The Obvious: Their voice can be the face of a college football program, linking decades of families together while players and coaches come and go. For the University of Southern California football program, it has been fortunate not to have had a constant turnover of gridiron radio voices but has been privileged to have had a select group of high-quality play-by-play men over the decades.
The Not So Obvious: In today’s age of college football television glut, it’s probably accurate to say with all USC football games being televised, the radio voice of the Trojans is not quite as prominent as decades past. Yet, even in this day and age, the radio voice of the Trojans is still a position of high profile in a sports city like Los Angeles, which has had the good fortune of hearing legendary sportscasters like Vin Scully, Chick Hearn, Bob Miller, and Dick Enberg, all of whom have entered various halls of fame, both locally and nationally.
Now, before announcing our four-man Mount Rushmore of USC’s all-time broadcasters, let’s take a moment to recognize a few of those “voices” that probably were more known for their USC football replays on television than they were actual radio play-by-play callers, although one radio voice deserves consideration. Those that deserve honorable mention in no particular order: Larry Kahn (radio) and Ray Scott and Bob Fouts (TV replays).
As always, feel free to differ from our selections and inform us of your own selections on the Garry P. WeAreSC message board. As a little change of pace, go to the message board and give us your favorite call, phrase, or cliché from your favorite USC football radio/TV broadcaster.
The O/NSO now presents our four-man broadcasters for our USC Football Mount Rushmore.
The Obvious: Francis Dayle “Chick” Hearn (1956-1961) is a legend in Los Angeles sports broadcasting and while most identify him with the iconic Los Angeles Lakers of the NBA, he was also the radio voice of USC football and basketball when he arrived from Illinois back in the 1950s.
The Not So Obvious: Chick’s sportscasting career began when he returned to his Illinois home from military service after the war and took a job selling pharmaceuticals. One day, the owner of a small radio station in Aurora asked him to broadcast a basketball game. “I was pretty good at it and the next day the station’s owner offered me a fulltime job.”
Reflecting on his life and early days in radio, Chick said, “I was an excellent salesman, married and unsure about taking the risk.” Chick’s father wasn’t too sure either. “Is radio here to stay?” he asked his son. Chick replied, “Dad, I’m following my passion.”
Chick earned a reputation for being a quick-witted play-by-play man and his popularity grew in the Midwest. By the mid 1950’s, he landed in Southern California where he did local sports on television, which included USC football and basketball on radio.
During his time at Troy, the Trojans were coached in football by Jess Hill, Don Clark, and John McKay and in men’s basketball by Forrest Twogood.
In his six seasons doing USC football, the Trojans record was 29-29-2.
Among the USC football greats that “Chickie” had the pleasure of describing were running backs Jon Arnett and CR Roberts; fullback Ben Wilson; end Marlin McKeever; guards Mike McKeever, Frank Fiorentino and Britt Williams; tackles Ron Mix and Frank Buncom; back Jerry Traynam; and quarterback Pete Beathard. Arnett, Mix, Marlin and Mike McKeever were also All-Americans.
In 1958, Chick helped call NBC’s telecast of the 1958 Rose Bowl Game between Ohio State and Oregon.
While Chick never forgot his USC broadcasting roots, he is best remembered as the NBA Hall of Fame voice of the Lakers for decades, describing the legendary likes of Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kobe Bryant.
In 2002, the USC Annenberg School for Communication established a scholarship fund in honor of Chick Hearn shortly upon his passing in the same year.
In doing research on Chick Hearn’s college football broadcasting career, I was able to uncover Chick along with the legendary voice of the New York Yankees Mel Allen calling the 1958 Rose Bowl Game between Oregon and Ohio State. Below is the NBC telecast with a young Chick Hearn opening up the telecast.
The Obvious: Tom Kelly (1961-1965/1973-1988) is considered the greatest USC football play-by-play voice in Trojans history.
The Not So Obvious: Tom Kelly came to Los Angeles to be with the Trojans after an interesting life in the Midwest. After getting injured while playing football at Northland College in Ashland, Wis., the Minneapolis native helped with his college’s radio broadcasts.
His broadcasting career continued in Duluth, Minn., Des Moines, Ia., and then Peoria, Ill., before coming to Los Angeles to work at KNX-AM on the recommendation of legendary sportscaster Jack Buck, most known as the voice of the baseball St. Louis Cardinals.
Tom broadcasted both USC football and men’s basketball for over five decades.
Tom first called play-by-play of USC football and men’s basketball games in 1961 and from then he was at the microphone for the Trojans almost yearly until 2003. The colorful and golden-throated Kelly did radio from 1961 to 1965 and 1973 to 1988, then on TV from 1989 until 2003.
Among his accomplishments as the “voice” of the Trojans, Tom described the action of five USC national championship football teams, five Heisman Trophy winners and 92 first team All-American footballers.
While he was known for his play-by-play acumen and memorable cliches, similes, and metaphors during a football game, he also hosted the USC Sports Magazine Show on FOX Sports Net West 2 and was the executive producer/host/narrator of the Trojan Video Gold series, which highlighted the history of USC football.
In 2001, Tom Kelly was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame.
