When Bill Walsh left as coach of the San Francisco 49ers and found work as a commentator for NBC, he had no previous broadcasting experience, but received a multiyear contract that paid him between $500,000 and $600,000 a year.
When Bill Seward left his job in 1985 as football coach at St. Bernard High to pursue a broadcasting career, he took a pay cut.
But Seward was eager to start an $800-a-month position as a sports director and anchor at KVIQ, a CBS-TV affiliate in Eureka.
"When I decided I wanted to be a sportscaster, I said goodby to a lot of comforts like living in Manhattan Beach and having a secure job," Seward said. "But I said I've got to give it a try."
After spending eight years in the minor leagues of broadcasting markets, Seward, 35, has worked the past three years in the industry's second-biggest market.
Seward combined his knowledge of sports--particularly football and horse racing--with an irreverent humor to become a successful broadcaster. He gives updates every 30 minutes, eight hours a day, five days a week on KNX-1070. In March, he also became a weekend sports anchor on Channel 2.
Seward is the closest thing KNX has to offer to an offbeat announcer. It is difficult to tell when he is serious, which he rarely is.
"The sound of Seward's voice makes you think he has a twinkle in his eye and maybe, just maybe, he is stretching the truth just a bit," KNX sports anchor Pete Arbogast said. "Or that (sports) is not that important after all and we should have fun with it."
Seward certainly had his laughs at St. Bernard when, at 23, he was believed to be the youngest coach in the Southern Section. He led the Vikings to three playoff berths and a three-year record of 23-11-2.
What distinguished Seward as a coach was that he never did the expected. In a game against St. Anthony, Seward ran four onside kicks and the Vikings recovered three of them.
"Bill is probably the most talented person I've worked with," St. Bernard Athletic Director and basketball Coach Jim McClune said. "He's very personable and a very glib individual. I wasn't surprised to see him leave, because he had talents that went far beyond those of a typical high school coach."
Seward's relaxed, chatty style on the sidelines and his ability to poke fun at the absurd carried over to the broadcast booth. He broadcast Loyola baseball and basketball for campus station KXLU.
After sending tapes to stations throughout the nation, Seward got a job with KVIQ.
He shared expenses with roommate Bob Lorenz, who now works for CNN, and lived on a diet of "salt and sugar."
"We didn't have any money, so I would use my Shell card to buy dinner at a mini-mart," Seward said.
After 20 months in Eureka, Seward worked at KTIE in Oxnard and KWINK in Simi Valley.
In 1988, Seward got a job as sports director for WNHT-TV, a CBS affiliate in Concord, N.H. His duties included broadcasts of University of New Hampshire football, basketball and hockey games in addition to anchoring sports reports. But in 1989, the owner closed the station.
Seward returned to Los Angeles, earned a groom's license and worked with thoroughbreds at Del Mar racetrack. The work experience paid off as Seward eventually got a job as co-host with Gil Stratton on "Santa Anita Tonight" on KDOC-TV, a position he still holds.
KNX hired Seward as an overnight metro traffic reporter in 1989. He also worked as a play-by-play announcer for Cal State Northridge football with Joe Buttitta.
During a game against Cal State Sacramento, Seward had to leave early to catch a return flight to Los Angeles and work a midnight-to-6 a.m. shift at KNX. The game had been delayed an hour because of a brawl.
"I handed him a message that said: 'Hey Joe, I've got to go. Can't miss the last flight,' " Seward said.
Seward was in attendance when Loyola basketball player Hank Gathers collapsed and died during a West Coast Conference tournament game in 1990. Seward broke the story for KNX and was later hired as a street reporter.
During the past two years, Seward has worked exclusively as a "hired gun" in sports. (Fred Gallagher holds the only permanent sports position at the station.) In January, Seward was one of three announcers nominated for a Southern California Sports Broadcasters Assn. award. In March, he began working as a weekend replacement on KCBS.
But does he miss those Friday nights coaching football?
"I think if the right position opened up, I would be interested," he said. "Right now, I'm in my prime earning years and I can't afford another pay cut."