Catching Up With: Woody Durham

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- For 40 years, Woody Durham spent hours preparing to call North Carolina football and basketball games on the radio, carefully hand-writing color-coded scoring charts that including everything from bits of history to lineups to obscure stats.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that even in retirement, the former “Voice of the Tar Heels” still comes to games with a few notes in his pocket.

“During football season, I would take a little index card and write down comparative offensive and defensive stats," Durham said earlier this week. “I really wanted to know what type of game I was going to see when I got there, but nothing like what I was doing in the past. … You’re not associated with it as long as I was and not be interested in using all that research to determine what kind of game it will be, or what it could be.”

Durham, who called more than more 1,800 UNC football and basketball games in his career, announced his retirement in April. But he continues to be a Tar Heels staple.

He’s filmed television commercials. He hopes to visit some cities around North Carolina with new athletic director Bubba Cunningham this spring as part of the Tar Heel Tour, which usually includes lunch, speeches, and Q&As with alumni.

He can still be heard over the Tar Heel Sports Network airwaves, in his pregame “Woody’s Carolina Classic” feature segments.

And he’s also working on his autobiography with Adam Lucas, the publisher of Tar Heel Monthly magazine. Tentatively titled “Woody: A Tar Heel Voice,” the pages are due to the editor by next month. The book should hit stores by next fall.

“It’s a little bit of my background in growing up in North Carolina,” Durham said. “But it’s spent mostly about my time with Carolina, my 40 years of calling games. And of course about my family and how [sons] Wes and Taylor have gotten into this crazy business.”

Durham, who was honored during halftime of Tuesday’s Miami-UNC game and has had the radio booth named after him, said he misses being behind the microphone, where he called 23 bowl games, 13 Final Fours, and six national basketball title showdowns.

But he still loves watching and analyzing in person.

“The Sunday before [last] against Monmouth, my friends and I played golf that morning at about 9 o’clock so we could get through and go to the game. And they were all kidding me, saying, ‘This is the first time you’ve played golf on a game day, isn’t it?’” Durham said, laughing. “I said, ‘You can believe that.’"

He’s attended all but one home game this season, and particularly likes his new vantage point: the upper circle of the Smith Center, above the tunnel where the Tar Heels enter and exit the floor.

“Being in that position, I can see screens off the ball. I can see more movement,’’ he said. “… I sort of wish I had those seats when I was calling the games.”

Before games, he sometimes makes his way down to the press room to greet the officials or familiar friends from visiting teams. He sometimes misses his old routine, he said, but one thing he was glad to bid goodbye to was all the pregame preparation. (Even if he does pull out that index card once in a while.)

“I don’t make a big deal of it," he said. “It’s just something I put in my pocket -- [it’s] not nearly the amount of what I used to do.”

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.