Viewers may know Tyler Cass as a sports anchor for THV11, but he first received screen time as a teenager in Los Angeles, where he worked as a background actor for TV shows such as Medium, CSI Miami and Gossip Girl.

 

“It’s a whole different world from the TV news side of things,” he said. “I’m much happier on this side of it than that side.”

 

Even at that age, Cass knew he wanted to be a sports reporter. In fact, it had been his dream since he was a small child. He studied journalism at Syracuse University in New York. After he graduated, he applied to more than 80 different stations and landed three interviews, the last of which was at 5NEWS in Fayetteville.

 

“Breaking into it is real tough,” he said of sports reporting. “I have high school athletes ask me all the time about getting into this because they see this as something super cool, and it is.”

 

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While in Fayetteville, Cass covered the Arkansas Razorbacks and about 55 high school teams. Cass did not know much about the Hogs when he moved to Arkansas in 2016. Now he is the regular “Arkansas guy” on sports radio shows.

 

Growing up, he supported the University of California, Los Angeles when faced with the ubiquitous choice to support the Bruins or the University of Southern California. Then he spent his college years immersed in the Big East and then Atlantic Coast conferences. He has now become attached to what is arguably Arkansas’ most beloved mascot. 

 

“You can’t be around these teams, these players, and then this fan base without subconsciously starting to root for them,” he added. “I’m on my third football coach that I’ve covered now, and I see how these fans stick through the absolute worst of times.”

 

Although Cass covered a few rocky football seasons, he said the past few seasons have been redemptive, and the Razorbacks have also provided him with opportunities to cover a variety of sports.

 

“I’ve been pretty lucky, other than the dark times for Razorback football, that I’ve been here for, really, a boon for sports in the state,” he said. “The baseball team, men’s and women’s basketball, the soccer team, heck, even the volleyball team this year, softball, of course — everyone’s going through, probably, their best five-year stretch in Razorback’s athletic history.”

 

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Having experienced football fandoms on both sides of the country, the Southeastern Conference and the Razorbacks themselves are in a league of their own, he said. While fans often want sports anchors to root for the Razorbacks with them, Cass said his job is to cover the team, not to cheer them on.

 

“I hope they do well. From a selfish standpoint, I get to do cooler things when the Razorbacks are doing well. I got to go to Omaha to cover the College World Series,” he said. “I want good things for Hog fans, but that line between Hog fan and Hog media can get blurred sometimes, and I try to stay pretty firmly on the media side, but you get caught up in it sometimes.”

 

During his five years at 5NEWS, Cass often collaborated with THV11, which is also owned by TEGNA. Cass had become acquainted with Hayden Balgavy, the sports anchor, and when Balgavy became the co-anchor of THV11’s Wake Up Central two years ago, he looked to Cass as his replacement.

 

Now in Little Rock, Cass covers about 130 high school football teams, but the Razorbacks are still the stars of the show. He goes into work at 2 p.m., and even before then, he checks social media to see if there are any sports happenings and joins press conferences via Zoom. At work, he attends the afternoon content meeting to discuss the stories for the evening news.

 

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After that, he often visits local high schools and interviews players and coaches. Then he heads back to the office in time to produce the 6 p.m. newscast. After that, he usually goes home for dinner unless there is a game to film, then heads back to the studio for the 10 p.m. newscast.

 

Cass produces both segments himself, from writing and adding graphics to creating scoreboards and editing. He said he has added some interesting elements to help make the segments appealing, even for those who do not enjoy sports.

 

“Along with giving the sports fans everything they want to know and doing so in an engaging way, my other goal is to get people who aren’t necessarily sports fans or Razorback fans to still watch and go, ‘Oh, that was somewhat entertaining,” he said.

 

He added that if there is one thing journalism school taught him, it is that he prefers covering sports to news. However, this summer, he had to slip into the news role more often because of the deaths of former Razorbacks such as Ryan Mallett and Alex Collins.

 

“The sports world kind of had to deal with what a lot of the news reporters deal with every day as far as learning to deal with tragedy and death and talking to people around that,” he said, adding that he also saw how sports helped people overcome the loss of their friends and mentors. “Sports can be so fun and so goofy, and we can mess around with it, but there’s plenty of times where it is real and means so much to people, and those are the uplifting sides of when we have to do difficult things.”

 

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Cass came to Arkansas excited to cover the Razorbacks and the SEC, but he said his proudest moments center around the hyper-local coverage of high schools and individuals in both high school and college who helped put their teams on the map.

 

“You can see and hear the kind of feedback we get from not just the players and coaches of those teams, but the parents and grandparents, the people from these towns, big and small, where they live and die with the high school football team,” he said. “Those kinds of things have been something I don’t think I really expected when I got into this business.”

 

Cass added that his career goals have always been to find a place where he was happy and could make an impact, and that is Arkansas.

 

“If there’s one thing that living in this state and working here has done, it’s turned me into a life-long Arkansas defender,” he said. “I will always sing the praises of the Natural State and the Hog fans who, I think by and large, are both perfectly understood and simultaneously misunderstood at the national level.”

 

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