Butch Strikes Again, Feature Wins Murrow Award

July 19, 2004

6/19/04 - The ESPN "SportCenter" piece that featured Middlebury friend, Butch Varno, has won two Edward R. Murrow Awards after winning an Emmy Award earlier this year. The feature originally aired on ESPN on December 7th as well as Christmas Eve and Christmas morning of 2003.

Producer Andy Tennant was extremely happy with the award and gave thanks to Middlebury College for providing the opportunities to shoot the story the way he wanted to. "I really wanted to thank Butch and (Director of Athletic Communications) Brad Nadeau for making everything available to us that we asked for. From the early morning shoots, to the lengthy days of interviewing, Middlebury was great and we couldn't have been more well-received by any group of people," said Tennant.

The Radio-Television News Directors Association has been honoring outstanding achievements in electronic journalism with the Edward R. Murrow Awards since 1971. Murrow's pursuit of excellence in journalism embodies the spirit of the awards that carry his name. Murrow Award recipients demonstrate the spirit of excellence that Edward R. Murrow made a standard for the broadcast news profession. The segment won in the categories of Sports Reporting and Feature Reporting.

The segment captured the longtime tradition among Middlebury College athletes of picking up Middlebury native Varno at his apartment and bringing him to home football and basketball contests. Varno is unable to provide his own transportation due to the cerebral palsy that confines him to a wheelchair. The ESPN piece marked the second time Varno was the subject of a national media story. Last March, he and the Middlebury students who assist him, were the subject of Rick Reilly's column in the March 10 issue of Sports Illustrated.

The story explored the wonderful relationships that have developed over the years between Varno and numerous Middlebury athletes. Several people were interviewed for the piece, including students, alumni and administrators, who have been involved with Butch throughout his 42-year relationship with the College.

ESPN came to the Middlebury campus twice last fall to gather footage and interviews for the piece. Tennant and his crew were in Vermont the weekend of Sept. 27 as well as Oct. 11. Chris Connolly, whose resume includes work with ESPN, ABC's "20/20" and MTV, was the reporter who covered the story.