VandyMania Interview: Paul Eells

Paul Eells was the voice of Commodore football and basketball for 11 seasons, from 1967-78, and sports anchor for Nashville's WSMV-TV. Today he's the voice of Arkansas Razorback football (radio) and basketball (television), and sports director for Little Rock's KATV-TV.

VM: You've been through some great years with Arkansas basketball, and you've been there to see the school leave the old Southwest Conference and come into the SEC. 

Eells: That's right. When I first got there, Lou Holtz was the football coach, and Eddie Sutton was the basketball coach. We had a great deal of success. I've seen a lot of changes in Fayetteville, especially with football coaches. Lou left and took the Minnesota job, and Ken Hatfield came in-- then Jack Crowe for a year and a half. Then Danny Ford came in as an interim coach for Joe Kines. And now Houston Nutt will be starting his fifth year at Arkansas. 

VM: I know you have to have just dozens of memories from the Nashville years, but tell me a few of your favorite ones. 

Eells: Well, Vanderbilt was such a unique experience. I think one of the great years was when Fred Pancoast went into Knoxville and upset Tennessee in 1975. I think also the association with Roy Skinner-- one of the most unique coaches I've ever been around-- those are some of the great memories I have. I think the fan base at Vanderbilt was just great. Tennessee dominates the state, so you had to be a great fan at Vanderbilt. I was interested that Vandy had so many sidewalk alumni, and terrific support. And then, Memorial Gym was one of the most unique places that I've ever been. We broadcast at that time from way at the top of the arena. You could almost call baskets made before the ball went into the hole, just watching the trajectory of the ball. 

VM: How did you wind up with the Vanderbilt job? 

Eells: In 1966 Larry Munson announced his retirement to go to Atlanta to work with Milo Hamilton and the Atlanta Braves. Milo Hamilton was a graduate of the University of Iowa, and he talked to a friend of his back there and said, there's a job open in Nashville, Tennessee. I went down to interview with Jud Collins, then the news director at WSM-TV. I was impressed with the city, and impressed with the station, but I didn't think they were impressed with me. I went back to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and made the commitment that that was where I was going to stay, because I was doing Iowa football at that time. About two months later they called and said, are you ready to come to Nashville? I said, I can't! I've got this commitment. This was in late August. But the next spring, in April, the station contacted me again and asked if I was interested. I went back, and everything worked out. I spent the better part of 11-1/2 years there. It was a great station. 

VM: You were there during the Steve Sloan period too. 

Eells: Yes. Bill Pace became head coach there in 1967, and he had Arkansas ties. I worked with Bill from 1967 up until 1973, when Steve came in. One of my funnier memories revolves around Steve. After Vanderbilt went to the Peach Bowl [in 1974], there were a lot of rumors that he would leave Vanderbilt to go to Texas Tech. I interviewed him, and he said no, I'm going to stay. I had him on the television show on a Saturday night saying, "I'm committed to Vanderbilt." The next morning I open the Tennessean-- and it says, Steve Sloan headed to Texas Tech! 

VM: Tell me about your family. I'm guessing that you have some grandchildren. 

Eells: Five grandchildren-- two daughters that are happily married and living in Nashville, Tennessee. My wife is from Nashville. So we are in Nashville a lot. [WSMV-TV's] Rudy Kalis is a great friend, and Dan Miller is also a great friend. It's always good to see Dan back in Nashville. 

VM: You also did the sports on the old "The Waking Crew" radio program, didn't you? 

Eells: Oh, that was so much fun. Teddy Bart asked me to do the morning sports, and those were just joyous times, to listen to live bands, and see the crowds come in at the Opryland Hotel. Lots of memories. 

VM: You've been close to [former Arkansas basketball coach] Nolan Richardson, I'm sure. Could you give me your perspective on his situation? 

Eells: I've known Nolan for 17 years. He's a terrific person with great passion. Nolan is the kind of man who, as you know, says what he thinks. Sometimes it gets a coach in trouble, but I admire him so much for it. I was saddened that it had to end this particular way. I saw it crumbling back in 2000 before the SEC Tournament. There were people that wanted him out as coach at that time, and then they went and won the Tournament, so nobody could do anything at that time. But I think it's a reflection of society today-- you've got to win. People get angry, and want every game to be a "W". But Nolan is a terrific man. I wish him nothing but the best. 

VM: Are you getting pretty close to retirement? 

Eells: I hope to go for about three more years-- if they let me.

[Postscript: This past season marked Eells' 24th season calling the Hogs' action. He has been named Arkansas Sportscaster of the Year nine times, and includes the 2000 Cotton Bowl victory as a highlight of his time with the Razorbacks.]

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