For the past 30 years, Todd Ickow has been the voice of the Valparaiso University basketball games, announcing hundreds of games across his career.
Throughout his time with the university, Ickow watched, and announced, as Valpo athletics grew and developed slowly into the well-known program that it is today.
“When I got here… the football team and the basketball team were historically bad,” said Ickow. “[They] were two of the worst teams in the nation.”
Although Ickow has experienced decades of Valpo athletic history right from the sidelines, this season definitely stands out as one of the most unique in his career. Nothing about this athletic season is “normal.”
With a limited game schedule and diminished time for practice and team bonding, the chance for any kind of real success seems unlikely. And for a while, success did not seem to favor this year’s basketball team.
“When a team is thoroughly beaten down to [the point] where it’s embarrassing for [them]... how do you recover from it?” Ickow said. “How you react to that tells all about the character of a person.”
Character is, according to Ickow, the most redemptive quality about this year’s team, both individually and as a program as a whole. Ickow believes that character is arguably more important than a winning record.
“I think Valpo showed [so] much character over the last week by rebounding with three victories - two of them on the road, one of them in double overtime after your two best players had fouled out,” Ickow said. “When something like that happens, it makes you proud to be part of the university [and] to be in some way associated with the basketball program… It was about as bad as it could get a week ago, and now here we are after three wins. It’s a really neat feeling to see how far they’ve come in just a week.”
While the team obviously shares a passion for the game that unites them against the challenges presented by COVID-19, Ickow also shares this same passion for the game.
“I love sports,” he said. “If you love sports, there’s nothing better than being at the games. And announcing is just kind of a bonus - if you love being at the games and you have a passion for announcing the games, those two or two-and-a-half or three hours makes everything else, all the travel and prep and everything, worth it.”
As part of the attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19, Ickow does not attend games in person nearly as often as in past seasons. However, despite this change, he encourages individuals, both athletes and non-athletes, to continue to uphold character above all else.
“You’ll see as you go through many, many changes in life - different jobs, different relationships, moving from town to town - how you adjust to certain things in life tells a lot about the character you are. And the ability to adjust is really important in life.” Ickow said.
While this season is undoubtedly unprecedented and one of the strangest in Valpo’s history, Ickow believes that there is hope for normalcy in the near future, and that the lessons gained by all who have undergone this season of life will carry on into the future, whether on the court or in daily life.
“It’s just another challenge. We’re never too old for new challenges. So we’re doing okay. I think we’re obviously at a point now where it certainly would appear like by next season everything will be back to ‘normal’ and we’ll look back on this as a challenge that we overcame.” Ickow said.