A Spectrum Sports Feature
On August 15th, 2022, Rob Hipp began his first day as the new “Voice of the Bison” for the North Dakota State University football and men’s basketball programs. In addition to his broadcast duties for the Bison, Hipp will direct sports programming for KQWB-AM BISON 1660 and will host the one-hour coaches’ shows for radio and television during football and men’s and women’s basketball seasons.
Hipp, a native of Georgetown, Texas, already feels at home here in Fargo and at North Dakota State. “I grew up in a small rural town north of Austin. Georgetown was a small rural town of about 4,000 people when I grew up there, but it turned into one of the fastest growing communities in America, now over 100,000,” Hipp explained. “Growing up in that setting, everything with this transition kind of feels like home because North Dakota is a very rural community. There are a lot of blue-collar, hard-working people but then you also have some bigger businesses and a lot of white-collar jobs. That’s similar to how I grew up.”
Reflecting on his childhood, Hipp shared some of his early aspirations. “I thought growing up I was going to be a meteorologist,” Hipp said. “I knew in my heart I was going to do something in media, and I thought I was going to be a meteorologist. As I got older, I learned quickly that I am not great at math and there is a lot of math involved in meteorology.”
Hipp started in broadcast media early in life; by tinkering with electronic equipment. Technology was also something Hipp was fascinated by and there was a connection there between media and technology. “I was also obsessed with technology,” Hipp explained. “When I was 12, my brother brought home an F.M. transmitter that he had made in junior high. I hooked up a power pack to it and a fan because it got really hot. Next thing I know, I’m broadcasting about two miles out in my neighborhood.” Unfortunately for young Mr. Hipp, he did not know at the time that one needs a license to broadcast over the airwaves. “My uncle shut it down once he caught on,” Hipp admitted. But it was an intriguing experience and made him even more curious about technology and the broadcast medium.
In July 2004, at the age of 20, he started his own information technology company, Click Computers, in Georgetown. It was one of the early “fix-it” stores in the area and provided computer and internet-related services for the Georgetown area. “I did not take journalism or things like that. My focus in the ’90s, early 2000s was IT,” Hipp said. “If you remember, the expansion of the world wide web and the dot.com “bubble”, dial-up internet and pre-dial up was bulletin boards. I was fascinated that you could sit in front of a screen and transmit information and it would come back to you.” Hipp then, “inadvertently”, started his business, Click Computers, by fixing his teachers’ computers after learning anything and everything he could about computers and the internet.
Fifteen years later, after building the business into two stores with 13 employees, Hipp realized he was not following his dreams. “You fast forward in life and realize you’re not living your dream of being in radio,” Hipp said. “One night, towards the end of that IT business experience, I was out, and I saw Bill Schoening, radio voice for the San Antonio Spurs (NBA), sitting in a bar near my hometown enjoying a glass of wine…so I walked up and talked to him.”
It was to be a fateful meeting in the life of Rob Hipp. The veteran broadcaster Schoening told him if he wanted to get into broadcasting, he needed to, “do his own thing”. Hipp took the advice to heart. “Bill was so gracious and so humble,” Hipp said. “He told me I had the technology side of it down and the business side of it down, why not do my own thing.”
So, Rob Hipp became the owner of another business. This one, in which he partnered with Schoening’s son, Carl, became known as SHN (for Schoening-Hipp Network) Sports. SHN began broadcasting high school games. “We had a vision to broadcast for high schools. This was very pre-Covid like about 2012-2013. Live streaming wasn’t a thing then,” Hipp explained. “We started putting high school games on the internet. We started with audio, then added video and before we knew it, we had 13 schools on board.”
Now Hipp was running (literally) two businesses and had a decision to make. “SHN was starting to grow, and I was still running the IT business,” Hipp remembered. “So, in 2018, I sold the IT business and focused on SHN. I realized I was finally living my dream.”
Eventually, SHN moved into covering college sports. Hipp was now moving up into the world of sports broadcasting in Texas. While still covering high school sports, SHN and Hipp became the broadcast arm of Southwestern University in his hometown of Georgetown. “The experience at Southwestern led to some Division II work,” Hipp said. “That led to some NBA-G League work with the Austin Spurs, which led to public address announcing, some sideline reporting and I was still broadcasting high school sports with SHN.”
Eventually, his big break would happen with Sam Houston State. “So, while I’m doing all of this work and living my dream, I realize I’m just not making enough money to make it work,” Hipp said. “As I’m weighing my options and working on a hodge-podge of things to make my dream work, an opportunity at Sam Houston State presented itself.”
In July 2019, Hipp was hired as the play-by-play announcer for Bearkat football and men’s basketball, sports director at 107.3 KSAM radio, and talk show host for the Bearkats’ weekly coaches’ shows. “I was ecstatic, I was overjoyed because at this point this was everything I had worked for,” Hipp elaborated. “I was a Division 1 broadcaster. It is very hard to get there.”
Since leaving Texas for the Red River Valley of North Dakota, Hipp’s welcome to the Bison Nation has been a smooth one and Hipp feels like an integral part of the team. “After meeting Matt Larson (NDSU athletic director), I immediately knew and felt like this was the place I needed to be,” Hipp confessed. “The way he spoke so highly of NDSU and not just the football program, but all 13 programs. He didn’t say he wanted to win national championships, he said he wanted to win championships. And not just for football.”
“The word I have used to describe it on my broadcasts is excellence,” Hipp continued. “The way that North Dakota State went through the process was very structured, very organized and it just shows how committed North Dakota State is to doing things the right way.”
Outside the broadcast booth, service to others is incredibly important to Hipp. “I had a mentor when I started my IT business,” Hipp said. “David Wolf taught me so many important lessons, both in business and with people. He taught me to be successful, you have to be involved and I mean really involved.” Hipp has been a Rotarian since 2004. “The cool thing about the Rotary Club is when you travel you can search for another club because they are all over the world. They value attendance so when you’re not at home, you can still attend another club’s functions. We are called in life to serve others so that is important to me and why I sign off my broadcasts the way I do.”
When asked what his favorite broadcasting experience has been thus far, Hipp smiled. “Beating South Dakota State in Frisco to win the national championship,” Hipp beamed. “I know Bison Nation is going to enjoy that comment.”
Hipp is thrilled to be here and realizes this is an opportunity, unlike others. “I have never been around a program that has provided me with so many tools to be successful,” Hipp said. “And to have the opportunity to promote the brand. I’d like to promote the brand nationally, not just locally. Locally is important but we’ve got guys running combines listening to our broadcast over what…26 station network. Some FBS programs don’t have 26 stations in their radio network.”
“Honored to be here, looking forward to the future and I just want to represent this organization, this community, the fans and of course, the players with as much class and respect as I possibly can…”