Tennessee Has Lost The Indelible John Ward

John Ward

John Ward

GIVE HIM SIX!

It’s Football Time … in Tennessee!

The national champions are clad in Big Orange!

For more than 30 years, iconic play-by-play man John Ward brought Tennessee football and basketball games to life as the “Voice of the Vols” on Vol Network radio broadcasts.

Ward passed away Wednesday evening in Knoxville. He was 88-years-old.

“The University of Tennessee has lost one of its most beloved ambassadors,” UT Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer said. “Despite our shared sadness, I believe it is appropriate to proudly reflect on and cherish the fact that John was ours. We will ensure that his legacy and memory are appropriately honored in the days, months and years to come.”

Ward never missed a game in more than 350 consecutive football broadcasts, while calling nearly 1,000 hoops games. He served as the play-by-play voice for Tennessee basketball for 34 seasons (1965-1999) and for UT football from 1968 to 1998.

He also appeared on the weekly coaches television shows for football (beginning in 1965) and for men’s basketball (beginning in 1963), working with football coaches Doug Dickey, Bill Battle, Johnny Majors and Phillip Fulmer and basketball coaches Ray Mears, Cliff Wettig, Don DeVoe, Wade Houston, Kevin O’Neill and Jerry Green.

A Knoxville native, Ward called baseball, track, swimming and diving and tennis events, as well, for radio and television. A handful of early Lady Vol basketball games during the Pat Summitt era were broadcast by Ward, too.

“John Ward was a perfectionist,” Ward’s longtime friend and former UT athletics administrator Gus Manning said. “He never did a broadcast of a game that he wasn’t fully prepared to do, both from Tennessee’s standpoint and that of our opponent.”

In 1994, Ward and his wife, Barbara, gave a $2 million gift to Tennessee—the largest gift ever made to the athletic department at the time.

Ward was the president of his own advertising agency and TV production company in Knoxville and was a graduate of the University of Tennessee with a B.A. in political science and a J.D. from the college of law.

He was a 28-time recipient of the Tennessee Sportscaster of the Year Award, and in 1976 he was named the Best College Announcer in the Country.

In 1998, he received the inaugural Lindsey Nelson Broadcasting Award, presented annually by the Knoxville Quarterback Club to a broadcaster who exemplified a passion for the profession during his or her career.

Ward also was a multi-term president of the Southeastern Conference Broadcasters Association.

He has been inducted to the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame. Additionally, he was awarded the Amateur Football Award by the East Tennessee Chapter of the National Football Foundation.

In 1995, Tennessee named the broadcast level of Tom Elam Press Box at Neyland Stadium The John Ward Broadcast Center in Ward’s honor. The following year, he was named an honorary letterman by the Lettermen’s T-Club.

The 1998 UT senior class named a pedestrian greenway on the Knoxville campus in honor of Ward and former UT president Joseph E. Johnson.

On June 3, 1998, Ward announced the 1998-99 academic year would be his last in the broadcast chair. In a remarkable storybook ending, the Volunteer football team ran the table en route to the 1998 national championship, while the basketball team captured an SEC Eastern Division championship, capping his magnificent career behind the microphone.

“He meant a lot not just to Knoxville, Tennessee, not just to the University of Tennessee, but the entire state of Tennessee reveled in the fact that John Ward was our guy,” Vol Network General Manager Steve Early said.

Ward always described his radio and television duties with the Vol Network as a hobby. He also enjoyed golf, travel and maintaining a stunning and extensive Garden-of-Eden-like three-acre garden containing thousands of azalea, rhododendron, iris and rare wildflowers.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Barbara. The couple was married for 55 years. He is survived by a brother, Bob Ward, of Charlotte, N.C.

SOME OF JOHN WARD’S MOST FAMOUS PHRASES

“GIVE HIM SIX!” (When Tennessee scored a touchdown)

“It’s Football Time … in Tennessee! (Right before kickoff)

“BOTTOM!” (Basketball phrase for a made shot)

“…down to the 30, 25, 20, slashing to the 15, the 10, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… Give Him Six! Touchdown Tennessee!”

“The kick is up … Ladies and gentlemen that kick is G-O-O-O-O-O-D!”

“Back, in just one minute”

“Did he make it? … HE MADE IT!”

“Winding, grinding, twisting, turning… diving …” (description of a running play) 

Source: University Of Tennessee Athletics, All photos courtesy of University of Tennessee

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