It was a radio sitting next to a speaker phone on one end of the line, and another speaker phone on the other end.
In the days before the Big Ten Network, when big IU basketball games were often broadcast locally on WTTV-4 only in Indiana, out-of-state fans did what they had to do.
That was fanatical Indiana fan Mark Cuban’s method at times for listening to IU games from Dallas in the ’80s and ’90s.
The voice emanating from the radio to the speakerphone, through phone lines traversing the country, and ultimately to another speakerphone and then Cuban’s ears was of course none other than that of Don Fischer.
Cuban grew accustomed to hearing Fischer’s radio calls of IU games during his time as a student at Indiana.
He attended the school during the golden age for the basketball program. Cuban graduated in 1981, the same year that the Hoosiers won their fourth national title.
By now you likely know the story.
In the early 90s, Cuban was already a millionaire after he sold his first successful company, MicroSolutions.
But an idea from his business partner changed everything.
In 1995 Todd Wagner came to Cuban with a concept.
“Look, I’ve been talking to some people,” Wagner famously said to Cuban. “What do you think about the idea of broadcasting sporting events over the Internet?”
With the internet at its infancy, Cuban, Wagner and others saw the opportunity — and they got to work.
Originally called Audionet, the company approached schools to request permission to broadcast their games online.
The concept quickly took off, and by 1998 the company that came to be known as Broadcast.com had the largest single-day gain in the history of the stock market at the time in connection with its initial public offering.
By 1999 the company had expanded beyond sports and even helped to stream the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
Later that year Yahoo! purchased Broadcast.com for a cool $5.7 billion.
“Speakerphone to speakerphone, Don Fischer’s call, spearheaded him to be one of the 200 richest men in America,” IU head coach Archie Miller said on a recent podcast with Fischer.
Although he received Yahoo! stock as his form of payment in the deal, Cuban successfully navigated the stock market crash that soon followed, and he acquired the Dallas Mavericks in 2000.
Meanwhile, back in Indiana, Fischer’s life has gone on largely unchanged over the last 25 years.
Although in many ways the beloved voice of the Hoosiers was the inspiration that helped Cuban see the potential in Broadcast.com, to this point none of those billions have hit Fischer’s bank account.
Cuban recently joined the Indiana basketball team on a Zoom video conference, and head coach Archie Miller listened as he told the story of becoming a billionaire.
“So Fisch is the whole reason why you’re a billionaire, and he didn’t get any of that money,” Miller playfully asked Cuban during the meeting.
It wasn’t the first time Cuban had heard the question.
Fischer spotted Cuban in Indianapolis a few years earlier and thought he might as well at least inquire if perhaps a check might be lost in the mail.
“I went up to him and introduced myself at a Pacers game a few years ago and said I guess I’m the reason why you’re a billionaire,” Fischer shared on the podcast with Miller.
The billionaire from Miller’s hometown of Pittsburgh has been more than generous when it comes to sharing his fortune with his alma mater.
He donated $5 million to create a first-of-its-kind, cutting-edge, student-focused video, broadcasting and technology center in 2015.
The Mark Cuban Center for Sports Media Technology is housed within the home of IU basketball at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
“Whatever I give to IU, it will only be a fraction of what Indiana University gave to me,” Cuban said at the time of his gift.
But Fischer is still waiting.
Cuban is of course well known as one of the investors on the Shark Tank television show.
At this point he has heard it all when it comes to pitches to get a share of his fortune.
After exchanging pleasantries during that chance encounter in Indianapolis, Cuban set the record straight with Fischer.
The shark didn’t take the bait.
“Your’re not getting any of it,” is how Fischer reports that Cuban responded, no doubt with both still smiling in the playful spirit of the exchange.
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