Working on the sidelines at Western Carolina University’s athletic events are a resort manager, media company president, community college instructor, elementary schoolteacher, outdoor advertising executive and retired school system administrator, to name a few. Ranging in age from barely 30-something to well into their 50s, they converge on Cullowhee for game days from a variety of towns west of Asheville.
A tight-knit group with a shared love of Catamount athletics, they are among WCU’s most vocal fans. They are the ones at the microphones, making the announcements carried from high overhead at the football stadium and courtside in the basketball arena. Listeners who tune in to games aired on radio stations in the mountain region and upstate South Carolina and online via the Catamount Sports Network at www.catamountsports.com know them, too. Announcers, broadcasters, color commentators and sidelines reporters, they’re the unsung heroes of the games.
Long before the players, coaches and spectators arrive, sideline workers are already in the press box busy with preparations, from practicing the pronunciation of players’ names to writing scripts for the public-address system to testing microphones and video equipment. There are dozens of chores, and they are tireless workers, devoting hundreds of hours to temporary jobs that most say they’ll never give up, not for the nominal wage they earn from the athletics department, but for the chance to be close to the action.
“The majority of us just love WCU and what the athletics program has done for young people,” said Steven Crumpler of Penrose, assistant innkeeper of the Swag Country Inn of Waynesville. “Sometimes it’s athletic ability that has made it possible for a player to attend college. And they come here, excel in their sport and go on to greater things.”
Crumpler works as play-by-play announcer for women’s basketball and is a producer and engineer for football broadcasts. He became involved with athletics 10 years ago as a program director on the campus radio station WWCU-FM. “When I first stepped on campus, WCU became my team forever,” he said. “I don’t cheer for anybody else.”
Ryan Hipps ’00 of Waynesville and Greg McLamb ’00 of Franklin also worked as students together doing sports broadcasting at WWCU. Their athletics ties have only grown stronger through the years. Hipps, who is president of Stress Free Productions of Waynesville, has been a public-address announcer for multiple sports. He also produces many video projects for athletics, including women’s basketball videos, a coaches’ TV show, “signing day” video coverage, and segments for the new PurpleVision video scoreboard in the football stadium.
McLamb, history instructor at Haywood Community College in Clyde, is the intrepid sidelines reporter, always ready with a microphone to give updates when there are player injuries or halftime interviews with coaches. “You see up close the sweat, tears, and the blood – literally – that the players are giving in the game. Working on the sidelines has given me great appreciation for them, for sports and for Western Carolina,” he said.
In the past 20 years, Phil Woody ’75, language-arts teacher at Scotts Creek Elementary School in Sylva, has covered 590 basketball games and 64 football games in an assortment of roles that have ranged from doing the football drive-chart records in the 1980s before computers were available, to public-address announcing for football and men’s basketball, spotting, radio broadcasting and, currently, managing the scoreboard clock for basketball.
“It gets really hectic on the sidelines sometimes, but we help each other out,” Woody said. “Our jobs are a lot of fun, and every one of them is important.”
Woody is a former radio announcer who in the past worked with Gary Ayers at WBHN Radio in Bryson City. Ayers, president of Allison Outdoor Advertising of Sylva, is known as “The Voice of the Catamounts.” He has been doing radio broadcasts and public-address announcing for WCU for more than a quarter century.
Tim Amos ’77 MBA ’82 and Britt Amos ’06, are a father-and-son team from Asheville whose work was instrumental in the premiere last fall of the video scoreboard. The elder Amos, retired assistant superintendent of Asheville City Schools, is a longtime audio and video hobbyist who worked as a radio announcer for WCU athletics in the late 1990s. “I’ve been a supporter of Western Carolina forever, and I always hope for success for the teams,” he said. “I just enjoy going to the games and working with the great people over there.”
Daniel Hooker ’01, assistant athletics director for media relations, said the sidelines workers are one of the department’s greatest assets. “I’m continually amazed at the contributions made by so many. They love the university and enjoy giving back in any way they can. There is no question that without their dedicated service, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish all that we do.”
Hooker’s predecessor agrees. “They’re WCU’s greatest fans,” said Steve White ’67, retired director of sports information. “It’s in their blood.”