In his day job, Jon Arias is your typical radio sports guy, chipping in his opinions on topics ranging from Aaron Rodgers to Bo Ryan to Ryan Braun as part of his duties as producer for the Mike Heller Show on WTSO-AM/1070.
But his other radio role is serving as the voice of University of Wisconsin women’s sports, doing play-by-play for both the volleyball and women’s basketball teams.
It’s been an unlikely career course for Arias, 34, whose “Down goes Texas” call when the Badgers upset the top-ranked Longhorns in the NCAA volleyball Final Four two weeks ago brought him some national exposure.
Arias, a native of Delavan, Minn., and 2002 graduate of Winona State, came to Madison in 2004 to join the Heller show. He just completed his sixth season with the volleyball team and is in his second season doing women’s basketball broadcasts.
He and his wife, Regan, have an 11-month-old daughter, Ariana.
Q. What was your level of knowledge of volleyball when you started doing play-by-play?
A. I knew nothing at all. They asked me if I wanted to do volleyball and I said, “I guess so; why not? But you realize I don’t know anything about volleyball at all.” Luckily, I got to watch the Summer Olympics and got the terminology down a little bit. I had never been to a volleyball match in my life, not even at the high school level. The coaching staff at the time was very helpful in answering all my stupid questions. And I still have questions at times.
Q. You come from a men’s sports world but you’re the voice of women’s basketball and volleyball. How has your exposure to women’s sports changed your perspective on sports?
A. As far as the actual games, it seems different when you’re at courtside, as opposed to watching on TV. These players are really good and they’re playing at a high level. Same with volleyball. When you get down and watch them up close, these girls are jumping out of the gym. They’re really athletic. I don’t know if women get credit for how good they really are.
Q. Your role in the Mike Heller Show is to talk about the major men’s sports. How difficult is it to suppress your interest in women’s sports?
A. During the breaks I’m always bothering Mike and Phil (Dawson) about women’s basketball or volleyball. I’m always asking, “So what do you think about Nebraska this weekend?” or “What did you think of Lauren Carlini’s match the other night?” That’s my only time to talk about it because football and Packers and Badgers dominate things and that’s what a majority of people want to talk about.
Q. Do you see women’s sports becoming mainstream topics here?
A. I do. When Wisconsin volleyball made it to the Final Four and beat Texas, that’s the most radio interviews I’ve ever done. I did a half-dozen or more the next day. You have to be successful and if you’re successful enough, people will want to watch you. You go to Nebraska and watch volleyball and there’s 9,000 fans, so somebody’s interested in it. There’s an audience for it.
Q. For at least a week, volleyball was the hottest thing in town. What was that experience like from your perspective?
A. I got a lot of reaction on Twitter, which I’m not used to. It’s cool to interact with a lot of people and get that instant feedback. It was pretty cool to see how people reacted back in Madison. Everyone I talk to says they were standing up, they were so into those matches they couldn’t sit down. I think everybody back here was inspired by that run and I was just happy to be part of it.
— Interview by Dennis Punzel