Fox 8’s McCool returns to Kent State, this time with a sash

Submitted photo

Submitted photo

Mark Oprea

In 1992, Tracy McCool was sitting in Broadcast Journalism 101, listening to a stern warning from Gene Stebbins for new journalism students such as herself. She had just joined TV2 her junior year at Kent State, and switched to a broadcast major after falling in love with the work. Yet her professor still intimidated her.

“I want you all to know that only one out of 10 of you is going to make it in the broadcast business,” Stebbins told the class. “But I want at least one of you to make it big before I retire, and make it in the business.”

Two decades later, McCool is now an evening news anchor at Fox 8, the No. 1 news station in Cleveland, where she’s been working for more than 10 years. After graduating from Kent State’s broadcast journalism program in 1994, McCool spent years away from her alma mater. But she’ll be back this weekend — this time wearing a sash.

  Kent State pride is worldwide   

Boasting students from more than 100 countries worldwide, Kent State is honoring its cultural diversity with a Homecoming theme that celebrates the blue-and-gold spirit that can be found across the globe. After the 14th annual 5K Bowman Cup Race, the parade will begin at 11 a.m. downtown on Main St., led by 2014’s Homecoming Parade Grand Marshal, Tracy McCool. Campus organizations and local vendors will aid in the celebration. To prepare for the 3:30 p.m. Golden Flashes game against the Army Black Knights at Dix Stadium, a Kent State Spirit Party will be encouraging cheer and helping others in the ceremonial face painting at the Williamson Alumni Center at 12:30 p.m. Students are encouraged to wear Kent State colors throughout the day, and throughout the night after the game, as the Homecoming celebration continues.

As Kent State’s 2014 Homecoming Parade Grand Marshal, McCool said she feels humbled and excited to return to the university to lead the weekend’s celebration. After a long hiatus away from Kent State, McCool said she looks forward to visiting friends and memories of a very formative period in her life. Fulfilling a longtime want to lead a Homecoming parade is just part of the package.

“I never thought in a million years that I would be coming back to Kent State to be the Marshal,” she said. “I just feel so honored.”

And the memories return in waves for the media personality.

Along with sitting behind the desk for TV2, memorizing scripts and working the police beat, McCool recalls her time living in Manchester Hall and her roommates in Koontz. To pay rent, she worked most of her college career as a server at Mike’s Place, tending the popular all-you-can-eat fish fry on Friday nights. Instead of traversing the Kent bars late at night, McCool said she hung around with the cops that patrolled around the restaurant. The goings-on of Kent after-hours, she said, piqued her interest as a crime reporter.

“I just thought it was so cool,” she said. “To this day, I say that if I didn’t go into TV broadcast, I would probably be a police officer.”

But McCool stuck to broadcast. With the help of Stebbins, and other professors, McCool interned at Fox 8 News her senior year. She soon got hired as a part-time associate producer and wrote scripts late into the early morning. 

In 2000, McCool signed on full-time as a Fox 8 general assignment reporter after a stint as a morning show producer. For the last 14 years, McCool has worked alongside fellow Kent State alumni Wayne Dawson and Dick Goddard, news personalities who initially made McCool timid and “starstruck.” Today, McCool is an iconic part of Cleveland’s cast of anchors, a familiar face thousands in Northeast Ohio wake to every morning. She also boasts her own fan page.

McCool said her success wasn’t easily prompted.

After more than two decades in the business, McCool asserts that her ambition was key to making it in the tumultuous field of broadcast journalism. From trying — and admittingly failing at — weather reporting to running prompters, McCool suggests that the old adage of journalism schools, “Get off your ass, knock on doors,” applies just as well to the job itself. To stand out, she said, you’ve got to do, and love, all kinds of hard work.

“It’s because the news isn’t going to come to you,” McCool said. “You’ve got to go out there and find it.”

Even after all the years of sitting behind Fox 8’s blue and red desk, McCool still thought of her professors at Kent State and their pressing advice. They hadn’t forgotten about her. When McCool was first running her Fox 8 News Bureau at the Akron Summit Mall, an old friend paid her a visit on the job. It was someone that McCool hadn’t seen since her senior year. 

Stebbins smiled at his former student and shook her hand.

“I’m so proud of you,” he said.

Contact Mark Oprea at [email protected].