Mark Fratto ’99 revs up the crowd at national sporting events and is an innovator of college sports coverage.
By Carol Marcy
During his high school days, Mark Fratto ’99 was an aspiring point guard who couldn’t dribble well left-handed, and he realized he should cancel his plans to try out for junior varsity basketball. He instead became the announcer for the season, and that’s when his passion for basketball and sports began to take a different shape.
Fratto has carved a path through a 20-year career as a public address and stadium announcer for college and pro sporting events. His impressive list of clients and venues ranges from world title fights and NBA games at Madison Square Garden to the NCAA Final Four and Major League Soccer at Yankee Stadium.
He honed his knack for announcing as a communication student. “When I was first announcing basketball games at Geneseo, I had to write everything down and read it back into the microphone,” said Fratto. Hundreds of games later, Fratto’s talent for announcing and ad-libbing now comes naturally.
Today, Fratto’s favorite events to announce include big boxing cards at Madison Square Garden. After Fratto announces the fights that build up to the main event, he often hands the mic over to Michael Buffer, the most famous announcer in the world.
“As the Garden starts to fill up over the course of the night, and the fighters are coming in and out of the ring and the crowd is filling in, the build-up is incredible,” said Fratto. “When the main event starts, Michael Buffer says, ‘Let’s get ready to rumble,’ and it brings the whole house down.”
It’s a kind of life that Fratto says doesn’t feel like work. “It’s something I have loved doing since my first days on campus in 1995,” he said.
In addition to announcing, Fratto worked for 15 years as a full-time college athletics administrator, serving in the Athletics Communications Offices at the University of Maryland and as head of athletic communications at St. John’s University in New York City before he established his own digital production services company, Linacre Media LLC, in 2014.
At St. John’s, Fratto saw a gap in college sports broadcasting and became an innovator in social and digital media in that field.
“The problem is that you have all these college athletes who are dedicated to their craft, striving to be as good as they can be, and putting the work in,” said Fratto, “but there’s just limited availability to get their stories out through mainstream media.”
Fratto and his staff transformed the St. John’s athletics website into the university’s own “on-campus media outlet” to provide enhanced coverage of all the university’s athletic teams. “We turned it into the best source of stories and information on our teams and athletes,” said Fratto. “First, we built up the written component and began to add photo galleries.”
Fratto and staff later grew the university’s streaming program, first providing live audio from home events like women’s basketball and baseball, and then adding live video, and finally converting to full HD broadcasts with multiple camera angles, graphics and replays that featured pro broadcasters and production crews working alongside students from the university. Eventually, the broadcasts were distributed via the ESPN3 channel and the Watch ESPN app.
“We created a model that virtually all Division I colleges, universities and conferences are using now,” said Fratto. The Pac 12, the Ivy League, the American Athletic Conference, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and even aspects of the ACC Network, Big Ten Network and SEC Network all use elements of Fratto’s model.
His company, Linacre Media, is also an official broadcast partner of the NBA and serves as the primary production partner for the NBA Development League’s Westchester Knicks and Long Island Nets. Linacre packages hundreds of pro, college and high school athletics events each year.
Additionally, Fratto produces and announces the FIGHTNIGHT LIVE boxing and MMA series. It takes the typical combat sports viewing experience and makes it social, with real-time viewer comments, polling and interaction with the broadcasters calling the fights. It is free and available to Facebook’s more than 2 billion users. When spectators tune in, they’ll find Fratto announcing from the center of the boxing ring.
Fratto credits his Geneseo experience as the spark that ignited his career. He had never heard of sports information as a profession until he met George Gagnier ’88, who was the sports information director at the time and is now assistant director of athletics.
“When I was a first-year student, I wanted to find out how I could become the basketball announcer,” said Fratto. “After meeting George, I decided I wanted to go into college athletics, public relations and announcing as a career. That’s where it all started — on my third day at Geneseo.”
View Mark’s photo gallery of events (click on the photo):