Howard Katz ’71 is known as the NFL scheduling guru.

For his work as senior vice president of broadcasting and media operations with the NFL, Katz received the 2022 Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award, which is presented by the Pro Football Hall of Fame each year to recognize exceptional contributions to radio and TV in football.

Katz oversees a department that develops the league’s schedule and selects games for prime time. In the 2021–22 season, 24 of the top 25 broadcasts for national ratings were NFL games, and much of the credit is given to Katz.

“Howard has been sneaking into your homes for 40 years, and you haven’t known it,” Dick Ebersol, former chairman of NBC Sports and longtime friend, said when Katz was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. (Katz grew up in Livingston, N.J.)

At Colgate, the economics major wasn’t thinking of a career in television; Katz planned to be a lawyer. But an unexpected event spun his life in a different direction — taking him to places like ABC Sports and ESPN before he joined the NFL and turned pro football into a dominant force in American TV.

Sports media was a student hobby for Katz, who managed the sports content for WRCU and Colgate News. He also did the play-by-play for Colgate football and basketball.

When Katz was a junior, Colgate hosted the college hockey championships in Syracuse. He was an assistant to the University’s sports information director, who was tasked with overseeing the press room for the tournament. A couple of days before the tournament, the director’s wife gave birth to their first child, causing the director to miss the event.

Katz was left in charge. He managed the press room on his own and did such an exemplary job that his work caught the attention of others. Unbeknownst to Katz, a year later, the sports information director at Syracuse University recommended him for a job with ABC Sports. Katz interviewed and was offered a position as a production assistant.

“It seemed like something that would be interesting and fun,” says Katz, who, at the time, figured he could work at ABC Sports for a year or two and then move on to law school.

He ended up spending three years at ABC Sports, working his way up to associate producer. Afterward, Katz joined Trans World International (TWI), where he was exposed to different aspects of the TV business. Following nearly a decade at TWI, he became the president of Ohlmeyer Communications Company (OCC). The man who hired him was Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer Don Ohlmeyer, who knew Katz from their days together at ABC Sports.

When ESPN bought OCC in 1993, Katz became the network’s executive vice president of production. He helped the company launch new networks including ESPN 2, ESPN News, ESPN Classic, and ESPN International.

Katz returned to ABC Sports in 1999, this time as president. The company was in a period of struggle, but he orchestrated the network’s turnaround and revived Monday Night Football by hiring commentator John Madden.

“Somewhere in your life, you want to work for Howard Katz,” Madden said during the New Jersey Hall of Fame induction.

When Katz joined the NFL in 2003, he created a model that helped the league develop prime-time matches that drew the most interest.

While television is much different today than when Katz scored his first TV job in 1972, there are some things that are constant, he says. First and foremost, hard work pays off. “If you want to get ahead, if you want to get noticed, you need to outwork everyone else.”

Katz has certainly proven that throughout his career. As NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said: “Quite simply, the NFL would not be where we are today without Howard Katz.”

Katz’ first-year roommate, Tom Levine ’71, is still a close friend and drove out to Canton, Ohio, for the ceremony when Katz received the Rozelle award.