Aug. 18, 2001
Jim Turpin, the play-by-play announcer for University of Illinois football and basketball for 42 years, announced his retirement from the broadcast booth earlier this morning on his weekly "Saturday Sportsline" program on WDWS-AM 1400. Turpin will broadcast the play-by-play for all Illinois football and men's basketball games, along with hosting the popular "Ron Turner Show" and "Bill Self Show", through the 2001-2002 season.
"Jim has been a loyal supporter and a gifted announcer for Fighting Illini athletics for more than four decades," said Director of Athletics Ron Guenther. "Jim's name and voice are synonymous with Illini athletics and the University of Illinois has been very fortunate to have Jim as our voice for so many years. We also appreciate the quality manner and professionalism in which Jim has emceed hundreds of athletic banquets and functions over the years. Jim has been a great friend of the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics and has been consistently recognized on a national basis for excellence in broadcasting. I know this will be a great final year for Jim and we wish him well in his retirement."
A 1961 University of Illinois graduate, Turpin recently retired as the longtime vice president and general manager of WDWS and WHMS radio in Champaign. He has hosted the extremely popular daily "Penny for Your Thoughts" and weekly "Saturday Sportsline" programs for more than 20 years on WDWS-AM 1400, shows he will continue to host.
"Jim Turpin is probably one of the best play-by-play announcers in the country," said John Foreman, Executive Vice President of WDWS and The News-Gazette. "He's a legend and we have been honored to have him represent us in the booth these many years."
Turpin is a past winner of the Illinois Broadcasters Association Silver Dome Award, given to Downstate Illinois' best sports play-by-play announcer. He began broadcasting Illinois sports on WILL-AM-FM radio in 1959 and joined the Purity Sunbeam Illinois Network on WDWS-AM in 1977. He has been the regular "Voice of the Illini" on the Illini Sports Network since 1980.
To put Turpin's career in perspective, consider that he has called more than 1,200 Illini games through 10 U.S. Presidents (beginning with Dwight Eisenhower), nine football coaches (beginning with Ray Eliot), six basketball coaches (beginning with Harry Combes) and 12 Athletic Directors (beginning with Doug Mills).
Quoting Jim Turpin:
"I consider it a great honor to have been the play-by-play announcer for the Illini for all these years. I want to thank all those who have given me this opportunity. I have always planned to 'go out on top' while I'm still healthy and capable of performing at the highest level. I look forward to an exciting year with Ron Turner and Bill Self.
"My goal is to provide the Illini Sports Network with the very best effort until the final horn sounds next March, hopefully at the Final Four. I will also be working on a book that will contain my on-mike and off-mike experiences with the Illini during the past 40-plus years. It will be published by Sports Publishing, Inc. and in the bookstores September, 2002."
Barnhart named as Turpin's successor on Illinois broadcasts...
Former major league baseball announcer Brian Barnhart, a native of nearby Tolono, has been named the new Illinois football and basketball play-by-play announcer, succeeding Turpin beginning in 2002-2003. Barnhart, 36, has spent the last two years as a news and sports announcer at WDWS-AM 1400 and has done play-by-play work in football, men's and women's basketball, volleyball and baseball on the Illini Sports Network. A longtime baseball play-by-play announcer, Barnhart has worked more than 2,000 sporting events during his 17-year career.
"Brian Barnhart is a rising star," said Foreman. "He's bright. He's professional. Radio listeners are in for a treat. Illini sports fans deserve the best, and they'll get it from Brian. As a corporation, we're particularly thrilled that Brian's presence behind the microphone represents a continuation of the long partnership between our corporation and Fighting Illini athletics. WDWS enjoys being part of a winning team."
Barnhart grew up in the Champaign-Urbana area, graduating from Unity High School in Tolono before earning his bachelor's degree in radio/television from Liberty University in 1986. He began his broadcasting career as an undergraduate in 1984, serving as play-by-play announcer for Liberty basketball.
In 1986, Barnhart began his professional broadcasting career, serving as the play-by-play voice of the Lynchburg Mets and Salem Buccaneers before moving up to the Oklahoma City 89ers, the Class AAA affiliate of the Texas Rangers, from 1988-94. Barnhart did high school football and other sport play-by-play for 11 years and was also the voice for Oklahoma Baptist basketball from 1992-94 and Oklahoma City Blazers minor league hockey in 1993. From 1996-98, he did news, sports and play-by-play at WWLS in Oklahoma City.
In 1998, Barnhart was named the play-by-play announcer for the Anaheim Angels and spent two full seasons with the American League club before returning to the Champaign-Urbana area in 2000. Barnhart will provide pre-game, halftime and post-game features and interviews during Illini football broadcasts this fall.
Barnhart resides in Champaign with his wife, Jennifer, and children Lauren (4) and Michelle (1).
Quoting Brian Barnhart: "I grew up listening to Larry Stewart and Jim Turpin describe Illinois football and basketball and this opportunity is the highlight of my career. I feel like I've come full circle, from a young fan growing up rooting for the Illini to keeping track of Illinois sports from afar to coming home and receiving the opportunity to serve as play-by-play announcer. This is a great honor.
"During my radio career, I was often asked, 'If you could have one job, what would it be?' Without question, my answer was always the University of Illinois play-by-play job. However, during those years, I did not anticipate a return to Central Illinois and knew that Jim would continue doing the games for many years to come, so I pursued my own career goals.
"Jim has done a fantastic job of bringing Illini action into our homes, workplaces and car radios. He has always presented the games in an exciting and easily understood manner. I also appreciate Jim's passion for Illinois athletics. I am just one of thousands of people across the state who became lifelong Illini fans by listening to Jim on the radio.
"I value Jim's friendship and appreciate what he has meant to me and thousands of loyal Illini fans. Jim planted a passion for the Illini in me as a young man, and even though my radio career took me far away from Illinois, I never lost that passion. I have Jim to thank for that. My goal as the next Illinois play-by-play announcer is to continue to uphold Jim's tradition of professionalism on the air and his passion for Illinois athletics."