Every week from late summer to the beginning of spring, college sports aficionados enjoy the likes of big time Division I football and basketball. Those two sports provide a feeling of exhilaration and thrill like no other.
In just his first year at the Hartford Courant, Springfield College alum Joe Arruda earned the chance to cover both the football team and the basketball team at the University of Connecticut, a job that can be at times very strenuous at times. Covering a Division I sport is a respected and coveted aspect of sports journalism – and Arruda has taken full advantage.
Covering UConn has been no easy task for Arruda, as the football team recently became bowl eligible for the first time in seven years, while the basketball team is once again one of the top programs in the country. With this comes one caveat: the basketball season will start before the football season ends.
“Now I’m doing two beats,” Arruda said. “I just have to keep my fingers on both worlds. It can get a little difficult at times.”
The difficulty Arruda alluded to isn’t something new to him. His past has shaped him into what he is today: A guy who loves to cover sports, and one hell of a journalist.
Growing up in Geneva, N.Y., Arruda gravitated toward sports early.
“It was all baseball when I first got into it,” Arruda said. “It was all baseball, watching MLB Network non-stop.”
That love drove Arruda to have one goal in mind when looking for colleges.
“I was very specific: Sports journalism [programs] in New England,” Arruda said.
Through an internship in high school, Arruda initially decided that he wanted to be a sports broadcaster. But as his first year at Springfield College started, something changed.
“[Professor of Communications Marty Dobrow] pulled me aside in Intro to Journalism [class] and told me: ‘You’re really good at this,’” Arruda said. “I had never heard someone tell me that…but once he said it, I just ran with it.”
He then recalled something that he was told in high school that stuck with him: “Journalism is knowing a little bit about a lot of things.”
After that conversation with Dobrow, Arruda set his sights on joining the school newspaper, The Springfield Student.
“I had no idea what I was getting myself into,” Arruda said.
Arruda began writing for the student newspaper the rest of his freshman year, as well as trying out other clubs such as SCTV3 – although he quickly realized that wasn’t the best fit for him.
The newspaper, however, was the place he belonged.
“I was asked to be the beat writer for the men’s volleyball team,” Arruda said. “I knew nothing about volleyball, I just knew this team was number one in the country and was going for a three-peat in national championships. I was just honored to even be asked.”
This proved to be an exciting first opportunity that opened up a whole new part of journalism that foreshadowed what was to come.
“I liked the beat writing aspect and following the team,” Arruda said. “I found a groove in it and it taught me a lot.”
As his skills began to grow and he gained confidence as a writer, he was still hesitant to use his voice.
“When I got to Springfield, I was shy,” Arruda said. “[Then one day] Kris Rhim and Gabby Guerard pulled me aside in the newspaper office and said ‘You need to start talking’…and I haven’t stopped since.”
Arruda became sports editor and then co-Editor-in-Chief of The Springfield Student his senior year. Working for the newspaper provided him the opportunity to cover the Spalding Hoophall Classic twice, as well as the opportunity to travel to California (twice) and attend the Associated Collegiate Press National Conference, both of which provided great chances to make connections – something that he knew could prove to be pivotal in the future.
Writing for The Springfield Student, as Arruda explains, most importantly made him a more versatile writer. Whether it was writing about campus news, social justice, sports or anything in between, Arruda knew it was all valuable. He realized what it did for him as he became an upperclassman.
“As I got further down the road, I began really writing for myself,” Arruda said. “Every story I wrote, I tried to make it one that could be appealing for a future employer.”
After graduating in the spring of 2022, Arruda took an internship over the summer with the Hartford Courant, covering a variety of topics, including sports at all three levels– high school, college and professional.
That internship soon turned into a full time position, and led him to cover UConn football and basketball.
Although Arruda loved the beat writing aspect, he also loved human interest stories, a type of writing that he leaned into at Springfield.
With new head coach Jim Mora at the helm trying to turn UConn’s football program around, Arruda was eager to get started. That excitement was fulfilled with an extraordinary season from the Huskies – something Arruda definitely embraced.
“The storyline behind the season was perfect for what I like to do,” Arruda said. “They became bowl eligible, and the fan base was going nuts.”
With basketball season underway, he knows that work-life balance can be hard. With all of the nonstop assignments, it can be hectic at times. But for Arruda, it’s all part of the plan, and looking at it from a big picture lens has made him love it all even more.
As he puts it: “Tonight I have work,” Arruda said. “I’m going to a basketball game between a top-10 team [UConn] and Oklahoma State. Can I complain about that? I don’t think so.”
Photo Courtesy Joe Arruda