JACKSON, Tenn. - 1/23/2007 -
Steve Beverly, an associate professor in the Union University Communication Arts department, passed another milestone in his career. Beverly called his 300th career television broadcast with the women's game on Saturday, January 20 in Union's 84-74 win over Freed-Hardeman.
With his hard work and leadership in the communication arts department, he and his students have given Union University Basketball the opportunity of having many of their games broadcast on television for the past 13 years. This a privilege that many schools the size of Union never get to experience.
Below, you will find the story of how it all began from the words of Steve Beverly himself. Included in the story are his Top-10 Union basketball games called during his first 300.
Fifteen years. Three hundred games. Since the 1992-93 season, I have been through enough nailbiters with Union basketball to have only quick left on my fingers.
In early 1993, I received a call from Union Athletic Director Dr. David Blackstock, asking in the coach's typical friendly, gravelly drawl: "Is there any way you could help us do the rest of our games on TV this season?" I paused a moment before responding: "David, I haven't called a game in 17 years." Answered Blackstock: "You're well-qualified."
I proceeded to overprepare for a contest the next night: a men's game continuing the rivalry of Union vs. Lambuth. The Bulldogs won that one 84-78 with enough excitement that I threw away most of my study material in the second half. My first analyst was Brice Bishop, whose primary job was as Union's men's tennis coach. Brice knew the inside strategy of the game well enough to mask my nerves at returning to a platform I had not assumed since doing radio at the University of Georgia during the last year of its freshman team in 1976.
During those early games, I had a penchant for reverting to radio-style play-by-play, forgetting the cardinal rule of television to let the pictures tell the story. If you ever have a peek at the first half-dozen Union games I called, you will wonder why I was not relegated to the stands. I shouted virtually every basket as if it was a game-winner. My voice frequently cracked. My sportscasting idol, Dick Enberg, taught me a lot in his book, "Oh My!" Wrote Enberg: "If you give everything away in the first half, you have nothing left to build drama for the viewers if the game becomes a thriller."
Through the years, I have been blessed with an intangible gift which is a crown jewel for any sportscaster----a precise memory for specifics. Late in the 1998 home meeting with the Lady Bulldogs' vaunted rival Lipscomb and a double-digit lead slipping away, I recalled a carbon copy moment in a game between the two four years earlier. "Did we win that game?," asked one of my color commentators. "As a matter of fact we did," I said, "by four points." We had, 81-77.
Another blessing has been to tell the stories of teams which are perpetual winners. After describing 12 conference championship victories on television, one appreciates the struggles of broadcasters who are forced to trudge through season after season with teams struggling to win five games. One of my colleagues once endured a 4-26 season with his team. "You don't know how tough it is to actually find positive things to say," he told me. "I don't know how many times that year I said, 'We're making a big rally. We're only down by 12.' It was awful."
My most frequently asked question is to name my most memorable broadcast over 15 years. That gives me no qualms. One rises to the top and it is not one of the two NAIA national championship wins I've called. However, with 300 TV games under my belt, here are my top ten favorites:
1. Lady Bulldogs 83, Freed-Hardeman 79 (1997, TranSouth Conference title game, OT): This was the ultimate game for any broadcaster and for the fans. David Blackstock had a former high school Miss Basketball in Michelle Street, who may be the greatest to ever wear the Lady Bulldog white. FHU's Dale Neal had another former Miss Basketball in freshman great Kara Sanders. The atmosphere was more than electric. Arguably 2,500 crammed into The Fred. Every emotional ebb and flow left the house virtually drained. Neal took his chances by letting Street get her points, preferring to shut down Union's outside game. Michelle got her points. Oh, how she got her points. In the finest individual game ever by a Lady Bulldog player, Street nailed the nets for 45 points. The game went to overtime. Freshman Meg Griffin socked home the last four free throws with the coolness of a senior. My TV analysts, Blake Neeley and Anna Richardson, were never better. To my mind, this was the greatest women's game ever played on the Union floor. About once a year, I pull it out again and watch it.
