The “Voice Of” era in college football is definitely over. The precise time of death is a matter of debate.
The mortal wounds certainly started showing when Todd Ellis took over the mic at South Carolina, delivering play-by-play at a rate far below his completion percentage as a Gamecocks quarterback.
Many would say, and few would argue, that the craft of classic homerism was buried along with the great Larry Munson, whose unique gravelly angst was the soundtrack of Georgia football for generations.
The industry was clearly beyond repair when Wes Durham, as smooth and knowledgeable a second-generation broadcaster that’s ever called a game, made the move from the radio booth at Georgia Tech to a television gig.
Now Clemson has delivered a clear message that professionalism in the radio booth is no longer essential, replacing Pete Yanity after 11 solid years with the guy who policed the social media landscape for head football coach Dabo Swinney.
Don Munson (no relation) will take over as play-by-play man for Tigers football this fall in a move that veteran Palmetto state radio host and journalist Phil Kornblut called “a decision based solely on in-house political expediency.”
In announcing the move that will send Yanity back to his full-time duties as sports director and anchor at WSPA-TV in Greenville-Spartanburg, Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich couldn’t find anything damning to say about the man he dismissed to make room for an employee already on the company payroll with nothing better to do for his salary.
“Pete always represented Clemson in a first-class and professional manner and never strayed from his endeavor as a consummate broadcaster,” he said.
Sure is a funny way to reward him for more than a decade of yeoman’s work after bailing the Tigers out of a bind in 2003 when he was thrust into the role after longtime “Voice of the Tigers” Jim Phillips died suddenly a few days after his 400th football broadcast at the Georgia-Clemson game.
Yanity stepped up to the mic in an emergency situation and did well enough to earn the job full time. Folks in Clemson will testify that few, if anyone, on campus worked harder to represent Clemson better than Yanity.
All that effort didn’t seem to mean much when Radakovich (who, it should be noted, played no small part politically in Durham’s move to television when he was the AD at Georgia Tech) saw a place to cut costs and solve Don Munson’s redundancy issues in one fell swoop. Munson has done contract work on baseball play-by-play for years, but most independent listeners wouldn’t equate his work with the job Yanity has proven capable of doing in the franchise sport.
“Having an experienced broadcaster like Don on staff, it’s great to be able to use his talents throughout the year,” Radakovich said.
That wasn’t going to happen in Munson’s previous role of “creative media services director.” That’s a fancy title for saying he spent his days trolling Twitter and reporting back to Swinney on anything players, media or fans were saying about Tigers football.
Whatever value that job had disappeared last summer when Clemson hired Thad Turnipseed to be the program’s director of football recruiting and external affairs. Swinney didn’t want to fire his man, so Radakovich stepped in with this Solomonic solution that got rid of an experienced football and basketball play-by-play guy.
Munson might end up doing a fine job. He’s plenty familiar with the radio game, even if he hasn’t done football play-by-play.
“He has a great understanding of Clemson University,” Swinney said Thursday night on a booster stop at Aiken Tech. “I think Don can bring a perspective that will be really good, because he’s been inside our walls the last three years. He’s been a part of our day-to-day operation from a football standpoint. It’s something he’s excited about, and I’m happy for him and know he’ll do a great job.”
Perhaps nobody will notice the difference, which would say something about the state of radio in the expanding college football empire.
There was a time when radio was king. Before football flooded television on every channel just about every day of the week, fans developed a deep connection with their team “Voices.” These characters filled our homes on fall afternoons and their inflection and signature calls became as familiar as our own family parlance. As colleague Ken Burger said, those voices gave us reasons to wash our cars on crisp Saturday afternoons with the radio blaring the rhythm of the big games.
Even after the TV era came along, Georgia fans were known to turn off the volume on their sets and listen to whatever “hobnail boot” nugget might come out of Munson’s mouth on the air. The two entities were inseparable in people’s minds.
Now it seems all anybody wants from radio is a scoring update if they’re stuck running an errand during the game telecast.
Yanity – with his familiar “orange in the end zone” call – suffered the same fate as Charlie McAlexander did in Columbia in 2003 when the Gamecocks elected to downgrade to a less-qualified homer’s voice. Neither Yanity nor Charlie Mac were the unabashed boosters in the booth that some fans (or administrators) might prefer. They were professionals who knew what they were doing and never embarrassed their schools or teams.
“I want to thank Pete Yanity for the professional manner in which he represented our program,” Clemson basketball coach Brad Brownell said. “He went the extra mile whether it came to getting one of our games in the middle of football season, or the production of the game broadcast or television show.”
Those qualities apparently aren’t appreciated enough anymore as the radio play-by-play craft slips into oblivion with the definitive voices lost.