MISSOULA – Bill Schwanke had no idea that when he played by game at home while playing the board game All Star Baseball as a child, his voice would one day reverberate in the state of Montana as he passed 23 seasons as “Voice of the Griz”. . “
Schwanke has grown from humble beginnings to broadcasting more than 1,000 college and high school games on the radio in the span of six decades. The Missoula native is now being honored for his work by receiving an annual award to recognize FCS broadcasters named in his honor.
“I am deeply honored,” he said. “It’s surreal. In my wildest dreams, I never thought such a thing would ever happen. I am so grateful to have been chosen.
The Bill Schwanke Prize will be awarded annually to a play-by-play radio broadcaster that calls the FCS football matches. The voting committee will include selected broadcasters, including Tim Brando of FOX Sports, and a play-by-play broadcaster from each of the FCS conferences. The prize will be awarded the week before the FCS National Championship match.
Kevin Marshall, who hosts the weekly national radio show FCS Nation, came up with the idea of launching the Bill Schwanke Award.
“I’ve noticed there is a price tag for everything from the incumbent to the long snapper to the All-Americans, but one piece that’s missing is for play-by-play broadcasters,” he said. . “They’re the ones who paint the pictures and bring the games to life for the fans who listen on the radio.”
Schwanke called 279 UM football games from 1971 to 1993 while working with coaches Jack Swarthout, Gene Carlson, Larry Donovan and Don Read. He also called 639 MU men’s basketball games for teams that had a coach roster: Jud Heathcote, Jim Brandenburg, Mike Montgomery, Stew Morrill and Blaine Taylor.
Schwanke became well associated with the Griz, although he chose the nickname “Grizzly Bill” when he was a disc jockey on KYLT Radio in Missoula. He prioritized being the eyes of those who listened, was picky about the preparation and correct pronunciation of names, emphasized fairness in assigning credit and blame, and spent hours listening to his calls for self-criticism.
“The biggest compliment I have ever received was people telling me it was like they were watching the game and could see what I was saying in their minds,” he said.
Schwanke couldn’t give up his passion even when he retired from college games and worked at the Missoulian newspaper as an online editor from 2005-2010. He broadcast high school games in the Missoula area until ‘in 2015 and finished with 180 high school games called since he started calling Loyola High School games for KYLT in the late 1960s.
Schwanke has grown up wanting to be the “voice of the Griz” since attending UM games in the 1950s, when his father helped start Century Club, UM’s booster club. He started calling games Griz in 1971 when KYLT acquired the rights to KGVO, but he was still learning on the fly. He graduated from UM in 1967 with a degree in print journalism, began working as UM’s sports news director that year, and was the Missoulian’s sports editor from 1969 to 1971.
“I always felt like I was paid to have a good time,” he said. “Once I started calling college games there was more pressure. But you made it work. It’s what you do when you like something.
Schwanke’s love and passion for broadcasting was recognized by Marshall and FCS Nation co-host Kris Kallem. This is why they thought it appropriate to name the award in honor of Schwanke.
“He’s a hell of a broadcaster,” Marshall said. “It’s ‘Grizzly Bill’ Schwanke. The Grizzlies and Bill Schwanke are synonymous with a lot of people because of his dedication and dedication. “
Schwanke could never be drawn away from Montana and the Big Sky for brighter lights. He tried to hit the jackpot wherever he was. It is therefore happy to see other FCS broadcasters receiving this award.
“FCS football is a very good thing. It’s a big problem in a lot of places, ”he said. “I think this is a great idea and is long overdue. It’s good to see hard-working people being recognized.
Frank Gogola covers Griz football and prepares sports for the Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter @FrankGogola or email him at [email protected]