2. Lady Bulldogs 67, Oklahoma City 63 (2005, NAIA national title game): This was the first of Mark Campbell's two national championships and the game which revived a slumping interest in the NAIA tournament here. Frankly, local fans were sick of six years of dominance by Oklahoma teams. With nine minutes left, Union built an 18-point lead. With every Lady Bulldog basket, I looked bug-eyed at my on-air analyst, Jeff Reese. I could not believe this was going to be a runaway. It wasn't. The Lady Bulldogs spent the next eight minutes playing not to lose rather than continuing to attack the basket. One could feel the air going out of the tire. With the score 65-63 and eight seconds remaining, Ena Daniels---who had the worst free throw shooting percentage among the regulars---calmly sank two at the line and the national championship was Union's for the first time in seven years. The odds of calling a national title victory of one's own university are long and longer. If I had to stop broadcasting tomorrow, this is the pinnacle.
3. Bulldogs 99, Bethel 98 (1996, 2 OT): This was the turning point game in the early days of Ralph Turner's program. One month earlier in McKenzie, the Bulldogs did not score for the first eight minutes against Bethel. They were down 22-0, something Ralph said he had never seen even in any playground game he was in as a kid. This game aired on WBBJ and with 2:47 remaining, things appeared hopeless. Union was down by 17 points. I even said, "We'll be talking to Ralph Turner immediately after this one to find out what didn't happen for the Bulldogs." What did happen was nothing short of a miracle. The tall freshman Matt Hoover, transfer Kirk Goehring and little guard Eric Barnes nailed five three-pointers between the three of them and forced an improbable six Bethel turnovers. The Fred erupted as Union tied and sent the game to one and then a second overtime. The last time I watched this one, I counted saying "yessssssss" 14 times after Union baskets in the closing moments of regulation and those extra periods. Turner's team started a seven-game winning streak with this one, knocking off Lipscomb and Belmont the next two weekends. The men's program never looked back.
4. Bulldogs 73, Birmingham Southern 70 (1998, TranSouth Conference title game): Turner won his first of five conference titles in this one and the atmosphere was of a major college variety. Even students who were not serious fans showed up in the bleachers. Duane Reboul's team was a former NAIA national champion but Union managed to topple the mighty Birmingham Southern at homecoming. Neither team led by more than six during the entire game. This one was won at the free throw line. With four seconds left, Coach Reboul was captured on camera jumping up and down like a kid, screaming for a three-shot foul which was not called. Instead, Union was awarded the ball on a violation and the title banner hung from The Fred. If you ever see the post-game of this telecast, Ralph and I both still have hair. You see younger versions of Mark Campbell and David Niven as his assistants. This was also the first of five showers I have shared with Ralph from the ice water bucket after a championship game. I can assure you: the sudden sting of that ice bath is for real.
5. Lady Bulldogs 86, Lipscomb 71 (1996): One of the rare battles between the nation's number one (Union) and number two (Lipscomb) teams during a regular season. This was one of four games over the years which aired on WBBJ. In a non-tournament game, I never called a matchup in which the Lady Bulldogs were so focused. You knew something rare was in the air when Michelle Street, who rarely shot from behind the arc, nailed a three-pointer early in the game. In the second half, Union never trailed by more than 10. Anna Richardson led the way with 25 points and Street added 24. My TV analyst, former Lady Bulldog All-American Lee Nunamaker, told me during a commercial break: "I have never seen you so wired." Lee was right. I was so keyed up for this Saturday night game, I was up at 6 a.m. pacing the floor of my house.
6. Bulldogs 76, Freed Hardeman 75 (2004): The one which will go down in infamy for my end-of-the-game blooper. Union played a mediocre game but had one final gasp with six seconds left, needing to go the length of the floor. A 15-foot shot missed but Bulldog guard Will Harris miraculously tipped the ball in a fraction of a second before the buzzer blew. The Fred erupted. One of my two analysts, Jeff Reese, was screaming. I was worse. I yelled, "MATT HARRIS! MATT HARRIS! MATT HARRIS!" My other commentator, David Roach, asked on the air: "Who is Matt Harris?" Two days later, Ralph brought the team to see "The Passion of the Christ." I was in the theatre and as Will walked up the stairs, I called out, "MATT HARRIS!" I will never live that one down.
