The first one was a “relief.” The second was a “celebration.” And the third was simply “amazing.”
Woody Durham comes to his North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame Induction ceremony riding the high of the University of North Carolina’s recent NCAA basketball title. Since 1971, Durham has broadcast more than 1,500 UNC football and basketball games and is an authority on all things Carolina blue.
Among his prized memories have been Carolina’s three national titles in the last 25 years. The 1982 Tar Heels landed coach Dean Smith his first national crown, with a freshman named Michael Jordan nailing the game-winner jumper to edge Georgetown in New Orleans. The 1993 edition led by George Lynch and Eric Montross edged Michigan and “The Fab Five” in a return trip to New Orleans.
And just over six weeks ago, Durham was courtside as Sean May, Raymond Felton & Co. held off top-ranked Illinois to give second-year Carolina coach Roy Williams his first crown in five visits to the Final Four. Just three seasons before, the Tar Heels were 8-20 and the luster was dulled on a once-proud program.
“This championship was probably the most amazing because of these players and everything they have endured during their careers,” Durham says. “Of course, everybody talked about Carolina’s talent, but it was Roy Williams who turned this outfit of diverse personalities into a team.”
Durham, renowned for his attention to detail and exhaustive pre-game preparation, is donating his scoring chart, game board and media credential in framed format from the 2005 championship game to the Hall. Durham becomes only the fourth broadcaster to gain admission to this august group of North Carolina sports luminaries.
“The Carolina games have been something that’s been a part of me throughout my life,” says Durham, who just completed his 34th year with the Tar Heels. “I have fun with this job, but it’s something I take very seriously. When people listen to our broadcasts, we’re sort of the connection between the people of the state with Carolina.”
Durham, 63, was born in Mebane and grew up in Albemarle, playing football at Albemarle High and beginning his broadcasting career at 16 years of age at WZKY radio in Albemarle. He graduated from Carolina in 1963 and moved into the television business for a brief stint in Florence, S.C., and then for 14 years with WFMY-TV in Greensboro.
He was asked in 1971 by Carolina athletic director Homer Rice to interview for the play-by-play job. He landed the job and has been calling games in Kenan Stadium, Carmichael Auditorium, the Smith Center and venues around the nation and the world for 34 years. He and his wife, Jean, have lived in Chapel Hill since 1981 as Durham has worked full-time for the two rights-holders to UNC broadcasts—the Village Companies and, since 1999, Learfield Communications.
Durham has been honored with a bevy of professional and service awards over the years, including 11 as North Carolina Sportscaster of the Year and his 2004 induction into the North Carolina Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame. In 2000 he received the William R. Davie Award, the highest honor given by UNC-CH Trustees. “Woody’s enthusiasm, his love for Carolina, is something that is extremely special,” Roy Williams says.
by Lee Pace
May 19, 2005
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