Luckily for the readers here at Rock Chalk Talk, I was able to get to spend about 15 minutes with Mr. Bob Davis, aka the radio voice of the Kansas Jayhawks. Most commonly referred to by KU fans simply as "Bob," he has been broadcasting KU games since 1984. RCT is proud to bring to you the 13-time winner of the Kansas Sportscaster of the Year award, Bob Davis.
The transcription is below or you can stream the audio. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties I lost the last four minutes of the audio. The transcription also reflects this unfortunate occurrence; I chose to go ahead and paraphrase Mr. Davis' responses based on my notes taken during the call.
(To stream the audio, Right click the link below, Open in new tab or window)
mikeville: Alright, well let's get started then. I guess we'll just start off, if you could talk in general terms about what it's like to be the radio voice of the Jayhawks, maybe a little about your pre-game prep, how it differs from football to basketball. Do you watch tape on opponents or anything like that? Just kind of generally talk about that.
Bob Davis: Well, in the first place, it's fun, for the most part. Sometimes it can get a little hectic like this time of year when you have a big overlap between football and basketball. We didn't used to have that, but now we do, we have a couple three weeks with both, and yeah, the preparation is a little different. Football, of course, you've got a lot more players to learn, but you usually have a week to do that since there's just one game a week. Basketball, the games can come and do come anytime, any day of the week and time of day pretty much. But the basketball is a little easier preparation because there's not as many people involved. But, certainly nothing is more fun than KU basketball. So, that all goes with it, but I'd tell ya for the most part it's a fun deal.
mikeville: Nice. Let's go ahead and talk a little bit about the basketball team. How much are you looking forward to this coming season? Do you think big things are in store for the Jayhawks?
Bob Davis: Well, I look forward to every season. This is kind of interesting, because of all the new players, and it's a relatively young team with no scholarship seniors. Of course they carry the mantle of being defending champions in the Big 12, and that's been a, you know, an unbelievable run that Bill Self has won 10, won or shared 10 straight conference championships, so each new team I know feels that and they don't wanna be the team that doesn't get a conference title. But I think it'll be a tough problem this year, because there's some other really good teams, and this team is probably in a little bit of a question mark mode right now coming out of the Kentucky game. But they've got plenty of time to sort things through and get things going before the conference starts. But they'll be one of the top teams in teh league for sure, you know with a great coach like they have, they'll certainly have an opportunity to defend that title. But we'll see, we have a lot of non-conference teams to play right now, and that helps you get ready for the conference, and they play arguably one of the very toughest non-conference schedules in the country, you know with Florida and Georgetown and Kentucky and Utah and some of the other teams they play, it's a really good preparation for the conference.
mikeville: All right. Were you able to attend the Allen Fieldhouse 60th Anniversary Celebration, and if you were, can you kind of talk about that night and what it was like for you?
Bob Davis: That was a really special night. I got to do some interviews with the four coaches that will be a part of a package that will be available later. But it was fun to be around Coach Owens, and Coach Larry Brown, and Roy Williams, and Bill, and just some former players that were there. I think that was one of the most remarkable events that I've ever attended that didn't have anything to do with sports. I've talked to a lot of people around the country, and I'm not sure any other school could have even thought of doing something like that; having all the living ex-coaches back, all of them treated warmly, all of them successful, and do it all in an iconic building celebrating a 60th birthday. The stars were lined up and it was really, really special. It was an honor to be there and talk to all those people and just kind of relive some of the history. Everybody had their own stories, their own era. But Allen Fieldhouse itself is just a big ole building, but it's not. It's a lot more special than that. And they've done a great job of adding amenities to it, making it modern, but still keeping the "core Fieldhouse," you know with the bleacher seats and the old-time feel. It's just one of the really fun sports venues in the country. And I put it up there with Fenway Park in baseball and some of those kind of things. It's old, but it's still refreshing and new and it's just full of history. That was such a great event, and the people that came up with that I know did a lot of work in a short period of time but it was really fun.
mikeville: It was definitely a very neat event and I was privileged enough to get a ticket and watch from up in those bleachers that you were just talking about. Let's transition over to football real quick. It's been a pretty rough season on the gridiron so far. I personally believe that Coach Bowen's effect on the program has been measureable even though it hasn't necessarily shown up in wins - which is the standard by which coaches are usually measured. How would you describe Coach Bowen, and if given the opportunity, would he be successful at Kansas?
Bob Davis: He's a guy that, in the first place, he's as KU blue as you can get. You know, he played here, he grew up in Lawrence, his brother played here; this is his dream job. I don't know how many guys in the country who would be qualified of the job would say, "That's my dream job." There might be some, but it certainly is with Clint, and I think that goes a long way. He has made some changes, he's, you know, changed quarterbacks, he changed the offensive playcalling around, he's installed a great enthusiasm at practice, and he's run with the players. I'm unsure of where he stands right now, as we have one game to go, I don't know. But I know he's a strong candidate and has been a strong candidate since he was named the interim coach. And now having had this eight-game audition, if you will, I think it's given him real insight into the program, not that he didn't have it before, but there's nothing like being in that head coaches chair. So, he brings some great qualities to the job. First off, he's really a good man, good guy, very loyal to KU. And he'd work very hard to try and make this thing go if he's the one selected for the full-time job.
mikeville: Well Kansas is obviously known as a basketball school, and for pretty good reason with all the tradition. Can KU have a successful, a continually successful football program as well? Does it just take finding the right guy to lead the team?
