Originally created 09/14/03

Clemson's Phillips celebrated at Memorial Stadium



CLEMSON, S.C. -- The memory of late broadcaster Jim Phillips, known to generations as "The Voice of the Tigers," was celebrated at Memorial Stadium during Clemson's 37-14 win over Middle Tennessee on Saturday.

Phillips' mark was everywhere, except in the radio booth where he colorfully brought Tiger football to life since arriving from Ohio in 1968. There was a moment of silence in Phillips' honor and scores of orange balloons shaped into the broadcaster's "JP" initials were released to the heavens. Tiger players wore "JP" on their helmets.

The large video screen flashed pictures of Phillips throughout his long career. His best calls were broadcast at halftime and Clemson's band spelled "J-I-M" during its routine.

"It's a hard, hard thing to deal with," said Jeff Bright, Phillips' radio engineer the past four years.

Phillips died suddenly Tuesday morning after seven hours of surgery for a ruptured aorta. His visitation was held Thursday in the President's Box at the stadium. He was laid to rest Friday afternoon, a day before what was expected to be his 402nd football broadcast.

"Jim was a perfect fit for Clemson," said Bob Fulton, Phillips' close friend and longtime South Carolina broadcasting rival as "The Voice of the Gamecocks " for 43 seasons.

Fulton came at the request of Phillips' family and called a Tigers series in his friend's honor.

"Today, I'm the voice of the Tigers, but I couldn't possibly replace the man who left," Fulton said. "Thirty-six years, it's really a time for celebration for all the wonderful things he did for the university."

Wearing a purple-and-orange Clemson cap - there's a sight to make many Gamecock fans wretch - Fulton's stately voice told the tale of Clemson's third touchdown drive ended on Chad Jasmin's 3-yard score.

"Mr. Fulton, are you allowed to get excited about that touchdown?" asked Will Merritt, who became Phillips' football analyst this year.

Phillips, 69, called more than 2,000 sporting events for Clemson. He handled broadcasts for football, men's and women's basketball, and baseball. Add in football and basketball coaches call-in radio shows and TV shows and Phillips was the year-round sound for Clemson sports.

"He's set the stage, he's walked through the woods and now we get to follow that path," Merritt said.

Fans unable to get to the visitation or funeral this week showed their emotions at the game, cheering after each of his memorable calls. One blue minivan on the way to the stadium was filled with Clemson stickers and flags. On it's back window was written, "Jim Phillips, the Voice of the Tigers, Thanks for the Memories."

It's been that way since the tragic news broke, said Phillips son Jeff. "The way that the Clemson family has pulled together and made this a true celebration of a man who would be floored by it all and made this a rewarding experience for our family," he said.

Clemson sports information director Tim Bourret, Phillips' basketball broadcast partner for 23 years, was asked by the family to call the game in Phillips' chair. Bourret told the radio audience he was "accepting the greatest honor I have ever received in college athletics."

A large color portrait of Phillips hung on the back wall of the booth with smaller black-and-white pictures of the eight Clemson football coaches he served for lined underneath.

"Jim Phillips provided Clemson coaches, players, administrators, and most of all the fans with a guiding light to Clemson athletics. He will forever be the Voice of the Tigers," Bourret said during his pre-game report.

"Right now, Jim is in heaven monitoring this broadcast and saying, 'OK, Tim, that's enough, I want to hear about the game."'

On the Net: Listen to excerpts of Phillips' calls: http://clemsontigers.ocsn.com/genrel/090903aab.html