Bob Barry to Hang Hat after 2010-11 Seasons
As he embarks on his 50th year in broadcasting Division I football and basketball, Bob Barry has announced that this will be his last as the radio play-by-play voice of the Oklahoma Sooners. He plans to work through both the football and men’s basketball season during the 2010-11 school year.
The 79-year-old Barry, who has been the voice for both of Oklahoma’s major state universities, said he had targeted 2010 as the year he would wrap up his play-by-play duties. No announcer has called more Sooner games than Barry.
“It’s time,” he said. “I had been thinking about it for a couple years and kind of pointing toward this year as my last. The time just felt right.
“I’ve been so fortunate and so lucky to have the job I’ve had. I tell young people all of the time that when you find the thing you love to do, then do it to the best of your ability, it’s really not work at all.”
University of Oklahoma President David L. Boren recognized Barry’s skill and thanked him for his representation of the university.
“No one represents the Sooner spirit better than Bob Barry,” he said. “He is one of the most talented broadcast journalists in the United States and has an unusual ability to transmit excitement and enthusiasm to his listeners. I am deeply grateful to Bob for his many years of service to the University and its supporters. We look forward to having him continue to be associated in a meaningful way with our athletic programs and sports broadcasts.”
OU Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics and Athletics Director Joe Castiglione said it’s difficult to measure’s Barry’s impact.
“Bob Barry is an Oklahoma treasure,” he said. “Over this extraordinary era, millions of people have become familiar with our program and grown to love it more because of Bob’s work and his fan-friendly style of describing the action.
“To me, he has always been the fan’s announcer. I’ve watched a lot of people approach Bob just to meet him or thank him, and have always been impressed that he is oblivious to his celebrity status. He is so humble because he views himself as just another Oklahoman, another fan.
“Aside from his broadcasting talent, it is that trait that truly sets him apart. He’s always been known as a gentleman and revered by many in the broadcasting profession for his skill.”
Castiglione said the university plans to keep Barry involved.
“We look forward to putting Bob to work on some other projects,” he said. “He has a lot to offer and we want to utilize his wealth of knowledge and historical perspective, and I know our fans want to hear more from him too.”
Barry’s interest in broadcasting resulted from a serious childhood accident. He fell from a second story window at his home in Oklahoma City at the age of 7. Doctors ordered him to rest his head on a pillow for eight straight weeks.
He spent those eight weeks listening to the radio and developed an appreciation for broadcasting. It wasn’t long before he began pretending he was a radio play-by-play announcer as he played a baseball board game.
Barry, known affectionately as “The Legend,” began his broadcast career at Norman’s (now ) radio in 1955 as a salesperson and host of “Uncle Bob’s Wake Up Jamboree.” He then began broadcasting Norman High School football and basketball games in 1956. In 1961, he won a tryout over 13 other broadcasters to become the play-by-play commentator for University of Oklahoma football and basketball, a position he held from 1961-72.
Bud Wilkinson was the administrator who made the decision.
“Bud’s sons, Jay and Pat, had played football at Norman High School so he was familiar with my broadcasting play-by-play,” Barry said. “I’ve always thought that probably helped me get the job.”
His first OU game was the Sooners’ 1961 season opener at Notre Dame.
“I was scared to death,” Barry recalled. “(OU Sports Information Director) Harold Keith walked me around the campus trying to settle me down.”
After the OU radio rights changed hands, Barry called University of Tulsa basketball games during the 1973-74 season, and was Oklahoma State’s football and basketball announcer from 1973-90. He returned to the OU microphone in 1991 and has remained in that role since that time.
Barry’s favorite memories include that ’61 game at Notre Dame, a 1963 game against Army in Yankee Stadium, the OU-Nebraska “Game-of-the-Century “in 1971, and most recent national championship under Bob Stoops.
“That 2000 season and the national championship was a thrill to broadcast. It was definitely a highlight in my career,” he said.
Barry has seen his job as that of a story-teller.
“The play-by-play announcer’s job is to explain what’s happening and to leave space for the color analyst to fill the holes,” he said. “You tell the story as accurately as you can because a lot of people are relying on you.”
Barry said he has heard from many fans over the course of his career; fans who befriended him over the airwaves before they ever met him.
“I hope that’s the way they’ve viewed me,” Barry said. “I don’t see myself as any better than any of them. I’ve received notes from all over the country and they’ve meant a lot to me.”
The list of awards and honors won by Barry is impressive. He has been named Oklahoma Sportscaster of the Year 15 times and was inducted into the Journalism Hall of Fame in 1998, the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame and Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2008, he was recognized as a distinguished alumnus by the OU Journalism Department and he received a similar honor from the OU Board of Regents in 2010. He received the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters Pioneer Award in 1993.
Barry is a native of Oklahoma City and a graduate of Classen High School. He currently resides in Norman. He attended OU, studied business and played freshman baseball in 1949-50 before joining the Air Force in 1951.
He joined -TV (now ), the affiliate in Oklahoma City, in 1966 and ascended to the sport director’s position in 1970 a position he held for 27-years. He handed the sports director’s title to his younger son Bob Barry, Jr., but remained on the -TV staff until he retired in 2008.
Barry’s older son Frank teaches at Whittier Middle School in Norman. Bob has eight grandchildren.
Barry has served on the board of directors of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association and is a two-time president of the Norman rotary club.