An iconic voice of Kansas athletics — and a former broadcaster for the Kansas City Royals — is calling it quits following this college basketball season.
Bob Davis, who has served as the play-by-by broadcaster for the Kansas Jayhawks for 32 seasons, will retire in 2016, KU announced Tuesday. That means Saturday's Sunflower Showdown at Memorial Stadium will be his final college football broadcast.
"I've been really lucky to be the 'Voice of the Jayhawks' for 32 years," Davis said. "It was a dream job for me when it happened."
Davis, who graduated from Topeka West High School and Washburn University, started at Kansas in the fall of 1984, embarking on a career that would include eight of Kansas’ 14 Final Four appearances and NCAA titles in 1988 and 2008. He also called six bowl games, including Kansas’ Orange Bowl triumph after the 2007 season. His legendary voice was present for nearly every significant moment during the tenures of Larry Brown, Roy Williams and Bill Self.
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"Bob Davis is an institution in the state of Kansas," KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger said, "and we thank him for everything he's meant to KU. Jayhawk fans here and around the country have grown up listening to Bob and consider him a member of their family. We at KU will always consider Bob part of our family."
For Kansas City area sports fans, Davis, 71, also left an indelible mark as a long-time broadcaster with the Kansas City Royals. Davis spent 16 years broadcasting Royals game, shepherding fans through the dark years on radio and television. Davis announced his retirement from his Royals duties in February 2013.
Before taking over at Kansas, Davis spent 16 years broadcasting Fort Hays State University sports, including Fort Hays’ first NAIA basketball national championship in 1984. A member of the FHSU Hall of Fame, Davis also called games at Hays High School and Thomas More Prep, in addition to broadcasts of the Wichita Aeros Triple-A baseball team for KWCH-TV.
Davis’ career began in 1968 at KAYS Radio and TV. According to Davis, his duties included everything from "board shift, to a noon TV show, to running the camera for the 6 p.m., newscast, to doing the sports on the 10 p.m., newscast." Davis also worked for 20 years as a morning sports anchor at KMBZ Radio in Kansas City.
"I had a wonderful first job out in western Kansas at Hays, 16 years there with college and high school sports and a lot of baseball," Davis said. "Then to come to Lawrence and be able to follow the Jayhawks — bowl games, eight Final Fours and some terrific moments, seeing a team win an Orange Bowl and two national (basketball) championships and three other national championship games."
Self said he first met Davis in 1985, while spending a year as a graduate assistant at KU.
"I've had a chance to know Bob since 1985 but to actually work with him for the last 12 and a half years," Self said. "There is nobody, in my opinion, who is any better associated with the University of Kansas at doing their job than what Bob Davis is doing his. He'll be missed.
"Not only is he good at his job, he's a terrific person. He's fun and has become a very dear friend. I'm happy for him from a retirement standpoint so maybe he can enjoy those grandkids a little bit more, which I know is important for him and [his wife] Linda, but certainly he will be missed."
During three decades on the job, Davis became synonymous with legendary KU broadcaster Max Falkenstien, who worked alongside him during KU basketball broadcasts. In more recent years, he has worked with former KU players Chris Piper and Greg Gurley on KU basketball games and former KU football player David Lawrence during seasons at Memorial Stadium. His famous call in the final moment of the 1988 NCAA title — "The dream is real, the dream is real!" — is played before every game at Allen Fieldhouse, and his iconic voice served as the soundtrack for KU athletics for more than three decades.
"The people are what made it amazing," Davis continued. "All the people I've been able to get close to — great players, the coaching staffs, administrators. I'm going to miss it a lot, but it's been really fun. I've also been able to tack on a little baseball on the other side and do that, too, was a dream come true. It's been a real lucky situation for me."
KU to hold search to find replacement
Kansas on Tuesday announced it would conduct a nationwide search to find Davis’ successor. According to KU, interested candidates should direct their inquiries to Chris Ferris at IMG College via the following email address: Chris.Ferris@img.com.