After 40 years as the “Voice of the Tar Heels,” play-by-play announcer Woody Durham retired Tuesday night.
Durham, 69, has called more than 1,800 North Carolina football and men’s basketball games in his career. UNC will hold a press conference Wednesday at 10 a.m. for the official announcement.
“You hear UNC sports and you think Woody Durham,” said Greg Tilley, who spotted for Durham at UNC football games this past season. “It’s that way for me and a lot of people who know or listen to him. He is UNC sports.”
Spectators at Kenan Stadium and the Smith Center could frequently be seen with headsets on during games, tuning into Durham and his call.
“I don’t think I’ve ever known Woody to be at a loss for words. Ever,” Tilley said. “But when you go into the room, every game for me it was a feeling of nervousness and excitement all rolled into one. When the game was over, you couldn’t believe it was over. It was fun and energetic.”
Durham announced his retirement one day after Harrison Barnes announced he would return for his sophomore season to the Tar Heels. His retirement comes as a surprise, as there was no farewell tour or announcement during the season.
“I think it was Woody trying to do it on his own terms,” Tilley said.
The 1963 UNC graduate began his career in broadcasting when he was 16 years old. He began calling UNC football and men’s basketball in 1971 and has been honored as the state’s top sportscaster 13 times.
Along with calling the Tar Heels’ games, he also hosted the radio shows Butch Davis Live and Roy Williams Live.
Durham was very much a part of the Tar Heel family. He called four UNC national championships and often wore a national championship ring.
His preparation for games lasted all week for football and basketball games. Durham made detailed charts to use during the games.
“He would give them to me on Wednesday so we could go to Thursday (football) practice to watch the team and make sure who was where and who was what,” Tilley said. “Everything was very detailed and meticulous.”
UNC basketball coach Roy Williams spoke at Durham’s induction into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 2005, saying, “Woody’s enthusiasm, his love for Carolina, is something that is extremely special.”
Durham’s son Wes calls games for both Georgia Tech and the Atlanta Falcons and was recently given the Georgia Sportscaster of the Year award.
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