If you need to know something, anything, about the University of Wisconsin–Stout’s athletic department, there’s one man you go to. That man is UW–Stout’s sports information director, Layne Pitt. Layne has been involved in informing people about UW–Stout sports for almost 40 years now, ever since he stepped foot on campus in 1978.
As the sports information director, Layne is basically the keeper of all things that have to do with UW–Stout athletics. His job entails writing news, previews, features, taking photographs, taking stats, filming games, assisting with social media, keeping the hall of fame records and countless other duties. Layne has around 15-20 students helping with some of these things, like taking photos or stats, whom he coordinates and oversees. Layne is the only full-time sports information employee.
Layne has always been interested in most of the things he does in his current position. He said that he got his love of sports from his father, so it has always been a constant interest throughout his life. He also loves history, not only in sports but American and world history as well. “I’ve always had a knack for memorizing stupid stuff,” Layne said.
Don Steffen, UW–Stout’s University editor, has known Layne since they were both students at UW–Stout. He described Layne as a “walking, talking Blue Devil history book.” Steffen said that he also goes to Layne for the occasional advice on photography.
“I’ve yet to stump him with a question, though on the rare occasion he’s had to look something up to answer,” Steffen said.
Although Layne has an incredible wealth of sports knowledge, his favorite part of the job is the photography he gets to do.
“When I have the chance to grab a camera, that’s almost like a sense of relief. I just love when I’m shooting, particularly sports,” he said, “If they would say that I could only do one thing that would be it. I’d dump everything [else] in a minute.”
Layne’s passion for photography shows in his work. He captures intense and interesting moments during games. He said he has shot at a quite a few professional sports games like the Green Bay Packers, the Milwaukee Brewers, the Milwaukee Bucks, etc. He recalled one experience when he was shooting a Green Bay Packers game. He ended up getting run over by Packers cornerback Mark Lee on the sideline.
Although he enjoys shooting photographs the most, his other duties are equally as important to the athletics department. “Layne is probably one of the most important pieces of gaining knowledge, getting knowledge and getting it out to the public so they can be a part of what we’re doing,” Athletic Director Duey Naatz said, “We’d be in trouble without him; he’s irreplaceable.”
Layne became involved with UW–Stout athletics when he transferred to the college in 1978 to study industrial education. He had previously been studying photography at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Once he came to UW–Stout, he immediately joined Stoutonia as a photographer, but would later branch into writing about sports as well.
“I got interested in journalism through Stoutonia really. I never planned to be a writer but English and writing always came fairly easily to me. Journalism was just a natural step,” Layne said.
That step into journalism turned into a career. After Layne graduated from UW–Stout in 1981, he went to work at the Dunn County News, a local newspaper. He worked there for 11 years, writing and taking photographs, working his way up to an editor position as well. He stayed tuned in to Stout sports throughout this time.
In December of 1994, Layne returned to UW–Stout as the sports information director and has stayed in that position since. Layne noted that he has even been in the same office since 1994, although his job has changed quite a bit.
Layne outlined the various ways his job has changed as the digital age has continued to take over the way people consume media. He recalled having to develop photos in a dark room or send articles out by fax.
“I got rid of the fax machine probably five years ago,” he said.
Layne built the first website for UW–Stout athletics himself, going to the Administrative Office and manually writing HTML code so that they could have team schedules online. Although the website has since been updated to include much more information, he still runs it.
Layne said the new way of doing things in the digital age is a double edged sword. Information is easier for him to obtain or send out to people through email, but people’s appetite for information has increased as well. He noted that people want to see live streams of games; they want to know things as quickly as possible, which creates more work.
Both Naatz and Steffen had nothing but nice things to say about Layne, both saying that he is well respected professionally and great at what he does. “I think he’s one of the best in the country at what he does. He has so much knowledge of sports and UW–Stout knowledge,” Naatz said, “He is the ultimate professional in his field; he’s awesome.”
“[I have] a job where you get paid to watch sports. It’s not brain surgery or rocket science, but it’s enjoyable,” Layne said, “I’ve been able to spend the last 40 years watching other people’s kids play sports.”