For 37 years, Bill Woodward served the Valley as the radio voice of the Fresno State Bulldogs.
Woodward passed away in May in Washington State at the age of 81.
“Bill was a wonderful mentor. Such gravitas. A true professional. A legend in the broadcasting industry. There’s a reason he’s forever remembered in the Fresno State Athletics Hall of Fame”, said KMJ Program Director Blake Taylor. “I miss him and his play-by-play of Bulldogs sports will always have a place in my heart.”
When Woodward retired from KMJ in 2010, it made news:
“For almost 40 years, Bill’s award winning voice has been synonymous with Central Valley sports on KMJ 580,” added SVP/Market Manager Patty Hixson. “His commitment to the local sports community as well as our station family is unparalleled. We are proud to take this opportunity to thank him for his service, and wish him only the best in his well deserved retirement.”
Woodward was inducted into the Fresno State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010:
An eye for detail, a passion for preparation and a distinctive, reassuring voice – perfect for story-telling – brought the Selma native acclaim as the radio “Voice of the Bullgogs” during 37 seasons of broadcasting Fresno State sports.
Woodward was the Red Wave’s eyewitness to history from 1972 to 2008 as play-by-play announcer for more than 2,000 football, basketball, and baseball games on KMJ 580 AM, the central San Joaquin Valley’s powerhouse radio station.
Though players, coaches, and athletic directors would change many times, Woodward was a constant for Bulldogs fans. His time behind the microphone spanned Fresno State’s athletic development from a small-college program into a well-known player on the national stage.
Woodward called many of the Bulldogs’ greatest moments: the 1983 NIT basketball championship, the ‘83 basketball victory over a No.2 ranked Houston team boasting Hakeem Olajuwon the ‘92 Freedom Bowl football victory over USC and the 2004 overtime win over Virginia in the MPC Computers Bowl.
He covered the game as the fans wanted it, referring to popular Bulldog athletes by their first names and venting when he believed Fresno State had been victimized by a bad call. The relationship between announcer and listener was that of a big family living and dying with their Bulldogs.
Just as he was revered by fans, Woodward was respected by peers, twice winning the California Associated Press Television and Radio Broadcasters ward for locally produced play-by play.
Woodward grew up loving sports, playing football at Selma High and in junior college. While recovering from a shoulder injury in 1960, a friendship with KRDU’s Dick Shepperd inspired Woodward to consider a career in radio. After graduating Fresno State, he worked at a station in Eugene, Ore., before landing KMJ in 1972.
To get the job, Woodward needed a football audition tape – which he didn’t have. As Woodward tells the story: “I went to a San Francisco 49ers game and mimicked everything Lon Simmons said into a tape recorder. It was on such a short notice, a do-or-die situation, but it worked.
“BILL started at KMJ in 1972 when Richard Nixon was in the White House, gas prices in Fresno were under a dollar a gallon and apple was a fruit, not a computer company,” KMJ’s former Program Director Skip Essick said. “Along the way the ASSOCIATED PRESS awarded him for best play-by-play announcing of the Fresno State Bulldogs. He is a true professional and large part of KMJ’s long history. We will all certainly miss him.”
“I’ve made a lot of friends here, a lot of folks I’ll miss, but it’s time to move on,” Woodward said at the time of his retirement. “I’m looking forward to this next adventure.”
Listen to the report by KMJ’s Liz Kern.