NEWS- Mac's out: McDonald resigns as 'Voice of the Cavs'
After 16 years at the mic at UVA football and men's basketball games, Mac McDonald announced Wednesday, April 30, that he's resigning his post with the Virginia Sports Network as radio play-by-play man for the Cavaliers.
"I know it seems sudden, but there's a project that came along after the season I want to sink my teeth into," says McDonald. "I wanted to give the University plenty of time, so I told them about a month ago, and we've had what's called in legalese 'a resignation by mutual consent.' This was entirely my decision."
McDonald says he can't say much about what's he's doing next "because it affects other people," but he does hint that it will keep him in sportscasting and that he'll remain in Charlottesville. But the new job does mean "lots of travel."
This marks the second time McDonald has left Grounds for greener pastures. The first was in 1985, when he went to Winston-Salem to call games for Wake Forest University. In 2006, he left the morning show with Jane Foy and the late Dick Mountjoy at the Virginia Sports Network flagship station, WINA-AM, to focus on his UVA duties.
McDonald's football broadcast partner, Frank Quayle, says the news took him aback.
"He sent me an e-mail, and I was surprised and disappointed," Quayle says. "He was the one who first asked me back in 1983 if I'd like to do this, and it's been a fun and meaningful activity for me."
Quayle wasn't the only one shocked by the announcement.
"His golf tournament got rained out, so when I saw he was calling, I thought it was to talk about the rescheduled date," says Jim Hobgood, McDonald's longtime color commentator for Cavalier men's basketball. "I was broadsided when it turned out not to be."
There's no word yet on who might succeed McDonald in the booth, or if it will affect Quayle's or Hobgood's status as commentators.
"I have no idea," says Quayle, whose full-time job is real estate, of his own broadcast future. "Mac and I used to always get together in August and test the level of enthusiasm, so I guess we'll just have to go from there."
"I would certainly like to continue doing it," says Hobgood, "but whoever they hire should have a chance to meet with me and with Frank and decide if he wants us."
Regardless of whether Quayle or Hobgood returns, they both say it's going to be difficult for either to hear another voice calling the games.
"I'm not sure I'd call it a challenge to find someone," says Quayle, "but Mac McDonald is extraordinarily professional and very good at what he does. It'll be interesting to see who they get."
"It's a terrible loss for University of Virginia athletics," says Hobgood. "In a lot of ways, the announcer is the one constant for fans. The players change. Sometimes the coaches change. It's going to be hard to get used to someone else after hearing Mac for so long."
Asked if he had any advice for his successor, McDonald says, "I'm not trying to toot my own horn, but he had better be ready to take on the world. What I've learned is that there's so much more to the job than showing up for a three-hour broadcast on game day. There's preparation, and time representing the University in every facet."
So who might Virginia Sports Properties find to sit in the booth at Scott Stadium and courtside at JPJ? The Hook has a few ideas:
Warren Swain: When McDonald left UVA for the first time in 1985, Swain came over from his alma mater, Drake University, to call games for the orange and blue. For the next 11 years, Swain was the steady voice at the mic, calling some of the most memorable moments in Cavalier history such as the football team's improbable 1990 winning streak that drove the Cavaliers to #1 in college football that year, and the Cavalier men's basketball team's run to the Elite Eight in the 1995 NCAA Tournament. Swain left in 1996 to call the play-by-play for the then-national champion Cornhuskers football team at the University of Nebraska.
He's presently the voice of the Division I-AA Ohio University Bobcats. Is Swain ready to return to the big-time of ACC athletics? Swain did not return the Hook's calls for comment.
Jed Williams: A McDonald protegé, Williams started calling Cavalier sports as an undergraduate intern at WINA. By the time he graduated, he was the voice of UVA women's basketball, WINA's sports director, and the original host of sports talk show The Best Seat in the House. Then he left for the bigger market of Mobile, Alabama. But Williams' unabashed sports passion is basketball, and in Alabama the two major sports are football and spring football. Could the lure of the hardwood tempt Williams back to Charlottesville?
Robert Fish: A former sideline reporter for UVA football games for WINA, Fish is just down the road in Richmond where he splits duties between calling Virginia Commonwealth University men's basketball games at Richmond Coliseum and describing the action for fans of minor league baseball's Richmond Braves at the Diamond. But the Braves are leaving town at the end of the season, and Fish is about to have a lot more time on his hands. Time enough to relocate an hour west, perhaps?
Adam Gottschalk: He's another McDonald understudy, the current play-by-play man for UVA baseball, and WINA's sports director. Considering his popularity among the college crowd moonlighting as the host of Internet radio's Midnight Barbecue, Gottschalk might be able to draw the much-coveted drunken-frat-boy-with-a-laptop demographic.
Melissa Stark: Though she's definitely in the gender minority of her profession, this member of the UVA class of 1995 is the most famous non-athlete sports personality to come out of Mr. Jefferson's University. She has experience on the world's biggest sports stages, from reporting from the sidelines on ABC's Monday Night Football (2001-2004), to covering the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino for NBC, not to mention filling in for fellow Wahoo Katie Couric on the Today show. Just as UVA lured Al Groh from the NFL to coach the football team, might the pull of the orange-and-blue bring Stark back to Grounds?
Joe Buck: Sure, he has a good gig as Fox Sports' top sportscaster, but isn't it possible he'd rather spend autumn in the relatively mild climate of Virginia than in such frigid NFL destinations as Chicago, Minneapolis, and Green Bay? Perhaps Fox colleague Howie Long should have a word with the Emmy-winner about a permanent relocation.
Colin Cowherd: This ESPN Radio personality already has a deep appreciation for Charlottesville's culinary and fashion scenes. In 2006, on his call-in show, The Herd, he said, "UVA football is the softest bunch of cream puff, bow-tie-wearing, brie cheese-eating, ascot-wearing wussies I've ever seen in my life! There's not a softer bunch of cookie dough-eating weenies than the UVA football program! Those guys wear makeup to games!"
George Allen: Following his historic re-election upset loss to Sen. Jim Webb (D), this former Republican governor and senator has declined to make another run for the governor's mansion in 2009. Always known as a rousing speaker on the stump (save the occasional campaign-sinking YouTube video), and an increasing presence on Fox News touting Sen. John McCain's candidacy for president, might his oratorical skill translate to the broadcast booth? It's possible, but the Hook is worried that Allen may get tongue-tied with names on the UVA roster like Chris Hinkebein, Zach Mendez-Zfass, or Curt Orshoski, and may instead make up a name that turns out to be a racist slur somewhere in North Africa.