By Justin Jarrett
Columbia, Mo. (March 29, 2004) — Dream job. Check.
New car. Check.
College diploma. Not quite yet.
Before he walks across the stage at MU in May, Mike Hall landed just about everything he could have hoped to gain with his pending journalism degree. Hall earned a one-year contract as a “SportsCenter” anchor, a new Mazda 3 and a $95,000 salary Sunday, beating Aaron Levine, a Stanford University student, in the finals of ESPN‘s reality series “Dream Job.” Hall, a broadcast news students, received hands-on experience while working at KOMU, an NBC-affiliate and the only commercial television station in the United States that uses its newsroom as a working lab for students.
Hall and Levine, both 22, edged out Maggie Haskins, a senior at Brown University, and Zachariah Sellwyn, a musician and actor from Los Angeles, in the final four. Judges said Haskins was the most-improved contestant from Day 1 and praised Sellwyn’s wit and talent, but in the end it was Hall against Levine.
After the three judges, Tony Kornheiser of “Pardon the Interruption,” Kit Hoover of “Cold Pizza” and ESPN’s scout for on-air talent, Al Jaffe, cut the field from four to two, America’s vote solely decided the winner. Through online voting and text messaging, America chose to cut Levine, leaving Hall as the “Dream Job” winner.
Hall will make his “SportsCenter” debut as an anchor tonight, anchoring the shows at 5 p.m., 10 p.m. and midnight. He can only hope it goes as well as his first “SportsCenter” appearance. After the “Dream Job” finale, Hall got a chance to negotiate his salary in a “SportsCenter” segment with “Dream Job” host Stuart Scott. Hall answered five sports questions correctly, boosting his salary from a $70,000 base to $95,000.”I can’t cry on TV,” Hall said as his parents and two sisters stormed the stage after the announcement.
After receiving the nationwide vote for elimination on the first episode, Hall didn’t receive another vote for the remainder of the show, and he got only 40 percent of the elimination vote in the final round. The viewers, who voted to cut Hall in the first week, voted him the winner in the end.
“They came around,” Hall said. “I don’t know what to say. I just won like a beauty pageant; I want like a crown, and … oh my God.”
The voters weren’t the only ones impressed with Hall’s performance. After dealing with a blank teleprompter, breaking news in the middle of the show and a breaking story during an interview with Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, Hall earned compliments from Jaffe.
“Great job,” Jaffe said. “We really threw a lot of stuff at you, and you reacted very well.”
The night started out right for Hall. Up last in the opening task, “Total Recall,” Hall had the assignment of calling the play-by-play of the ninth inning of Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
The judges seemed to agree that Hall was the best of the four in the play-by-play competition, nailing the call on Kirk Gibson’s home run to lift the Los Angeles Dodgers past the Oakland Athletics.
Having held their own in the play-by-play segment, the contestants had to take on Kornheiser in a segment of “Pardon the Interruption,” ESPN’s afternoon show that features sports banter between Kornheiser and Washington Post colleague Michael Wilbon.
Apparently, making the final two was all about looking good. Each of the final four contestants got $1,000 from Visa to prepare for the finale, which Hall and Levine used to outfit themselves in sharp new suits from Saks Fifth Avenue.
With his first paycheck, maybe Hall can make a return visit to Saks. That suit has served him well.
Note: This story was originally published March 29, 2004, in the Columbia Missourian.
Updated: December 13, 2019