Meghan Finnerty | February 03, 2022
Alum wins Emmy for Role on ESPN’s SportsCenter
Cordell Cumming ’18 says his student media experience helped pave the way for professional success
Before Cordell Cumming ’18 was an Emmy award winner working at ESPN, he was a student at SUNY Brockport.
How did he achieve such success? “The overall message is: hard work is hard work,” Cummings said.
Over the past three years with ESPN, Cumming has earned two promotions and brought home an Emmy in the “Outstanding Studio Show – Daily” category.
While attending Franklin High School, in the Rochester City School District, Cumming came to the realization that he wanted to work in sports.
“Once I found out I wasn’t going to be the next great athlete out of Rochester,” he said jokingly. “I knew I still wanted to be involved in it somehow.”
Once I found out I wasn’t going to be the next great athlete out of Rochester. I knew I still wanted to be involved somehow.
Cumming arrived at Brockport with a sense of urgency to make the most of his time studying journalism and broadcasting, after earning an associate’s degree at Monroe Community College. He had little reporting experience but was determined to get involved as much as possible.
“A part of it was I didn’t have a choice to lay low and enjoy my early college years. Time was ticking, you need a job afterwards,” he said.
Kim Young, who works as an associate professor, internship coordinator, and advisor in the Department of Journalism, Broadcasting, and Public Relations, explained that she’s always encouraging students to get involved with campus media.
Cumming followed that advice.
He worked the 6 am slot at 89.1 The Point, WBSU, Brockport’s student radio station. He woke up before 5 am each day to commute from Rochester to Brockport and be ready to go on-air. “What that taught me (was) if I was going to be who I wanted to be, and graduate, and do what I wanted to do, that’s what I had to do…sacrifice,” he explained.
He split his time between classwork, the radio station, and Talon TV, Brockport’s student television station — where he became the sports director.
“When I was (at Brockport), I didn’t really think about working at ESPN. My sole focus, maybe out of necessity, was to just get whatever assignment I had to get done, done, and do it to the best of my ability.”
That mindset made him stand out.
“There wasn’t anything that Cordell wouldn’t do. I mean, he developed his own sports talk show, he became the sports director,” said Young. “He just was the spark of the whole club. He has so much energy, enthusiasm, and dynamism. It was infectious for everyone in the entire organization. He just made it so much more fun to be part of that club.”
While Talon TV typically met once a week, Cumming put in a lot more hours to cover games, anchor shows, and direct a team of reporters under him. “I think he was in that studio if not every day, almost every day,” Young said. “He kind of moved in there and made it his second home.”
He also took the opportunity to get involved with organizations off campus, including the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) a non-profit that advocates on behalf of Black journalists and media professionals.
After graduating from Brockport, he went to one of the NABJ conferences in Detroit. There he met ESPN recruiters that offered him an interview.
Cumming had been preparing to land a role as a reporter but said when the job offer came from ESPN to work in sports production, he knew to say yes. ESPN is the “holy grail” for people who love sports and TV, he said.
He moved to Bristol, Connecticut, to start his first position as a production assistant on SportsCenter. For about a year and a half he worked editing games for recaps or top 10 plays. Then he was promoted to join the SportsCenter Enhancement Unit, where he worked to create high-end elements for the show. That’s the position that earned him an Emmy at the 42nd Sports Emmy Awards.
Recently, Cumming was promoted again and now works on College GameDay as an associate producer.
Cumming’s recipe for success at ESPN is don’t complain, think about the team that surrounds you, put in a lot of hours, be committed, and roll with the punches.
“I know this is what I signed up for,” he said. “I think I’ve just been blessed to be mentored and surrounded by good enough people, so I’ve seen a little bit of success.”