Cop by day, football analyst by night

Eric Adelson
Columnist
Rene Ingoglia (R) doubles as police detective and college football analyst. (Courtesy of Rene Ingoglia)

ORLANDO, FLA. — Rene Ingoglia finished his broadcast of Houston’s upset of USF early on Saturday evening, went to check out of his hotel and then made the long, late drive home from Tampa on Interstate 4.

At 12:57 a.m., he was awoken by a call: a 7-11 had been robbed. He put on a polo shirt and dress pants and hurried to the scene.

Within a few hours of calling a college football game on ESPN, Ingoglia was investigating an armed robbery.

“Pretty sure no other announcer has done that,” quips Ingoglia.

It’s been that kind of season for Ingoglia. Twenty-two minutes into a flight to work USF’s matchup with UConn in September, his game was canceled because of Hurricane Irma. Ingoglia had to return home for his other job – detective with the Orlando Police Department.

“Everybody in the department worked 12-hour shifts,” he says. “I picked midnights.”

So after a sleepless night with his family – “I thought my roof was going to blow off” – he scanned the downed trees on his property and went to work. He ended up directing traffic and cruising through a few dark neighborhoods. Then he got back to tracking down leads on an armed robbery at a Walgreens.

That was relatively routine compared to some of what Ingoglia has been through in nearly 18 years on the beat. There was one situation in 2004 where he chased a serial rapist on foot into the woods and set up a cordon until helicopter and K-9 backups came. The perpetrator was caught and eventually sentenced to life in prison.

It’s hard to compare that to pointing out Cover 2 schemes to viewers at home on their couches, but Ingoglia had two dreams growing up – to be in law enforcement and to be in football – and when he got to a fork in the road, he took it.

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Ingoglia is one of the better running backs in UMass football history, but it’s hard not to wonder what could have been. He got offers from bigger schools and then he blew out his knee early in his senior year of high school. The offers evaporated. He remembers getting the hard truth from a recruiter:

“It’s like you go to a dealership,” he remembers hearing. “That’s the car, I want it. You come back and pick it up and there’s a dent. You don’t care how the dent got there. You want the next best model. And that’s recruiting.”

He still did pretty well, though. He was a two-time D I-AA All-American and broke nearly every UMASS rushing record. He made an active roster with the Buffalo Bills and played in a couple of preseason games, and then he won a World Bowl in ’99 as a teammate of Jake Delhomme with the Frankfurt Galaxy. Then heard about an opening at the Orlando Police Department and six months later he had one of his dream jobs.

Soon after, though, he nearly left for the XFL. He says he would have left the OPD if he got drafted. Instead he settled down, got married and started to climb the blue ladder. Midnight shifts gave way to investigating property crimes and then violent crimes. At each stop, he was a good communicator.

“I was real with [criminals],” he says. “I’m truthful with them. I let them know what I know. There were no secrets. A lot of people, when they get to a point, they know they did wrong. If you treat them with respect, the interview goes a lot better.”

He’d probably be a homicide detective now if it not for that other part of his life.

During a UMass game in which he was honored for his career, he took a turn in the broadcast booth and found himself happier than Jon Gruden in a room full of peppy draft prospects. He decided to send a cold email to a UMass grad who was a high-ranking producer at ESPN and he got a reply asking for a demo tape.

He didn’t have a demo tape.

So Ingoglia decided he would get a demo tape. On his off days, he flew himself up to his alma mater and served as an analyst for UMass games for the school’s on-campus network. He took quite a financial hit – Amherst, Massachusetts, isn’t exactly an airline hub – but he was sure he wanted this.

He got his demo, won an award in 2010 and, gradually, he started to get his assignments. He started with three games on ESPN3. Then, in 2011, he got 15 games. In 2012, he got some national assignments. And since 2014, he’s been doing college games. His life is now OPD during the week and ESPN on the weekend – unless something comes up. He loves it.

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Rene Ingoglia was a two-time All-American running back at UMass. (Courtesy of Rene Ingoglia)

Ingoglia’s double-duty offers him a unique perspective to comment on an issue that’s gripped the NFL and penetrated all levels of football: protests of alleged police brutality.

Just last July, the Orlando Police Department found itself at the center of a national outcry when a video went viral of OPD officers struggling to explain why they pulled over Florida’s first African-American elected state attorney.

“I will tell you this, and I believe this, 99 percent of men and women out there do the right thing,” Ingoglia said. “Police officers make mistakes, damn right they do. Are there some bad ones? I’m sure there are, and we need to take care of that. Our [Orlando] chief has fired guys, and we’ve charged people. When officers do wrong, they need to be held accountable.”

Ingoglia himself has worked in internal affairs, though he can’t comment on specific cases. What he can do is offer some thoughts about the dangers of the job, from the perspective of a detective. And he employs one of his broadcasting gifts: description.

“Good officers make mistakes,” he says. “When you’re on midnights, it’s 3 a.m., you pull over a car and you’re all alone, and there’s three or four guys in that car, and you’re walking up to that car and you know your backup is coming, but it’s pitch black and there’s no one around you, you know something is not right and those hairs stand up on the back of your neck, the first thing that crosses my mind is, ‘I’m gonna go home to my kids tonight.’ That’s the most important thing.

“Do you take your gun out?” he continued. “A lot of times you do. You’re not willy-nilly with it. You need to visualize: If he does this, I’ll do that. Knock on wood, I’ve never had to shoot but I’ve had to take it out a ton of times. Society is to the point where [people think] if you take your gun out, that’s just wrong. I got news for you, if you’re showing up on a call, a shots-fired call, your gun better be out or that’s just bad police work.”

Asked if he feels some police officers respond differently depending on the race of the person in the car, Ingoglia says, “For a good police officer, knowing your surroundings – not necessarily who is in the car – is more important than anything.”

He says he is fully supportive of athletes’ right to protest and express themselves. Still, during a long conversation, he allows the slightest bit of frustration.

“Most of the people who hammer on cops don’t actually know what we do, how we’re trained, what the situations are,” he says. “People just don’t understand.”

Maybe Ingoglia can help with that, through a microphone and with his perspective, which is wholly unique.  After nearly 20 years on the force and even more in football, he’s seen a lot. So if you need an expert in double coverage, you’ve found him.

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