The two conversations in December 2017 couldn’t have been more different.
One left me at a loss for words. One provided hope.
My boss at Landmark was the first phone call. He is a good man, a person who hired me and allowed me to make consequential decisions for more than three years as the Osceola’s editor. But he admitted that Landmark Community Newspapers, the Osceola’s owner, wasn’t in it for the long term and was interested in selling the Osceola.
A few weeks later, my iPhone rang and a name popped up: Jerry Kutz. I smiled. After a few quick hellos, Jerry asked me a loaded question about the Osceola – a publication he launched in 1982 but had not been a part of since 1999 – when he asked, “What’s going on with the Osceola?”
I laughed. I rambled and painted a picture of the Osceola that needed more than ownership. There was no vision for the Osceola. I told him that I had been meaning to call him for advice. But the Osceola really needed more than just advice.
That’s what makes me proud to write this: Jerry Kutz is the owner of the Osceola again. And his vision – his thoughts blended with conversations with friends, colleagues and fans – for the Osceola is for subscribers to read about FSU athletics, the business of college sports and exciting fan experiences.
One of my favorite words is perspective. Take a look at a topic, take a walk around it, see it from all people involved. Lay out those viewpoints, explain the “why.” That’s the story.
And with Jerry, he’s always sought the why. And tried to to convey his knowledge to FSU fans. Jerry’s perspective is priceless.
He was born and raised in Miami, went to high school in Brevard County and graduated from the FSU College of Business (1974) with an MBA (1975). He went to work in the computer industry in Central Florida, joined the Boosters, bought season tickets and was instantly appalled by the Orlando Sentinel’s seeming love affair with the Gators. Minimal coverage of FSU’s 1980 win over No. 4 Nebraska was the final straw and, by 1982, the Osceola was born.
Jerry is an FSU fan even though many view him as an “insider” because of his work experience with the Osceola and then Seminole Boosters, Inc. He challenges himself daily to think like our fans, who sacrifice so much to support the progam, especially those who live outside Tallahassee. More than 70 percent of FSU’s season ticket holders and Boosters and nearly 90 percent of our Osceola subscribers live more than 100 miles from town.
Bobby Bowden and athletic director Hootie Ingram gave Osceola’s first editor, Steve Ellis, and Jerry open door access to the program. They wanted Jerry and Steve to get the story right, so they granted access, a privilege The Osceola constantly had to earn to retain. They had access to every practice, every workout. They allowed Jerry and Steve to watch film with the coaches, “Not because they liked us,” Jerry said, “but in hopes we would manage to get the story right.”
And they drank all they could from that well. They learned about the X’s and O’s and the Johnnies and Joes. But more than that, they learned about the lives of the coaches and the players and how to interact as reporters in order to deliver news to readers.
Did they have conflicts? You bet. Coach Bowden, or another of his staff, would challenge facts when they weren’t right, or in how The Osceola was covering the program. “Coach Bowden maintained the relationship with us because the Osceola was the channel for him to talk to our readers, who he knew were his supporters,” Jerry said.
When Jerry sold the Osceola in 1999, he was offered an opportunity to work for then President Sandy D’Alemberte. He took the opportunity to work inthe FSU communications department and gained perspectives he hadn’t had as a reporter. A few months later Athletic Director Dave Hart and Seminole Booster President Andy Miller asked if Jerry would like to work with one or both of them in athletics and the Boosters.
For the next 19 years, Jerry worked for Miller in Seminole Boosters, handling communications, marketing, fundraising, fan experiences, ticket priority, capital campaigns and special projects, like the renovation of Doak and the construction of the Champions Club. Often those projects were collaborations with athletics – some more seamlessly than others – so he learned a perspective on tickets, compliance, athletic budgets, game day operations, facility construction and maintenance and a lot more.
There’s that word again: perspective. Jerry will bring his experience and is happy to answer your questions, often with disarming candor.
He’s also developed a plan (more here in his column) for who we would hire and how we would cover not just FSU’s teams but the business side of athletics as well as the fans’ viewpoint.