came in handy when Wagner started writing for the Maryland Gazette as he was about to take on what he still considers the biggest story he has ever covered in his career.
The day was March 29, 1990 when Wagner's editor told him that a state trooper had been killed in
"Corporal Wolf was a young guy who was married and had three kids. Interviewing his wife, covering the funeral, and then the trial – it was as tough as it gets in this business. But it was a big story and a great opportunity for me to take the next step from a professional standpoint. But it took a toll on me. It was such a sad and unfortunate story."
It turns out that 1990 would be the last year for Wagner to cover so-called ‘hard' news. However he believes the time he put in was well worth it.
"There is no doubt in my mind that I am a better reporter today because I started my career outside of sports. Ironically, today, there are so many elements to sports that are exposed to crime and trials and so forth…it just gives you a greater understanding if those aspects come together in a story."
"In sports you really have to be a journalist first, and then be knowledgeable about sports," concurred,
For the next five years, Wagner covered mainly high school sports for The Capital before getting his first assignment reporting on college athletics. In 1995, Wagner started covering
"I was there with (Coach) Duffner and (Coach) Vanderlinden. Not exactly the best days of
Wagner wasn't going far though, either geographically or with regards to the subject matter. The Capital was looking to increase its coverage of Navy football and the decision was made to bring Wagner over to replace Joe Gross on the beat.
End of Part One
In Part Two, which will be for subscribers only, I had a chance to speak with Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk, linebacker Ross Pospisil, SID Scott Strasemeier, and the