Most folks in the TV industry know Ken Aagaard as the straight-talking sports production veteran at CBS. He“s the same guy who once fibbed about his age to get a job as a caddy in suburban Chicago.
“I told them I was 12 when I was 11,” Aagaard said, recalling the start of his career in sports.
“I always wanted to pay for my own stuff. My parents were middle class. Mom was a school teacher, dad was a salesman,” he said. I always knew I had to work to get what I wanted.”
Looking back, caddying was more than a job; it was a lesson in discipline. There are definite skills that differentiate a good caddy from a guy schlepping a bag of clubs. It was also hard work.
“When I was 12, I started carrying doubles,” Aagaard said. “It looked like the bags were carrying me down the fairway. You had to be in good shape. I was making $3.50 a bag, and I“d pray for a buck tip. So with a double, I could make $8. You would just pray you“d get players that were good so you didn“t have to go back across the fairway all the time.”
The better the caddy, the better the tips. Aagaard started at No. 287, and retired at the age of 18 at No. 2.
Caddying was merely one of Aagaard“s gigs as a youngster. He worked as a janitor, a landscaper and an orderly at the Evanston Hospital. Sports and broadcasting first came together for Aagaard at New Trier High in Winnetka, where he announced for the swim team on the school“s radio station.
“Our team won the state champion each year, but we could only seat 100 in the natatorium,” he said, hence the radio coverage. “Just try to do swimming play-by-play.”
Aagaard announced other sports in college, but it wouldn“t become a career.
“I had a squeaky voice, and I tended to get to excited. I knew I would eventually have to be behind the camera,” he said.
He intended to make documentaries when he graduated from college with a degree in radio, TV and film.
“I was going to be the next Edward R. Murrow,” he said. “I was going to make all these social comments... this was the ‘60s.
The documentary job he“d lined up with KMOXAM in St. Louis fell through when the station cut the department. Instead, he became operations manager at WMAQ-TV, the NBC affiliate in Chicago.
There was no looking back.
Aaagard would eventually manage sports operations at Peacock Network, where he developed his game for remote production. In 1988, he would parlay that into a consulting firm, Creative Broadcast Techniques, which his wife, Emerald Chin, continues to run today. Aagaard joined CBS Sports in 1998, where he continues to manage all aspects of field events.
He“s at his typical 10-year change mark, but he has no plans to leave CBS anytime soon. A five-year-old daughter keeps him hopping at home, and the rapid changes in technology keep the work interesting.
“The technology is moving so fast, it“s scary, but it“s exciting. I“m not an engineer, but I have a pretty good ability or idea of how technology can be used,” he said. “I“m kind of a bridge between the technologist and the production guys. I“ve spent my whole career introducing ideas that are never accepted initially.”
Aagaard“s ideas have served his career well, but he“s always ready if things fall through.
“I“m never afraid of what my next job will be,” he said. “I“ve always felt like I could go back and caddy. They“re paying more than $3.50 now. to use it.