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COACH COLUMN
He was Kentucky Basketball
By Kyle Macy, Morehead State Eagles


In a few short weeks we will all tip off another season of college basketball. Radio play-by-play announcers will once again paint pictures for countless listeners across the country.

They will do their best to bring the action to fans as if they were there watching the game. Nobody was better at using the microphone as an artistic brush than the late, great Cawood Ledford.

On Sept. 5 the broadcasting world lost one of the legendary voices of the game, with the passing of Cawood who called Kentucky basketball games for 39 years. And you won?t find a Wildcats? fan that didn?t love him.

Kentucky fans would trek to the top of the mountains just so that they could pick up his broadcasts. As Cawood use to say, ?the Wildcats will be moving left to right on your radio dial.?

As a youngster, Bobby Knight would tune in to hear Cawood. Following Duke?s overtime win, over Kentucky, in the 1992 East Regional Finals, Mike Krzyzewski bypassed all the other interviewers and spoke on the air with Cawood, first. Coach K was another big fan. Everybody loved the man.

But what made him so special was not the way he brought the game to fans, but how he was as a person.

When I went to play my collegiate basketball at Kentucky I had heard about his legendary presence and was a little intimidated at the idea of being interviewed by him.

As is still done today, broadcasters like to sit down, one-on-one, with the players before each game. I remember vividly the first time I went into to speak with Cawood. I walked in a little nervous and walked out with a friend.

Cawood was such a down to earth, sincere guy. Talking with him was like talking to your own brother or your best friend. And Cawood Ledford had a lot of friends.

It was the first time I have ever been to a funeral where you needed a parking pass and a credential in order to get in. The out poor of family and friends was unbelievable and only fitting for such a great individual who?s career spanned five decades.

As a broadcaster, he called it like it was. He was not your typical radio voice in that he was not a ?homer.?

As the story goes, Adolf Rupp approached Cawood following a Kentucky loss, a loss in which the Wildcats did not play well at all. Rupp asked him how he called the game and Cawood told him I called it just like I saw it. Rupp looked at him, smiled, and told him to keep on calling them that way.

Joe B. Hall, Eddie Sutton and Rick Pitino all worked closely with him, but Cawood wasn?t just the radio voice of UK basketball. He also brought Wildcats football into homes in the Bluegrass State.

His voice was also familiar to fans of the Kentucky Derby as he called the "Run for the Roses" for 22 years. Three times he won the racing industry's highest honor, the prestigious Eclipse Award. Two times he won the "Englehard Award" for excellence in his coverage of horse racing. He also has received the "Silver Horseshoe" honor from the Kentucky Derby Festival for his contributions to racing and the "Dean Eagle Award" for his Kentucky Derby coverage.

Cawood was voted as the state of Kentucky?s ?Sportscaster of the Year" 22 times and four times was named the top college basketball announcer in the nation. He broadcasted the NCAA Final Four on a national radio network for 18 years, the most of any announcer in history.

Recently a good friend of mine told me that Cawood was asked in an interview who is all-time favorite Kentucky Wildcat was. He said it was Kyle Macy.

Whether or not that is true is not important, but it is important to me that I was blessed with the opportunity to have had my college games broadcasted by Cawood Ledford.

He turned the microphone on for the first time on WHLN Radio in Harlan, Kentucky in 1951 and while he may have left us this radio phrase will live on with all of us -- ?Hello everybody, this is Cawood Ledford.?

 

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