Longtime CBS Sports Maintenance Engineer/Fiber Pioneer Mike Collins Dies at 61
Mike Collins, longtime maintenance engineer for CBS Sports and NEP Broadcasting and a stalwart on CBS’s golf coverage for more than 20 years, died on Wednesday following a battle with liver cancer. He was 61 years old.
“The man was brilliant at whatever he did on the engineering front, but he was also just a great human being,” says USTA Director of Broadcast Operations Steve Gorsuch, who knew and worked with Collins for nearly 30 years. “I can’t think of one person who would have had a bad thing to say about Mike. He was certainly among the most well loved people on the CBS Sports Team and his CBS Golf family.”
Born in New York City in 1950, he moved with his family to Sydney, Australia, when he was 5 years old and later to the Wentworth Estate just outside London. Collins’s parents were members of the Wentworth Golf Club, his father an avid golfer. He quickly developed an irresistible passion for the game that would stay with him for the rest of his life.
In addition, Collins showed a unique interest and talent for engineering and the mechanical side of things from a very young age. “He was a natural [engineer] from the beginning,” says his sister Theresa Collins. “When we were children, we would be given an alarm clock or record player or something for Christmas, and he would immediately take it apart and lay out all the pieces. He just wanted to see how it went together. Then he would put it all back together, and it would work perfectly.”
After Collins and his family returned to the States in Westport, CT, he attended college at Quinnipiac University and Mitchell College in Connecticut. After graduating, he was hired as an engineer at the CBS Broadcast Center in New York. He later became a maintenance engineer on CBS Sports’ MU-7 mobile-production truck, working everything from the NBA and NFL to horseracing and ice skating, but golf remained his passion.
Collins was eventually elevated to chief maintenance engineer for MU-7 and preached a new, more cooperative philosophy at CBS remote-production compounds.
“Back then, at CBS, you were assigned to a mobile unit, and that was all you did,” says former CBS maintenance engineer Frank Harvey, currently NBA Entertainment senior director, technical services. “Mike and I were on different mobile units, but we would work as a team troubleshooting problems. If Mike had the most camera problems on a given day, we would plan to attack those problems first and save my smaller problems until later. That was way ahead of its time, and many of the EICs fought it. It wasn’t until a few years later that that became the norm.”
In the ’90s, when CBS Sports began to integrate fiber-optic connectivity into its golf productions, Collins transformed himself into the network’s resident fiber expert in an effort to cement himself as a regular on CBS’s golf coverage.
“Mike’s desire was to be out on golf shows all the time,” says NBA Entertainment VP of Engineering Mike Rokosa, who worked with Collins at CBS Sports Field Operations for more than a decade. “So when we introduced fiber optics to the golf tour, it gave Mike his first real opportunity to develop a niche for himself that would allow him to do more golf.
“He made himself an expert and taught himself everything there was to know about fiber optics,” Rokosa continues. “At that point, our fiber [technology] was a bit finicky, and he became the guy who needed to be there if you wanted things to work correctly.”
In 1998, CBS shut down its field operations department and tapped NEP to provide mobile units for its golf coverage. Collins quickly became a key freelancer for NEP on these golf productions (as well for the NFL and other shows), focusing on the fiber side once again. He continued working for NEP throughout the next decade before returning to CBS Sports almost exclusively over the past five years.
Collins was a long-time resident of Hilton Head Island, where he owned a home on the course at Golden Bear Golf Club at Indigo Run and played golf regularly.
“He was a scratch golfer for most of his life; he probably could have been good enough to be a professional, but his temper tended to get the best of him,” Gorsuch laughs. “Even in his later years, Mike could hit the crap out of the golf ball, and he had amazing timing and skills. He just loved to be out on the course playing or working, and I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed working with him out there.”
Collins is survived by his two sisters, Theresa Collins and Sarah Mucci.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday March 3 at 10:30 a.m. ET at St. Francis by the Sea Catholic Church in Hilton Head Island, SC. CLICK HERE for more information.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to St. Francis Catholic School:
St. Francis Catholic School
St. Francis by the Sea Catholic Church
45 Beach City Rd.
Hilton Head Island, SC 29926