Alex Katz had a front-row seat for the NCAA tournament selection show on Sunday. He does every season.
Katz produces graphics for CBS Sports in New York City and works steps away from where Greg Gumbel, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith reveal the bracket on Selection Sunday, creating lasting memories for 68 teams and dashing the dreams of those on the bubble.
For Katz, a 2007 Vandalia Butler graduate who’s the son of Julie and Marc Katz, a longtime Dayton Daily News sports writer, work days don’t get much better.
“I am a fan,” said Katz during an interview at the CBS Broadcast Center in Manhattan on March 13, three days before Selection Sunday. “I really like the mid-major conferences — everyone from the Atlantic 10 to the Horizon League. I always want to see Dayton and Wright State in the field.”
That didn’t happen this year, ending a five-run in which either the Flyers (2014-17) or the Raiders (2018) played in the big dance.
While that may have taken some of the excitement out of the day for Katz, he has a unique job in the sports world in that he and his co-workers get to see the bracket before the rest of the nation.
“A lot of people wonder how far in advance we get the bracket,” Katz said. “Sometimes we get it an hour in advance. Sometimes it’s 10 minutes before the show, and we have to put the whole bracket together. A lot of that depends on the Big Ten champion. In some years, we get handed two brackets, and it says, ‘If Ohio State wins, this is what the bracket will look like. If Michigan wins, this is what the bracket will look like.’”
Katz’s role is creating the template on which others can enter in all the names of the teams, the cities where they’ll be playing, the seeds they received, etc. That graphic appears on the screen next to game highlights or video of teams reacting to the announcement.
Prior to becoming public on CBS, the secrets of the bracket are tightly guarded.
“I don’t get emailed a copy,” Katz said. “I get handed a hard copy. My name is handwritten on it. I’m in charge of it. If anyone sees that lying around and my name is on it, I’m in trouble.”
Several different people finish the bracket graphics, Katz said, and make sure they’re correct.
When the show’s live, Katz’s job is done. He watches to make sure everything looks good.
Of course, the selection show falls in the middle of one of his busiest times. CBS also televised the Super Bowl this season, so that kept him busy throughout the winter. When he talked March 13, Katz had just finished two 15-hour days and expected more long days to follow.
Sports have always been a part of Katz’s life. His dad was the Dayton Dragons beat writer for the Dayton Daily News for many years, starting in 2000 when they debuted at Fifth Third Field. Alex tagged along to Dragons games, Ohio State football games, Dayton and Wright State games, etc.
“When I was really young, it was the Dayton Bombers,” Alex said. “That’s where I learned to not cheer in the press box.”
Katz took his love of sports into the work world after graduating from Columbia University in New York City in 2012. He started at the CBS Sports Network on a part-time basis, working his way up over the years, and has worked at CBS ever since with one exception. He moved to NBC News in January 2016 because of a salary dispute but left later that year because he was worn out by the election cycle.
Katz moved into graphics work because he saw a need. All the graphics viewers see on a screen, whether it be a starting lineup featuring mugshots of each of the players or stats from a game or the name of someone being interviewed, he’s responsible for that.
In the fall of 2014, he made the move to that type of work.
“There was a bunch of structuring above us in terms of management,” Katz said. “That left us without a manager, someone who could do all the technical work. We were on our own island. I started to pick up the slack. I asked the company to get me trained on all the technical aspects. It was off to the races from there.”