Fred Gaudelli was all set.
It was the winter of 1978, and as someone who wanted to be Marv Albert when he grew up, he had been accepted to the only school to which he applied — Emerson College in Boston, which is highly regarded in media studies.
Then his father drove him from their Westchester County home for a visit.
“I had never seen a college, I’d never been on a campus,” said Gaudelli, NBC’s producer for Super Bowl LII. “My vision of college was a beautiful campus and grass and people hanging out and having a good time.”
Emerson is an urban school that abuts Boston Common, but it does not have a traditional campus. It was not for young Fred, who on the drive home informed his father — “who was ready to kill me” — that he did not want to attend the school.
This was problematic, given that he had applied nowhere else, and it was mid-winter. That was when an aunt, Maria Gaudelli, a schoolteacher, recalled a student who aspired to be a sports announcer and went to a college called C.W. Post.
Soon a brochure arrived in the mail, and Fred was headed to Long Island.
“It’s, like, early May and it’s about 82 degrees and I parked my car, and there’s not a cloud in the sky,” he said. “There’s this thing called the Great Lawn — Frisbees, kegs of beer — and I’m like, yeah, this is what I thought college would be.”
He visited the dorms, visited the radio station, WCWP, and registered before he left campus. “I got home and said to my parents, ‘This is where I’m going to college,’ ” he recalled.
Forty years later, he has no complaints about how his late detour to LIU Post turned out.
He has won 21 Emmy Awards, is producing his sixth Super Bowl and is executive producer of “Sunday Night Football,” prime time’s top-rated TV show six years running. Before joining NBC in 2006, he produced ABC’s “Monday Night Football.”
Gaudelli credited the early influence of Bill Mozer, a media professional who ran WCWP like a business and did not make it easy to get on the air.
“He was a taskmaster,” Gaudelli said. “He didn’t cut you any slack, and what he taught you was if you were going to achieve anything, you have to work really hard for it. That experience was tremendous.”
The “next Marv Albert” called football and basketball and, for his grand finale, a conference championship baseball game played at Shea Stadium.
But it was during a senior-year internship at the Channel 5 show “Sports Extra,” with Bill Mazer and John Dockery, that Gaudelli decided he did not have the voice for play-by-play work and instead wanted to operate behind the scenes.
“We’d go in on Friday and cut highlights and on Sunday we’d be screening games and cutting more highlights,” he said. “That’s where that notion got put in my head where production might be the better route for me than to pursue an on-air role somewhere in the 189th market in the United States.”
Gaudelli’s first assignment at “Sports Extra” was to accompany Art Shamsky to Brooklyn to see high school shortstop Shawon Dunston, whom the Cubs drafted No. 1 overall that year.
At 57, Gaudelli said he is more at ease coordinating a Super Bowl telecast than he was the first few times, but that the preparation remains as thorough as ever, and that “on Sunday, there will definitely be butterflies.’’
He added, “You’re trying to present a perfect telecast. You know that’s probably not possible. In fact, you know that it’s not possible. But you are trying to make it as good and as fun and as enjoyable as you can for the hundreds of millions of people who are going to be watching it.”
Gaudelli works closely with director Drew Esocoff, who is about the same age and also grew up in the New York area, in northern New Jersey. He also wanted to be Marv Albert.
“We have the exact same sports memories,” Gaudelli said. “We look at sports exactly the same way. We remember all these televised games and can pick up specific lines the announcers had or specific shots that were on television.”
Gaudelli said he sometimes allows himself to take a step back and marvel at all that has gone right since that visit to Boston went wrong.
“I consider myself incredibly fortunate, blessed, because when I look at the people in my business who do what I do and see where they came from, I mean really, honestly, I have to pinch myself half the time,” he said.
“Not that I didn’t work for it. I certainly did. But a lot of things had to happen that were out of my control, and they happened.”
Aunt Maria’s suggestion was among them. And that older student who had found his way to Post? It was Dan Reagan, who became a longtime director, including for Islanders and Mets telecasts.
“He was the guy who my aunt said, ‘You remind me a lot of him,’ and then he and I became great friends,” Gaudelli said. “So it’s just kind of funny how it all worked out.”