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Ryan Smith

Alumnus Ryan Smith Combines Love of Law and Sports With His Passion for Journalism

December 6, 2023

SU News

He anchors ESPN’s flagship show, ‘SportsCenter,’ and is a Sports Emmy-winning host of ESPN’s ‘Outside the Lines’ and ‘E:60’ programs.

As a child, Ryan Smith ’92 B.A. (PSc) had his life mapped out.

Ryan Smith_Kareen Abdul-Jabbar_David Ortiz_
Ryan Smith ’92 B.A. (PSc) anchors ESPN’s flagship show, SportsCenter, and is a Sports Emmy-winning host of ESPN’s Outside the Lines and E:60 programs. He’s shown with guests Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and David Ortiz.

His hometown Philadelphia Phillies were his favorite baseball team, and he envisioned becoming a famous sportscaster like one of his idols, Harry Kalas, the Phillies’ longtime radio play-by-play voice. While at an art show, Smith’s mother met Kalas, and when Kalas found out Smith was interested in a career in sports broadcasting, he recommended Smith study at Syracuse University.

Smith was interested, though, in political science, and decided to make it his major. He says one of his former professors at the time, Alfredo Robles Jr., “set him up for life” by giving him a needed push. “I took his class; and originally, I was messing up and not really doing all that well,” recalls Smith. “But he had faith in me, and after a couple of conversations he told me, ‘You have a great mind for political science.’ Back then, I didn’t really think much of myself in terms of intelligence or education, but he changed my perspective. I ended up getting an A in his class, and his believing in me spurred me on to continue doing well at Syracuse.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree, Smith obtained a degree from Columbia Law School and became a successful lawyer, working for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and as a sports and entertainment lawyer in New York City. Yet Smith didn’t feel satisfied, so he pivoted to pursue a career in television.

Today, Smith is living out his childhood dreams in a career that combines his love of the law and sports with his passion for journalism. He anchors ESPN’s flagship show, “SportsCenter,” and is a Sports Emmy-winning host of ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” and “E:60” programs. Smith also reports on feature stories and investigative pieces while providing legal analysis across multiple ESPN platforms and ABC News, including serving as a regular contributor on “20/20.”

“There are so many times when I walk onto SportsCenter and am in awe of my career. Even though it wasn’t a straight-line path, I got to the point I always dreamt about. I always tell people, just because it might not be what you’re doing right now, doesn’t mean you should let go of that dream,” Smith says.

Read more at SU News.

Published in the Fall 2023 issue of the Maxwell Perspective

Tune In

Ryan Smith ’92 B.A. (PSc) spoke with John Boccacino ’20 E.M.P.A., senior internal communications specialist at Syracuse University, for the podcast ’Cuse Conversations. To listen to the episode, check out ’Cuse Conversations on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play and more.


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