7. Oklahoma City 84, Lady Bulldogs 80 (2002, NAIA Final Four, OT): Yes, a loss is one of my golden memories. The reason: how far this team came from where it started the season. Before Christmas, Mark Campbell took the Lady Bulldogs to a classic in the Sooner State and was so frustrated with their performance, he sat out most of his regulars against the defending national champion. The 93-45 loss was the worst in Union women's history. The team regrouped and the Lady Bulldogs were ready for the rematch. With four seconds left in regulation, Jessica Henson put up the most improbable 32-foot shot, falling off balance to her left. She hit nothing but net to send the game into overtime. Oman Arena exploded. Heartbreak came in the final minute of the extra period as two crucial turnovers frittered away the game. Yet, Union left everything on the floor and I will never forget the multiple yells of "yessss, yessss, yessss" as Jessica's long bomb gave the Lady Bulldogs one more shot.
8. Lady Bulldogs 96, Trevecca 63 (1999): Nothing was thrilling, exciting, or scintillating about this telecast. What made it memorable for me was this was David Blackstock's 500th coaching victory. I called his 400th win on WBBJ in 1996 against Freed Hardeman. However, this one was poignant because we knew this would be David's final year as the women's coach. During Coach Blackstock's recent Union Hall of Fame induction, we showed video of the presentation of his 500th victory game ball. To watch that entire team of Lady Bulldogs surround him with hugs and genuine affection, you saw the feelings he generated not just as a coach but as a man, as well.
9. Bulldogs 64, Lipscomb 59 (1996): This victory was the Saturday after that turnaround game with Bethel. The Bulldogs finally bought into and reached a sync with Ralph Turner's coaching. Their confidence hit a peak here. Turner beat his old mentor Don Meyer for the first time in a conference regular season outing. Senior Michael Davis nailed five free throws down the stretch among his 15 points. The popular guard was surrounded by his fraternity brothers as I conducted a post-game interview with him. Davis's buddies all chanted, "Mi-chael Da-vis, Mi-chael, Da-vis." Beating Lipscomb was big any time but this one was especially sweet.
10. Lady Bulldogs 82, North Georgia 76 (2005, NAIA quarterfinals, OT): David Blackstock often says, "When you win a championship, you often have to win at least one game you probably shouldn't." Mark Campbell knows all too well. Today, the memory of the national championship victory is what people take away from the 2005 NAIA tournament. What most forget is the Lady Bulldogs barely made it to the quarterfinals. In this Sweet 16 game, Union led by 20 points with 16 minutes to go. Buffie Burson was one of the best-prepared coaches in the NAIA and her Lady Saints epitomized a never-give-up personality. They kept chipping away, tied the game with 16 seconds left and actually had a 12-foot shot to win it in regulation. With every nerve fiber of Union fans on edge, the Lady Bulldogs coolly regrouped, played smart basketball and did not commit a single turnover in the overtime. They followed the lead of Stephanie Clark and Ena Daniels to save the victory. After the Lady Saints soundly knocked Union out in the NAIA Sweet 16 five years earlier, the Union-North Georgia rivalry became one of the most spirited intersectional matchups in the country.
In these fifteen seasons, I've experienced the joy of calling two national championship victories for Union and 12 conference title wins on television. Going into this year, Union teams had a record of 245-47 in my TV games. I've had the unique experience of describing the play of All-Americans Michelle Street, Stephanie Clark and Rose Agnoung on the women's side. I've told of the exploits of the lanky Matt Hoover, two NAIA Players of the Year in Anthony Brooks and Robert Joseph and the total team play of the last two men's TranSouth championship teams.
However, nothing supplants the relationships I've enjoyed with three of the finest men I've ever known----David Blackstock, Mark Campbell and Ralph Turner. And the special memories of one I have missed immensely since her untimely passing, Lisa Hutchens.
With 300 games on the mantelpiece, I have a mental encyclopedia full of highs and heartbreaks, along with lessons for life I've gleaned from the experience. I love the exhilaration of yelling, "And down the stretch she goes," during a coast-to-coast layup. I still get a rush from building drama by telling viewers before a free throw late in a tight game, "We'll watch with you." If I had to hang up the broadcast microphone tomorrow, I could safely say my Lord has made me one of the world's richest men by opening the door to my association with Union University athletics. On the other hand, if they want to keep me around a little longer, I won't object. As a matter of fact, I'm ready for the next 300.
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