As we first reported on my radio show on 1460 KXNO last Friday, John Walters is Clear Channel Communications and Iowa State's choice as the next Voice of the Cyclones.
Walters will retain his position as sports director at Channel 5 WOI in Des Moines in addition to his new duties with ISU. Walters beat out several qualified local candidates as well as several more across the country.
As someone who respects and likes John as a friend and colleague, I couldn't be happier for him.
I went out of my way not to get publicly involved on my radio program in the competition to succeed Pete for a couple of reasons. One, I wanted to be fair because the other local candidates were also friends and colleagues of mine and I would've been happy with any of them being awarded the position. Second, I figured replacing Pete would be tough enough for anybody without me throwing my two cents worth into the process.
But if anyone interested in the job was the true heir to Pete's legacy at ISU it was probably Walters, who was one of Pete's proteges and credits Pete for giving him his break in broadcast television. Walters first worked with Pete back in the day at KCCI TV-8 as a fresh-face with a feathered haircut right out of Drake.
From there, Pete became a surrogate father for Walters and their friendship continued right up until Pete's untimely death in March. In the May issue of Cyclone Nation Magazine, which was our tribute to Pete, Walters had this to say:
Pete was an outstanding play-by-play announcer, but my favorite memories of him are from our friendship. I don't think I ever walked away from a conversation with Pete without a smile on my face. He had a great sense of humor and an ability to make you feel good about yourself.
Pete kept a great perspective on life. He never took himself too seriously. He understood that sports were intended to be fun. When Iowa State was making its run to back-to-back Big 12 basketball championships, Pete encouraged Larry Eustachy to enjoy the ride. When times were rough, he encouraged everyone to look at the bright side. There was ALWAYS a bright side with Pete.
Iowa State lost its greatest ambassador in Pete Taylor. But we all lost a great friend. I told my wife a dozen times that Pete was like a second father to me. A day hasn't gone by without me thinking of Pete. I'll miss his advice, his encouragement, his jokes, his competitiveness, and his willingness to listen. I'll miss playing golf with Pete. I'll miss having him as my Fantasy Football partner.
And I'll miss listening to his great calls of Iowa State's brightest moments. We'll all miss that.
Now it's Walters' turn to assume Pete's perch behind the microphone after 33 years and supply those great calls. Walters will continue to team with former Cyclone Eric Heft, who was Pete's longtime friend and partner.
Perhaps the greatest compliment we can pay to Walters is that if Pete were here today and able to give his blessing to Walters assuming his mantle, I think he would.
A National Search
For those of you that think the search for the next Voice of the Cyclones was largely a local affair, think again.
Names like B.J. Schaben and Mark Allen – who work for Clear Channel stations in Ames and Iowa City, respectively – were prominently floated and discussed. But trust me when I tell you the search for Pete's successor went coast-to-coast and all points in between.
KXNO, which is the flagship station for ISU sports, shares an office building with the Cyclone Radio Network. Thus, I was often an eyewitness to the bevy of interest in the job. And I can tell you that hardly a day went by the past few months without a demo-tape and resume arriving in the mail or multiple messages being left on voice mail about the job.
For example, one conference commissioner who will remain nameless actually called to recommend a play-by-play guy from his alma mater. One very prominent and respected ISU booster also recommended a candidate. The day Tennessee-Chattanooga's Jeff Lebo was offered the head coaching position for men's basketball, the Voice of the Moccasins called the Cyclone Radio Network to inquire about the job.
The bottom line here is that this was a very-coveted broadcasting gig.
Friday Night Lights?
It looks like the recent phenomenon of non-BCS Division I-A schools moving their college football games to every other night of the week in order to accommodate television is about to impact ISU.
Expect to hear a formal announcement soon that Iowa State's game at Northern Illinois will be moved to September 26th in order to be carried by one of the ESPNs. In case you don't have a calendar handy, that's a Friday night.
Thanks to ESPN and Fox Sports Net, college football is no longer a Saturday-specific affair. As a self-confessed college football nut, the more college football the better for me. But it's one thing to play on Thursday night, it's another thing altogether to play on Friday night. Especially in a state like ours that highly-values its high school football.
I also imagine the image-conscious ISU football program actually isn't overly buoyant about the move, which is Northern Illinois' call since it's their home game.
Granted, nobody does a better job of promoting their program than Dan McCarney, but Mac is also a traditionalist and considers in-state high school football sacred. Mac is one of the few head coaches in the country that actively participates in the instruction at his annual summer camp. I sincerely doubt Mac is in favor of anything that takes the spotlight off of the youngsters, even if it's for just one Friday night.
Plus, the national television exposure from a Friday night game is fairly limited, in my opinion. Most of the recruits who you want watching the game aren't home to do so because they're playing games at their local high schools at the same time. Also, Friday night is considered a dead TV night, which is why the networks usually dump their questionable programming there.
I'm a proud member of the vast right-wing conspiracy, and a bleeding capitalist. But I think college football should be careful about over-exposure here. Otherwise it could market itself right into oblivion like the NBA.
One Last Note
After listening to Larry Cotlar on KXNO this morning I decided to add this item here at the end.
Larry wanted to give his compliments to our fellow colleague Schaben, who filled in admirably at the end of last basketball season after Pete passed away. Allow me to second that notion.
Since I joined Clear Channel I've gotten to know Schaben somewhat, and I also think he was a worthy candidate to succeed Pete. What Schaben was called on to do in the wake of Pete's passing last spring is nearly unparalleled in the history of sports broadcasting in this state.
To assume Pete's duties right after his death was tough enough, but to do so the day he died is even more difficult. Nonetheless, Schaben made all young broadcasters proud with the class and professionalism he displayed.
Schaben will remain on the women's basketball broadcasts for ISU and I'm sure is someone we're going to hear much more from in the coming years.
(Steve Deace can be heard on the radio each weekday from 4-7 p.m. on 1460-KXNO, the flagship of the Cyclone Radio Network)