REPRINTED FROM JAN 25, 2018
any people who retire end up on the golf course, spending their suddenly plentiful time hitting that Titleist around the rolling hills, over the blue lakes and golden sand traps and into the jar – hopefully under par.
Bruce Madej headed to the golf course after he retired in 2014 as the longest serving Sports Information Director in the history of the University of Michigan Athletic Department. But Madej left his clubs in the trunk because he still has work to do as the media and public relations director of the highly successful Volvik Championship in Ann Arbor.
Well, some might call it working. Because if you saw Madej walking around the clubhouse or grounds at Travis Pointe Country Club last summer it looked like anything but work. Not with that booming and enthusiastic voice in the media room, or the way he made visitors feel so welcomed as soon as they walked in the door or that smile he teed up over the course of the entire week.
Of course, there is plenty of behind the clubhouse work that a public relation’s director does at a professional stop on the LPGA Tour. But when you combine experience, know-how, confidence and passion for the job you just make it look so easy. When Tournament Director Keith Karbo put Madej in charge of media and public relations he more than likely never gave that department another thought.
OK, that’s handled.
Madej had things handled at the University of Michigan during his 34 years as the face of the athletic media relation’s department. He was the head of Michigan’s sports information department from 1982-2010 and then served as an associate athletic director for special projects until 2014. The month he retired in 2014, he received a lifetime achievement award from the College Sports Information Directors of America.
Madej is from Dearborn and attended U-D Jesuit High School. He worked for several years in the Dearborn Parks and Recreation department’s junior leader program as an umpire and coach as well as other jobs.
Madej attended Western Michigan University and quickly became involved in many aspects of college life.
“By my sophomore year I was already the sports director of the radio station, sports editor of the yearbook and sports editor of the newspaper,” he said. “I then moved up to production manager of the newspaper, sports editor of the yearbook and general manager of the radio station. I always wanted to get into some kind of sports media so I took communications and education classes and graduated in four years.”
Madej came back east after graduating and landed a job right out of college at The Ypsilanti Press. He moved across town to The Ann Arbor News for a couple of years and in 1978 ended up at the University of Michigan as an Assistant Sports Information Director.
Let’s let Bruce take over the story from there …
“I stayed at Michigan for two years and then left and did boat racing with the American Powerboat Association,” he said. “I was their director of public relations and marketing for the offshore racing department. I got to travel and go to the Bahamas and the Florida Keys. I also helped put together the national championship format that they still use today in Key West, Fla.”
He returned to U-M in July 1982 as the Sports Information Director and remained as the head of that department until October 2010 when he took over as Associate Athletic Director for Special Projects.
And what a special ride it was.
Madej’s long list of “incredible moments” includes 12 Big Ten football championships, national titles in football and men’s basketball, two Heisman Trophy winners, the wild run of the Fab Five and much, much more.
“The job certainly changed over the years,” he said.
And the Michigan Media Department didn’t just keep up with the times, they set the time in a number of innovative and creative ways that helped booster marking, promotions and the Wolverine brand.
U-M, under Madej’s leadership, was one of the first university athletic departments to:
- Use computer stats as the official in-game and postgame statistics for college football (mid 1980s)
- Create a dedicated athletic website (1994)
- Report results for an NCAA Championship using the internet and computer results (1996, women’s swimming)
- Allow ‘bloggers’ into the press box for athletic events (2005)
- Sell tickets via internet to a bowl game (Capital One Bowl, 2002 vs. Tennessee)
- Develop Twitter accounts for individual athletic teams (2009).
“I was fortunate to be around some good people who could see what was coming up the road a little bit better than others so we were able to stay ahead of the curve for quite a while,” Madej said.
The highlight reel for Madej would run for “over 100 hours,” he said.
“I was hired by Don Canham; worked and had a great time with Bo Schembechler and we became very good friends after he retired; (longtime hockey coach) Red Berenson and I are good friends and we even were talking today about the 1964-65 Detroit Red Wings; all the guys on the Fab Five; to all the great hockey players like Brandon Morrison; to the baseball players like Jim Abbott; to Diane Dietz, the school’s all-time scoring leader in women’s basketball until Katelynn Flaherty came along this year; Glenn Rice, Terry Mills from the basketball team; the football guys like Anthony Carter, Desmond Howard, Charles Woodson; Bill Freehan; Bill Martin; just so many to mention.”
Madej also got to work with some legendary media members over the years including Keith Jackson, (columnist) Edwin Pope, Bill Rafferty, Jim Murray, Bob Griese, Dick Vitale, Sean McDonough and so on down the media hall.
“My whole career was built around relationships,” says Madej, who still does consulting work with U-M. “That’s why I had so much fun. Those incredible relationships you make over the years. And they continue today.”
And he’s still forming new and special relationships today, on and off the golf course. He is loving his job with Volvik and it helps keep him in the game – a place he feels right at home.
“Working with Volvik and the LPGA people has been an absolute blast,” he says. “I just love working with Keith Karbo and (event manager) Amy Karbo and everyone there. Keith is a man of great integrity and he had the vision of bringing a professional golf tournament to Ann Arbor. He pulled that off.”
He pulled it off in part by surrounding himself with the right people. He certainly has the right person in charge of media and public relations. It doesn’t take long to see that Madej is pretty aMAIZEing at what he does.