Bruce Howard Celebrates 20 Years in Dream Job
By TERRELL LESTER
Editor at Large
Bruce Howard is a man for all seasons.
From the autumnal equinox through the summer solstice, Bruce Howard is the man sports fans rely on for insight and imagery, information and interpretation.
His is the voice of authority. The voice of reason. The voice of sport.
His voice, the Voice of Tulsa Sports, defines and colors the season as it unfolds.
Football. Basketball. Baseball. The sporting world’s holy trinity.
He is the Voice of the Golden Hurricane.
He was the Voice of the Drillers.
He talks, fans listen.
He talks, a game comes alive.
His voice is his calling card.
His eyes are the fans’ eyes.
His home is where the action is.
He is the Michelangelo of the microphone.
He paints a colorful and detailed portrait of sports, a portrait fans can embrace and ponder. His verbal strokes are broad and bold, shaded with nuance, tinted with emotion.
His reputation for fairness and accuracy are as true and as solid as a Stan Musial base hit.
His penchant for preparation and detail are as undeniable and as unwavering as Michael Jordan’s approach to basketball.
His total recall of game statistics and timely anecdotes are as legendary and as unmistakable as a Glenn Dobbs halftime talk.
To attain, and retain, his rank as Tulsa’s premier play-by-play radio voice, Howard had to scramble, paying his dues along the way, from the farmlands of central New York into the greenbelt of Tennessee, and onto the crowded airwaves of northeastern Oklahoma.
At the age of 54, Howard is approaching his 21st season as the Voice of the University of Tulsa’s football program. When the Golden Hurricane kick off at Bowling Green on Aug. 29, it will mark the 35th year behind the microphone for Howard in a career that has seen him take turns as a disc jockey, color analyst, producer and talk-show host.
Leaving behind the family farm in New York, and his six siblings, Howard attended Cayuga Community College in nearby Auburn, where he sampled his first tastes of radio.
At the age of 19, he accepted his first paying gig, with a station in Watertown, N.Y., and he spent nine years learning and honing his craft. He spun records by day, called sports by night, covering Class A baseball and community college basketball.
Eventually, he set his sights to the west, taking his newfound talents to Knoxville and Nashville. He called a little football, a little baseball, produced a few radio programs and sat tight for about two years, until he heard from a Tulsa baseball general manager by the name of Joe Preseren.
It was March, 1989. Preseren and his Tulsa Drillers were in need, dire need, of a radio play-by-play man. The season was days from starting. Howard had been recommended by an official with the Nashville team of the Double-A Southern League.
For Howard, accepting the offer was an easy decision. He was eager, he was ready, to handle the chores of a full season of professional baseball.
He recalled recently his first game as the official Voice of the Drillers. They opened in Jackson, Miss. The first batter of the game, for the Drillers, was Sammy Sosa.
Howard remained the Drillers’ radio voice for nine summers. As his talents began to be recognized around Tulsa, he landed other broadcasting jobs.
He called the action for the Tulsa Fast Breakers of the Continental Basketball Association for three seasons. He spent one basketball season with Oral Roberts University.
He signed on with the University of Tulsa in 1993, handling football and men’s basketball broadcasts.
At each of those stops, from the Drillers to the Fast Breakers to the Golden Hurricane, Howard was a part-time employee, paid on a game-by-game basis, or paid by a radio station.
His first full-time position materialized in 1995, when TU created a position for Howard, Director of Sports Broadcasting.
It was a big step for Howard. He was now an employee of the University of Tulsa. The true Voice of the Golden Hurricane. With it came a certain validation of his professional standing.
“There hasn’t been a game that I haven’t thought that I am the luckiest guy in the world, to get to do this, to get to sit and describe athletic events to fans, and sit in the best seat in the house, when most people have to pay to watch. And I get paid to do this,” Howard said.
“Certainly, everybody has a dream job. Even though you don’t envision, necessarily, being here 20 years, this has turned into a dream job.
“I can’t think of any place I’d rather be,” he said.
Howard is a stickler for preparation, leading up to and including the game itself.
“There are certain basics that you have to be good at,” he said.
Among the many decorative and informative wall hangings in his office on the TU campus is one that details those basics. It’s what Howard calls “the triangle” at the base of the radio play-by-play pyramid: “Time and score. Description. Pinpoint the ball.”
“All of that is the basis for what you’re trying to do when you’re doing radio,” Howard said. “And, it doesn’t matter what sport it is.”
When Howard called his first game for TU in 1993, the school had no women’s basketball program, no facilities for soccer or softball. The football team played in an aging Skelly Stadium. The basketball team played downtown in the Convention Center.
With the combined vision, dedication and leadership of a segment of the university’s hierarchy – namely presidents Bob Lawless and Steadman Upham, athletics directors Rick Dickson, Judy MacLeod and Bubba Cunningham, and facilities manager Terry Hossack – the campus went through an unprecedented metamorphosis.
The Donald W. Reynolds Center was constructed on campus for the men’s and women’s basketball programs.
Skelly Stadium was remodeled and rebranded, now known as H.A. Chapman Stadium.
The Michael D. Case Tennis Center has provided that sport with one of the nation’s finest campus facilities.
The transition of the campus and the upgrade of its athletics venues since Howard’s arrival two decades ago have been, in his words, “pretty remarkable.”
“I feel as fortunate as anybody could be, based on the business I’m in and how unstable it can sometimes be,” Howard said.
“When you think about jobs that guys like me do, there are 30-some jobs in the , 30-some jobs in the (baseball) major leagues, 30-some jobs in the . That’s about 90 jobs. Then there are 128 () Division I football programs.
“There are about 200 top jobs for people that do what I do, which is play-by-play. And I’ve got one of them,” he said.
“I feel really lucky.”
The seasons change. But Bruce Howard remains a consistent professional.