John Ward, known as the “Voice of the Vols” at the University of Tennessee, has died after a lengthy illness at the age of 88.
Ward did radio play-by-play for 34 basketball seasons and for 31 in football, never missing a game in more than 350 broadcasts before his retirement in 1999.
“It is with a heavy heart that we announce a great voice has gone silent,” Vol Network said in a statement announcing his death.
During his last football season in 1998, the Volunteers won the national championship, and he continued for one more basketball season.
When the Volunteers beat Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl to clinch the national title, Ward punctuated the moment with the call: “The national champion is clad in Big Orange!”
Ward’s broadcasts were sprinkled with his signature calls, which included, “Give him six,” after a Tennessee touchdown, and, “Bottom,” when the Volunteers made a big shot in basketball.
After Ward retired, country music superstar Kenny Chesney, who grew up in Tennessee, recorded a tribute to Ward called “Touchdown Tennessee.”
When he announced his retirement in 1998, Ward said: “I’ll miss the game, but I’ll miss the fans more.”
Ward chronicled the exploits of such Tennessee greats as Peyton Manning, Bernard King, Reggie White, Dale Ellis and Condredge Holloway.
In 1994, Ward and his late wife, Barbara, made a $2-million gift to Tennessee, at the time the largest ever made to the school’s athletic department.
Ward was honored on the field during a game last season at Neyland Stadium.