The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Other Sports

July 18, 2013

Fleming, O’Hara, McKinney key in WVU broadcast history

MORGANTOWN — OK, so West Virginia University has entered into a 12-year, $80-plus-million partnership with IMG College (the winning bidder) for the school’s multimedia and athletic sponsorship rights.

The deal goes into effect in the upcoming academic and athletic school year. WVU officials said the agreement is designed to “bring new national and corporate support and bring recognition to the university’s athletic program.”

IMG College, which is reportedly up for sale, will take over not only local game broadcasts and major sport coaches shows for radio and television but also digital platforms, including social media and websites.

Other IMG responsibilities are to include corporate sponsorships, at-event promotions, at gameday, etc.

Even stadium and venues, signages, scoreboards and advertising in WVU owned athletic facilities and publications.

This new relationship is estimated to earn the university an average of about 6.8 million per each of the 12 years. WVU owned its media rights until gaining this partnership under that in-house arrangement. For just two of more than 70 years, the West Virginia Radio Corp. was hired by the university to broadcast football, basketball and baseball games throughout the Mountain State.

To this observer, he enjoyed those broadcasts while growing up in Morgantown and he will miss the Mountaineer Sports Network as it has been.

The university should be grateful for the excellent job WVRC employees did for so long.

I can remember Charley Snowden was the play-by-play announcer for West Virginia’s three-game sweep in 1942 for the National Invitation Tournament Championship at New York City’s old Madison Square Garden.

A special state-wide syndicate of radio stations was put together for that historic and enjoyable event. It remains WVU’s only national title in a major sport.

The late Jack Fleming eventually became “Voice of the Mountaineers” and in his prime I thought he was the best play-by-play football and basketball broadcaster in America. He even called some baseball games.

Jay Randolph, then working for a Clarksburg radio station that outbid Morgantown’s WAJR for radio rights, did very well as football and basketball play-by-play announcer for Mountaineer games in 1960 and 1961.

Like Fleming, Randolph went on to become a legendary broadcaster in both amateur and professional ranks. Randolph, who resides in St. Louis, also did professional bowling and golf as well as football, basketball and baseball.

Fleming broadcast from 1947 until 1959. Randolph took over for for two years, then Fleming returned and did the broadcasts from 1962-1969. Jack Tennant was at the microphone from 70-73, then Fleming came back again and was in the booth from 1974 to 1996.

Woody O’Hara, meanwhile, became a legend himself as color commentator. And eventually Tony Caridi (and his analysts), who has been most popular with Mountaineer fans everywhere, has become legendary on his own.

Kyle Wiggs certainly has developed into a noted baseball play-by-play broadcast announcer for WVU. Ditto Travis Jones, long-time broadcaster of WVU women’s basketball.

The late John McKinney was another key contributor to the WVU broadcasters. He spent most of his life as chief engineer, especially for football and men’s basketball.

WVRC President Dale Miller is extremely proud of those men who have been in his charge nearly 40 years. And he has said he would allow any of his people to be involved with the new setup.

What’s more, his network of 29 radio stations vows to continue its wide coverage of daily sports news and interviews.

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