Nitz Brings Tech Athletics to Life Through Radio
Sept. 20, 2011
This is the first of eight feature stories on the 2011 Louisiana Tech Athletics Hall of Fame Class which will be enshrined in a ceremony on Sturday, October 1 at 1 p.m., in the Waggonner Room of Thomas Assembly Center. All are invited.
2011 Class: Longtime NFL punter David Lee, CFL Hall of Famer Matt Dunigan, Kodak All-American Venus Lacy, three-time NCAA rebounding champion Paul Millsap, AP basketball All-American Mike McConathy, legendary broadcaster Dave Nitz, record-setting baseball player TJ Soto, Super Bowl champion Matt Stover.
By Keith Prince
It is easy to understand why veteran broadcaster Dave Nitz is being inducted into the Louisiana Tech Athletics Hall of Fame.
For thousands of Bulldog fans during much of the past 40 years, Nitz has become their No. 1 link to Tech sports.
Concerning Bulldogs athletic action, Dave is their morning cup of coffee, their favorite lounge chair, and a dear, trusted friend -- even though most of those folks have never even met the affable 69-year-old from West Virginia.
Clearly, his melodious voice is their comfort zone for Bulldog sports. When Dave is calling the action, listeners know they will "see" every play, "feel" the excitement of what the home team is experiencing ("You gotta love it") and, yet, also hear a very objective game report that even rewards opponent excellence when it is deserved.
He has clearly become an icon for Tech sports and that is because for the past 36 years it is "Freeway" Dave, who loves to motor down the highway almost as much as he does to call a fourth-and-one at the goal line, who has brought Tech games -- football, basketball and baseball -- into the homes, offices and automobiles of Bulldog fans.
Ruston attorney Steve Davison, who worked the last six years beside Nitz while doing color commentary on Tech football games, perhaps said it best when telling why Tech's announcer is appreciated and enjoyed so much.
"Dave is a story teller. He puts you at ease and holds your interest, and he is always well prepared and very accurate with his calls. I think that is why so many identify with him, and that includes several different generations," remarked Davison.
From a long line of Tech supporters, Davison said, "I grew up listening to Dave. And when I was away at law school, I would call home many times and have my mom put the phone beside the radio so I could hear a game."
As for his work in the booth with Nitz, Davison smiled and said, "As much as I admired Dave before, that appreciation really grew when I worked with him. I don't think I had much talent for the job, but he made it easy for me. When I struggled, he would always come to the rescue.
"I really believe he is among the elite as a sports broadcaster. He can set the scene and paint a picture beautifully. He has a God-given gift, and he has combined that with hard work and true dedication to his profession. I can't imagine anybody else being the Voice of the Bulldogs," added Davison.
Current Tech Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations Malcolm Butler also remembers that "I started listening to Dave call Bulldog games on the radio when I was seven or eight years old. He was my first connection to Louisiana Tech. Now, I've been privileged to work with him the past 13 years and my respect for his talent and his professionalism has only grown. He is one of a kind."
Louisiana Tech fans aren't the only ones who know of and appreciate Nitz's talent. In 2009, he was voted the Louisiana Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.
And, in a book called, "Heartstoppers and Hail Mary's," depicting "The 100 Greatest Calls in College Football," Nitz is included for his work on Sept. 18, 1999, when the Bulldogs stunned Alabama 29-28 at Legion Field in Birmingham.
That call, of course, covered the game-winning 28-yard touchdown catch that Sean Cangelosi made on the pass from backup quarterback Brian Stallworth.
"Yeah, I have to rate that one at the top of my list," said Nitz recently. "But there have been a lot of exciting moments down through the years calling Tech games."
He quickly recalled a basketball game the Bulldogs won 88-87 against the University of Washington "when we scored on three straight possessions in the final 30 seconds to win by one point. Ironically, it was against Andy Russo, who was in his second year there after leaving Tech."
Nitz also remembers the day that a freshman Tech pitcher, Mike Jeffcoat, asked Dave if he had ever announced a no-hitter on the radio, then added, "Well, you are going to do it today."
Playing at Lamar with Tech needing a win to secure the conference title, Dave said, "I'll be darn if Mike didn't go out and pitch that no-hitter and we won 1-0 on a home run by Dale Holman."
The Man with the Golden Voice also admits, "The most heart-breaking call I've had was the loss to Oklahoma in the NCAA playoffs when Wayman Tisdale hit that shot in overtime that seemed to hang on the rim forever before going in."
As for memories he has of that golden season, Nitz laughed and said, "Well, one off-the-court moment I remember is when Karl (Malone) was riding with me in a van in Indiana on our way to a game. We were on an interstate and Karl said, `Dave, if I ever have any money I am going to buy me an 18-wheeler.' As we all know, he accomplished both of those things," said Nitz with a chuckle.
During Nitz' first decade with Tech, he was actually calling football, men's and women's basketball and baseball. That was particularly tricky, of course, during basketball season and there was one weekend in 1989 when "Freeway" somehow pulled off the amazing feat of calling Tech games on both ends of the country.
"Tommy Joe Eagles' Bulldogs had beaten Providence in Boston to earn a slot in the NIT Finals in New York and the Lady Techsters (under Leon Barmore) were playing the NCAA regionals in Long Beach, Calif. I called the game in Boston, then flew to California where I did the Techsters` games, then flew back to New York for the NIT games in Madison Square Garden. It was a pretty wild week," he under-stated.
Although Nitz' loyalty to Tech is legendary, he also will never deny his passion for calling professional baseball. In fact, while he has called over 2,200 Tech events, he has also toiled summer after summer in minor league baseball where he has called over 3,500 games.
For the past three summers, Dave has traveled to Sioux City, Iowa, to call games for the Sioux City team, capping a pro baseball career that began in 1983 when he called the first of three seasons with the Oklahoma City 89ers, the Texas Rangers' top farm club.
Nitz has announced that he won't return next summer, apparently calling it quits for pro baseball, but who can believe that? Last week, Dave said he had heard from the owner in Sioux City, strongly urging him to reconsider that retirement. Nitz laughed and said, "I did tell him to hang on to my phone number."
Of course, should Nitz change his mind and go back to Iowa, that won't be the first little white lie that he's told.
"I do remember telling Marlene (his wife of 48 years) when we came to Ruston in 1974 that most radio jobs work in three-year cycles and that we would likely be heading back home to West Virginia very soon. It didn't quite turn out that way, but I think she forgave me somewhere along the line," he said.
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