March 19, 2013
Each week, AuburnTigers.com will take a look at a different personality from Auburn Athletics. This blog will take a look at the various perspectives of student-athletes, coaches and administrators. In this entry, the voice of Auburn women's basketball Andy Burcham reflects on 25 years on the mic. Enjoy his insights and join us again for another edition next week.
By Andy Burcham
When the final seconds tick off the clock in Auburn women's basketball's last home game this season, it will mark an end to my 25th year of calling games for the Tigers. My first year, the 1988-89 season, I joined a team that would eventually play in the NCAA Championship game for the second time in three straight years. Can't get much better than two Final Fours in your first two seasons!
I moved to Auburn from Carbondale, Ill., and had been calling women's basketball on a collegiate level since my days as an undergrad at Indiana State. The position open in Auburn was calling women's basketball and a quarter century later, I'm still calling the games.
This job has taken me from one coast of the United States to the other. It included my first-ever trips to New York, New Jersey, Washington, Connecticut, Arizona, Oregon, Michigan and nearly every one of the contiguous 48 states. Additionally, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the Bahamas all were accomplished alongside the Auburn women's basketball team. I can't imagine another job that would have allowed me to travel so extensively on someone else's dime.
I've been blessed to work with three great coaches at Auburn. Hall of Famer Joe Ciampi was the first. His program was at its zenith when I joined the crew. At my first-ever SEC Tournament, then held in Albany, Ga., Ciampi threw me out of practice prior to the title game against Tennessee. A Tennessee reporter was at practice and walked over to talk to me. Even though I didn't speak a word to the reporter, Joe gave me the boot. Back at the team hotel later in the day, he zipped a tennis ball into my room. The ball nearly shattered the mirror. It was his way of saying not to worry about the practice ejection.
The run to the Final Four in 1991 came as a huge surprise to many, but not to Joe. In 1996, the Tigers made another surprise run to the Elite Eight. The next year, Auburn became the first team in SEC history to win four games in four days at the SEC Tournament. The Tigers avenged four regular season losses and beat Georgia and Tennessee in the process. That same Lady Vols team went on to win three straight NCAA titles.
Nell Fortner took over in 2004. Her resume included a gold medal with the U.S. women's team at the Sydney Olympics as the head coach. Nell's first recruiting class is one of Auburn's all time greats. DeWanna Bonner, Whitney Boddie, and Sherrell Hobbs formed the nucleus of the Tiger's 2009 SEC Championship team. Auburn beat Tennessee twice that season.
During the regular season, the largest home crowd in Auburn women's athletics history watched the Tigers beat the Lady Vols at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. Media Relations Director Matt Crouch walked up to me before the game to notify me that the curtain had been moved to accommodate the crowd; he meant the curtain in the upper reaches of the coliseum. More than 12,000 fans packed the Coliseum to watch their Tigers dismantle the Lady Vols.
Now the job belongs to Terri Williams Flournoy. Coach Flo learned her defensive philosophy from John Thompson at Georgetown -- not the current head coach, the father. Twice in her first season, she guided her team in comebacks of 15 points or more. I'm convinced she will get the job done at Auburn.
I want to thank Auburn for the opportunity to call its games. Thanks to the radio stations that have allowed me to pursue a business I'd dreamed of since I was six years old.
Growing up near St. Louis, Mo., I listened to Harry Caray and Jack Buck calling the Cardinals. After the 1967 season, the Redbirds made a season highlight record. I wore it out, memorizing the entire thing. Also, thanks to the group of sports information directors who have worked for the Tigers. Their extraordinary work has made my job much easier.
Finally, and most importantly, thanks to my wife, Dr. Jan Gunnels Burcham, for her support and understanding of my odd occupation.
Now, let's go win the WNIT. War Eagle!