In 2005, Kelly was an inductee into the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
As a side note, late WeAreSC publisher Garry Paskwietz once told the O/NSO there was nothing more fulfilling in his adult life than working with Tom Kelly on local Southern California high school football telecasts and listening to Tom’s many enchanting stories of USC football lore. In fact, Garry was so excited when he saw that Tom mentioned GP in Kelly’s book about his career.
For those not old enough to remember or hear the great Tom Kelly, here is a video tribute to him, which was released upon his passing.
The Obvious: Mike Walden (1966 to 1972) was another transplanted radio and television sportscasting voice from the Midwest, who eventually became a legendary radio voice of the Trojans.
The Not So Obvious: Mike began his broadcasting career in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois. Following two years of service in the Air Force, he did the play-by- play of his alma mater, Illinois.
Mike then moved to Milwaukee to call Wisconsin, Green Bay Packers and Milwaukee Braves games and then worked for CBS Radio in Chicago before coming to the West Coast to become USC’s football and men’s basketball television announcer.
Mike was the voice of USC football and basketball from 1966 to 1972.
Mike was known for his emotional, colorful, and distinctive broadcasting style, and he was also well known for his trademark wardrobe (colorful jackets and pants). In terms of a game broadcast, Mike was incredibly descriptive of each and every play with his voice level painting a words-eye view. He had a commanding voice.
During his broadcast time with the Trojan footballers, they appeared in five Rose Bowls and won a pair of national championships (1967 and 1972), and he was the “voice” of the legendary 1971 USC men’s basketball team, which posted a 24-2 record under coach Bob Boyd.
After his USC stint, Mike moved across town and did UCLA sports play-by-play for portions of the next 18 years. How many local LA sportscasting play-by-play men can make that statement?
A member of the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame and the USC Athletic Hall of Fame, Walden also was a broadcaster for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1970.
The winner of numerous Golden Mike Awards, Mike also did daily local sports reports on KNX and KFI radio and KTLA-TV, as well as handling play-by-play in cable television’s infancy for ON-TV and Prime Ticket. He served as president of the Southern California Sports Broadcasters for five years (1975-77 and 1992-93).
In 2009, Mike was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame.
Mike is also a member of the Springfield (Illinois) Sports Hall of Fame and the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
You get the best of Mike Walden’s passion for USC football in the video below when he describes the second half play-by-play of the 1968 Rose Bowl victory over Indiana on NBC radio, synchronized with the game’s telecast. While you can watch and listen to the entire game that gave the Trojans the 1967 national title (the first half is called by the Indiana play-by-play voice), the second half begins with Mike at the 1:03:11 on the counter to the conclusion to the game.
The Obvious: Pete Arbogast (1989-1994/2001 to present) is the Trojans current radio voice of football.
The Not So Obvious: Pete Arbogast was born in Chicago but grew up in Los Angeles and attended local Marshal High. He is the son of late broadcaster Bob Arbogast.
Affectionately called “Arbo” by his friends, at one time he was also the voice of the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals (1997-2000).
Known for his unrelenting devotion to the Trojans and hard-driving intensity for a USC victory, this former USC grad (1978) makes no apology when it comes to being a cardinal and gold homer. Gifted with a spectacular deep voice made for radio, his dynamic personality has also made him a fan favorite at USC alumni gatherings and sports parties.
During his broadcast time with the cardinal and gold, Arbo, whose signature call for a great or unique play is “How do you do”, has broadcasted all of the national championship teams of the Pete Carroll era, as well as memorable games like the Trojans heart-stopping 2005 victory (AKA The Bush Push) at Notre Dame.
Although known primarily as USC’s football radio voice, Pete in the past also served as the public address announce at Dodger Stadium for the Los Angeles Dodgers (1990-93).
Arbo has also announced for the Los Angeles Ice Dogs, CBS radio, CBS’s Olympics coverage and LA Clippers broadcasts (1984-1989). Needless to say, he has become a Los Angeles sports public figure.
Pete, who one day figures to be a strong candidate for the USC Athletic Hall of Fame for his long service to the University, once said, “I’ve never wanted to do anything else in my professional career than be the voice of the Trojans. To get it the first time was overwhelming and to come back again is just amazing. I couldn’t be happier personally and professionally.”
Below is a video with the radio commentary by “Arbo” of the legendary 2005 USC at Notre Dame game, which captures the very essence of his USC football broadcasting style.
The Obvious: And finally, selecting a four-man Mount Rushmore for broadcasters was a labor of love since the O/NSO had the distinction of knowing and talking with all four broadcast icons at one time.
The Not So Obvious: Next Friday, we wrap up our long but well received Mount Rushmore series with the O/NSO’s best-of-the-best, all-time offensive and defensive teams, special teams performers, the best-of-the-best head coach, offensive and defensive coach, and broadcaster of USC games.
Below are the previous O/NSO USC Football Mount Rushmore position selections:
The running backs: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-tailbacks/
The wide receivers: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-wide-receviers/
The offensive tackles: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-offensive-tackles/
The offensive guards: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-offensive-guards/
The defensive linemen: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-defensive-linemen/
The standup defensive ends: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-standup-defensive-ends/
The inside linebackers: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-inside-linebackers/
The outside linebackers: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-outside-linebackers/
The kickoff returners: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-kickoff-returners/
The punt returners: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-punt-returners/
The assistant coaches: https://wearesc.com/o-nso-the-usc-mount-rushmore-series-the-assistant-coaches/