Buzzer-beaters, game-winning field goals, and walk-off hits are some of the most exciting finishes a sporting event can have. Most fans can think of a time when their own team took a dramatic win in this very fashion, and if they watched it on TV or heard it over the radio the call of the play likely sticks with them for a long while.
Broadcasters are such a strong part of sports, they create a medium in which those who can’t be at a game live can experience the game through the calls of a play-by-play announcer. The best become legendary and their calls seemingly live forever.
Jacksonville State is honored to have Mike Parris as the “Voice of the Gamecocks” for three decades now. Parris, often referred to as simply “The Voice” around the friendliest campus in the South, began calling athletic events for the Gamecocks in 1983 and is now in his 30th year behind the microphone.
Fans of JSU know the familiar voice all too well, and on game days or game nights speakers all across northeast Alabama are filled with the sounds of Gamecock athletics with Parris’ commentary flowing with the action.
Parris has seen, and called, some of the most dramatic games in Jacksonville State athletics history. It was only his second season calling basketball when coach Bill Jones’ 1984-85 basketball squad went on a tear and won the national championship. The team lost a one-point game to open the season against Belmont Abbey before reeling off 31 straight wins.
Parris recalls practically sitting in the seats way behind the press table calling the game against SE Missouri State where JSU hit a 30-footer at the buzzer to win 80-79 to send the Gamecocks to the Final Four. Once in the championship game, the Gamecocks had a dramatic finish as Jax State rallied from being down by seven in the final two minutes to beat South Dakota State 74-73 for the title.
Parris was there as legendary JSU baseball coach Rudy Abbott led the Gamecocks to back-to-back NCAA national titles on the diamond in 1990 and 1991. Finally, Parris was also in the booth as coach Bill Burgess finally got the Gamecocks over the hump and won the 1992 NCAA football national title, defeating Pittsburg State 17-13. Still today, JSU is the only school in the nation to lay claim to national titles in basketball, baseball and football at any level… and “The Voice” called them all.
Maybe those were before your time, but perhaps you heard Parris on ESPN one Saturday afternoon in 2010 when his radio calls were played over the air as the Gamecocks shocked the college football world by defeating Ole Miss in double overtime.
On that the day, the names of Coty Blanchard, Kevyn Cooper, and Calvin Middleton, among others, became household names in a matter of hours.
Parris says that he just has a passion for his line of work. He recalled that as a kid learning to read, he just wanted to get the sports pages from the newspaper as often as he could. He began calling high school football games in Georgia in the late 1970s and has done everything from call a game sitting on the press box because there was no room inside, to calling a game through a standard telephone in which he had to share the receiver with his color man.
With his job, Parris gets to travel and see stadiums and arenas across the country, from a basketball tournament in Alaska to those a little closer to home at the beautiful facilities of Michigan State and Arkansas.
He claims that probably the most picturesque stadium he’s ever seen was when JSU played Montana in 1993. The Grizzlies make their home in Missoula, MN and have a top notch stadium surrounded by a beautiful mountain range that Parris noted was like a scene out of a western film.
In 30 years Parris has seen many athletes come and go, and saidthat getting to watch those athletes grow and develop from walking onto campus as freshmen to leaving as a mature adults is one of his favorite parts of being here.
So next time you can’t make it to see the Gamecocks live, tune in to WLJS 91.9 FM and listen to the calls of one Mike Parris.