Jeff Gravley has worked at WRAL-TV in Raleigh since he graduated from NC State in 1985. He started as an intern, then worked as a news photographer before making the move to the sports department. In 2008, he became WRAL’s primary sports anchor, and was honored last year as the North Carolina Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association. We caught up with Gravley from snowy Syracuse, N.Y., where he is covering the Wolfpack in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA basketball tournament.
What is the most memorable sports event you’ve ever covered? That’s gonna be hard. I can probably give you five. Last summer, getting to cover two weeks of the men’s and women’s U.S. Open [golf championships] in Pinehurst, N.C. I’ve been to 17 Final Fours. I’ve seen Duke and North Carolina win national [basketball] championships. I was still in school at NC State when the Wolfpack won in 1983, so I’ve never covered them in a Final Four, and that would be something special if I could. I’ve covered the Panthers in the Super Bowl. I’ve covered Ohio State winning the national [football] championship over Miami in 2003. I never thought I would be able to say, working in Raleigh, that the Stanley Cup would be brought into our city. Seeing the Stanley Cup come into PNC Arena [then the RBC Center] was absolutely amazing.
You graduated from NC State, but does that mean you are an NC State fan? You know, I had to check my fan card in when I got my job back in 1985. When I became an intern at WRAL, I had just graduated from NC State and I was like, “Well, how am I gonna go cover Duke and North Carolina being a State grad?” What I found out is that while I’m a State grad, I’m an ACC guy. Getting to cover Duke in the late ‘80s back when Jay Bilas was there and Johnny Dawkins, Tommy Amaker, I found out that there’s good people there. How many people can say that they’ve gotten to cover teams coached by Jim Valvano, Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski? It gives me chills to even say that because it’s such a privilege to get to do that.
Are there still North Carolina and Duke fans who accuse you of being biased? Oh, absolutely! Once they see where you went to school, then they associate you as being a fan of that school. I’m not a fan of any school. I’m a fan of what I do. I get accused all the time of slanting stories in the direction of NC State and shunning Duke and North Carolina, but I also have fans of NC State who get on me for not being an NC State cheerleader. I’m not a cheerleader. You can’t be a cheerleader in the media, in this market with three schools, and I learned that very early.
During the first few years of your career were there concerns that you might not make it? I never started out wanting to be on the air. I started as a photographer and I loved shooting and editing. Once I became a reporter and an anchor, what I really enjoyed doing was telling stories. Whether it’s about people, an event, I just really enjoy telling stories of unexpected success. I mean, in Pittsburgh, NC State defeating LSU in the way it did and then following it up by defeating Villanova. Those were fun stories to cover. Getting to go in the locker room after those wins and see the joy on the players’ faces, see Mark Gottfried hug his daughter. Those are things not a lot of people get to see, and I don’t take that for granted.
You are in Syracuse right now…do you have a specific routine when you are in the field covering a story? If it’s a big event like this and I have a lot of free time, I’ll scribble notes down to try and come up with interesting story angles. What are the stories that I can tell that people may not know about? That people may learn something from? Not every person watching television news is a sports fan, so can I tell a story that transcends their interest?
What do you do in your free time? I love to go watch my daughter play volleyball whenever I can. She’s a junior at Elon right now. I’ve enjoyed watching her be an athlete. The number one go-to thing to do in my time off is to go to the coast and sit by the water. I’m pretty content doing that.
— Christian Candeloro