Bob Davis: Well, we've had good teams, you know, from time to time. The problem has been sustaining it over a long period. But there are a lot of examples around the country where schools have had strong football and basketball programs. I don't think it's written anywhere that you can only be strong in one. We've had winning the '08 Orange Bowl. That year was - how many school have had a year like that where the team won a BCS bowl game and then the basketball team took it even further by winning a national championship? I think that shows what the potential is at Kansas - not that you'd win a national championship every year, but the fact that you have a chance to be successful in both. And they kind of feed off each other. I think, I remember the football and basketball players were very supportive of each other. So, I think with the right people in charge, a university like this certainly can be strong in both sports.
mikeville: The past game at Oklahoma on Saturday was pretty disappointing, to say the least. Why is it so difficult to get wins on the road in the Big 12?
Bob Davis: I think the first thing is, you're playing a pretty good team in their home stadium in the Big 12, and that makes it hard. But, Oklahoma was really geared up. And of course, it was a record setting day for their freshman running back who broke a one-week old record for rushing in a major college football game. We saw a KU guy do that a couple of decades ago, and I had a lot more fun watching Tony Sands do it. But, that was, everything just lined up; it was kind of a goofy day. To postpone the game an hour and a half, probably could have started it, in retrospect, at the original start time. But Oklahoma, because of that one player, essentially, he just made that a lopsided victory for the Sooners. Their other running backs didn't do that much, the passing game for both teams was null and void because of the weather. But because Perine had the record-setting day, Oklahoma had a big, big win. And they've been kind of a frustrated team; they've had three losses in the conference with close games that didn't go their way, so they were pretty well geared up for this ballgame.
mikeville: How does Perine relate in comparison maybe to some other freshman that you've seen play college football throughout the years?
Bob Davis: He's about as good anybody I've seen. I saw Barry Sanders, he was really good, and maybe some others. But, this guy's kind of unique in the fact that he weighs right at 250 lbs, so he's a tough guy to tackle. He's 5'11" so he's got a low center of gravity. He's not a burner, but he's pretty fast, and once he gets some running room, he's just really tough for one guy to tackle. So, I think we're gonna see him play football for several years - at a couple of levels.
mikeville: So, you just mentioned Tony Sands, he keeps slipping down that list of the most yards per game in a major Division 1 football game, thanks to guys like Perine and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon. Tell us a little bit about that game against Missouri when Tony set the then-NCAA rushing record for yards and carries in a game. What do you recall?
Bob Davis: I think Tony's fourth, now, LaDainian Tomlinson is in there with these other two guys.
mikeville: Right, right.
Bob Davis: As I remember that game, Tony had something like 56 carries, I may be off a little bit, but right at 56 carries. I don't think he had any carry much longer, any longer than 20 yards. So you know, he didn't have a 60 yard run to stick in there every so often. He just did it with toughness. He was a battler. It made it even sweeter, probably at the time, it was against Missouri, obviously that was the big rival then that we no longer have. But that was just a great day, and he was such a tough-nosed kid. (Editor's note: Sands had 58 carries. I could not verify his longest run. I believe the 58 carries still stands as an NCAA single game record.)
Editor's Note: This is where the recording cut off. The interviewed continued as follows:
mikeville: Overall, what would you say the most memorable call of your career has been?
Bob replied that of all the great moments he's witnessed on the football field and the basketball court, the first thing that comes to his mind is Mario Chalmer's shot to send the 2008 title game into overtime.
mikeville: Who would you say is the best athlete you've seen play in a Kansas uniform?
Bob said there have been so many, and that there's no way he could single out anyone or even several.
mikeville: You worked for so many years with Max Falkenstien. In fact, it was a common occurrence in my home growing up that we would mute the TV and listen to "Bob and Max" on the radio. Just talk a little about Max, what it was like working with him, and how he's doing these days.
Bob replied that Max is doing well, that he is a great KU guy and that Bob frequently sees him at football, basketball, and volleyball games, and he's able to catch up with him for a few moments then. Bob talked a bit about Max's career, having spanned 60 years calling KU games, and how could anyone imagine doing something for 60 years, that it's quite the accomplishment.
mikeville: I believe you came to KU from KAYS out in Hays, KS, where you were the Sports Director and also called Ft. Hays State games. Can you tell us a little bit about how football has changed - obviously we have a lot more concern regarding safety, head trauma, stuff like that. What changes have you noticed regarding college sports?
Bob talked about how, yes, there is much more concern regarding player safety, and that's a good thing. He remembers a time when players weren't allowed water at practice, that it was seen as a bad thing. And of course, all of the concern regarding head trauma. But Bob said the thing that he's noticed the most is television's impact on college football especially. It used to be that there was maybe one "game of the week" and now just about every team is on TV every week. TV has provided universities with greater exposure and of course more money, but it is the biggest change that he's noticed over the last 30 years.
Many, many thanks go out to Bob Davis for joining us for a few moments at Rock Chalk Talk. Bob was very gracious with his time, and we certainly thank him for joining us. Hopefully we'll be able to do it again sometime.