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Changing the game: Greg Wolf’s influence on fan experience

USF alum Greg Wolf has worked as the university’s first in-game host for football and basketball since 2014. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

Prior to 2014, USF football games didn’t have much fan interaction during breaks in the action. Whether it was the end of a quarter or a commercial break, there wasn’t much to keep those in the seats engaged and hyped.

That was until 1998 alum Greg Wolf stepped into the spotlight and took over as USF’s first-ever in-game host. Since his arrival, Wolf presents various on-field contests and leads the fans in a variety of chants to keep the energy in the building high.

“We can’t control the gameplay on the field or in the arena, or on the court or whatever, but what we can control is the time that our fans have [and] the entertainment that we provide them [and the] experience that we give them,” Wolf said.

The energy during games and the fans’ involvement changed drastically since Wolf took the mic, according to Tom Hoof, former chief marketing officer for USF. He said Wolf’s involvement changed the way fans get excited during games.

“In talking to students and talking to alumni and what [USF Athletics] needed, they all agreed that there was something missing, and so we tried to really upgrade the game entertainment. Part of the upgrade was bringing Greg,” Hoof said. 

“He got the students fired up, and it was a complete change in the atmosphere at that first game.”

Dozens of games and seven years later, Wolf continues to bring the energy and make sure the crowd has fun regardless of the score. 

While his outgoing personality makes him fit for the role, it wasn’t until later in his life when he realized he would get into the entertainment industry. He discovered a passion for radio and became an entertainer by accident while working at his brother’s restaurant and delivering food for a local radio station.

As an intern for a local radio station in 1996, Wolf was assigned to do a live stunt at the location of the groundbreaking ceremony for what is now Raymond James Stadium. Instead of bringing a pen and notebook, however, he was told to bring a shovel and hardhat.

The radio hosts told Wolf to get into the fenced construction area and start digging. Live on radio, Wolf jumped the fence and got to work.

“You can hear the shovel going in the ground on the radio of me digging and they’re like ‘We’re going to check back with you every 15 minutes just to see how things are going.’ Now mind you, I’m a 19-year-old kid, I’m just doing what they’re asking. I still don’t understand the premise of all this, I’m not listening to the radio show, so I’m just out there digging,” Wolf said.

As he continued digging for a few minutes, a construction crew member showed up. Freaking out, Wolf said the hosts were feeding him what to say. He told them he was with the union who sent him there to continue working, leaving them confused. 

The conversation went on for five minutes until a police car approached. Thinking he was about to get arrested, Wolf started running while still live on the show. 

The police officer ended up catching up to him. Wolf said he stopped running and, afraid to go to jail on his first assignment, he nearly cried and came clean to the officer on what he was doing — while still live on the radio.

“I stopped [running] and I’m almost in tears now because I think I’m going to jail,” Wolf said. “Sure enough, he was listening. The police officer was listening to the bit [on the radio] and said he had to come to see it for himself.

“Thank God the cop was cool, he was a listener and thought it was funny … [The radio hosts] were saying that I was running so fast it was like I had three legs, so that’s literally how the name Third Leg Greg came to be.”

Despite thinking he was about to get arrested for trespassing and potentially losing his internship, Wolf ended up having his big break and the start of his career in radio.

“That was really the beginning of my radio career,” he said.

Wolf worked for the radio station until it was sold in 1998. That same year, Wild 98.7, now known as WiLD 94.1, was born, and Wolf found himself on the station’s promotions team.

“I knew if I get my foot in the door [at the radio station], I’m going to learn every facet of this industry in this building so that I become indispensable,” Wolf said.

As the ratings kept rising, Wolf was offered a three-year deal at the station. Fresh out of college, Wolf ended up having the No. 1 night show in Tampa between 1999 and 2005.

“The guy digging at Raymond James Stadium has now turned himself into a radio star,” he said. “That was my plight into the industry, and that’s what led me down the path to where I’m at today.”

After the end of his contract in 2005, Wolf tried to figure out what his next move would be. He got a gig as a marketing coordinator for the Lightning, where he was in charge of handling all of the team’s marketing facets, from TV commercials, to booking DJ talents to ordering premium items.

Coming from radio, whenever given the chance, Wolf wouldn’t even hesitate with the opportunity to get on stage. On one game night, without anyone to host the game, Wolf volunteered and ran the show.

“That was my first hosting opportunity for the Lightning as a substitute and [I] crushed it,” Wolf said. “I had so much fun again because I’m a fan too. So now, as a fan, to be able to be the biggest fan, that’s a dream come true.” 

When the Lightning got sold in 2009, however, Wolf lost the job he loved and found himself trying to figure out his next move once again.

The end of his career at the hockey team opened new doors. He was “snatched” by iHeart Radio to work as promotions director for a sports radio station.

Wolf worked for the station from 2009-16, when he then returned to the Lightning after Jeffrey Vinik bought the team. He was brought back after a season-ticket members survey from the season prior showed fans were requesting to bring him back to the games. 

Around the same time, Wolf got a call from USF to host the university’s football and basketball teams. Hoof said he set high standards of what the role entails and the importance the hosts bring to games.

“He’s led the path for future people,” Hoof said. “I think that he has his cutting-edge style of what he does and how good he is. I think has really laid the groundwork for when he finally drops the mic, and somebody else comes in.”

The span of his career has collectively reflected his passion for what he does, and Wolf said that his dedication in his field has paid off immensely. 

“I just kind of fell into it. There was no passion from the beginning for radio. It just really clicked when I [interacted with the hosts for the first time],” Wolf said. “I just ran with that spark. I can’t really describe it or explain it. Everything happens for a reason, I guess, and so I just absolutely made the most of an opportunity when it was presented to me.”