Hacker retires as UK basketball play-by-play man

Longtime UK basketball radio announcer Ralph Hacker announced today that he's retiring after 29 years with the network.

LEXINGTON, Ky. --- Ralph Hacker, who has been a major part of the University of Kentucky Radio Network for 29 years, announced today that he would not return as the play-by-play announcer for the 2001-02 basketball season.

Hacker has spent considerable time residing in Florida since selling HMH Broadcasting to Cumulus Broadcasting in 1999.  Hacker has decided to eliminate the winter commute to join the Wildcats in order to devote more time to his family and other special interests that he had promised himself he would pursue.

Hacker was the “voice” of the basketball Wildcats for nine years and did the play-by-play for Kentucky football for five seasons.  Hacker and Cawood Ledford, the former voice of the Wildcats who retired in 1992, became known as one of the nation’s premier collegiate broadcasting teams for their work with Kentucky football and basketball for 20 years.

“Ralph Hacker has had a distinguished career in radio management and as a versatile and excellent broadcaster,” said W. James Host, chief executive officer of Host Communications (HOST), which has exclusive broadcasting rights for UK athletics.   “The transitions from color to play-by-play and multiple assignments, such as the weekly call-in shows, that Ralph has been asked to handle are very demanding, and Ralph successfully showed he had these unique ability demanded of a professional’s professional.”

"Ralph has been a great asset to our program and to me personally," University of Kentucky Coach Tubby Smith said. "He helped make my transition from Georgia to Kentucky very easy, serving as host of my radio shows. He's given me a lot of advice and guidance and I'll remain one of his biggest fans."

"University of Kentucky broadcasting is synonymous with Cawood Ledford and Ralph Hacker," Athletics Director Larry Ivy said. "Since Cawood's retirement in 1992, Ralph has carried the torch as the play-by-play voice, giving our fans a view of the action over the radio. Through three decades of broadcasting the games and his past position as president of WVLK Radio, Ralph has played a tremendous role in helping us establish the best college radio network in the nation. He'll be sorely missed, but we wish him well in his retirement."

Hacker, a native of Richmond, began his radio career at age 15, doing play-by-play for high school games.  By age 16, he was announcing football and basketball for Eastern Kentucky University games.   He covered UK athletics for five years before joining the UK Radio Network team for the 1972-73 athletics season.

As president of HMH Broadcasting, he was instrumental in building one of the state’s top broadcasting companies with properties such as WVLK Radio, which was UK’s flagship station until 1999.

With Hacker’s retirement, HOST announced that Tom Leach, whom Hacker recommended replace him as the “voice” of the football Wildcats four years ago, would add the basketball play-by-play duties to his football responsibilities.

Leach was hired by Hacker to be the sports director at WVLK, a position he currently holds at WLAP Radio. WLAP Radio is owned by Clear Channel Communications, which became HOST’s broadcasting partner of UK athletics in 2000-01.  Leach also serves as the co-host of a popular variety morning talk show with Dave Baker, who also is a member of the UK Broadcast team.

Although Leach has been the primary voice of Kentucky football for the past four years, he has been a part of the UK Radio Network for 12 seasons.  He won the prestigious Eclipse Awards in 1993 and 1999 for his thoroughbred horse racing coverage and in 1997 was named “Kentucky Sportscaster of the Year.”

“We feel fortunate to have a talent like Tom Leach available to move into the basketball play-by-play position,” said Host. “He has done an outstanding job with football and we are confident that he gives us the quality to which our listeners have become accustomed to hearing as we expand his role with the UK Radio Network.”

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