'Voice of the Sooners' Bob Barry Sr. dies

Updated: October 30, 2011, 10:12 PM ET
By Jake Trotter | SoonerNation

Bob Barry Sr., the longtime radio voice of Oklahoma football who was handpicked by coach Bud Wilkinson, died Sunday. He was 80.

"Bob Barry represented the best of the Sooner spirit," OU president David Boren said in a statement Sunday. "With his contagious enthusiasm, he was one of the best sports broadcast journalists in the entire nation. He was loved by Oklahomans all across our entire state and will be missed by all of us."

The "Voice of the Sooners" from 1961-1972, then from 1991-2010, retired as OU's football and basketball play-by-play man in the spring. Barry also called Oklahoma State and Tulsa games between stints at OU.

Barry retired last spring at the end of the basketball season, having spent 50 years calling Division I college games in the state. He said he did so for health reasons and because he didn't feel his vision allowed him to perform up to his standards.

"Something you love to do your entire life and you're able to do it and get paid for it, it's hard to let go. Really, part of me doesn't want to let go. But the other part of me says, 'It's time, Bubba,'" Barry said in August 2010, when announcing his retirement plans.

Barry's broadcasting career began in 1956 at a Norman radio station, as a salesman, disc jockey and sportscaster calling Norman High School football games. Because Wilkinson's sons had played at Norman High, Barry was asked to try out along with 13 others for the OU play-by-play job in 1961.

Barry, turned out, got the job.

His very first game was Oklahoma's trip to Notre Dame in the 1961 season opener.

"I was scared to death," Barry said last year. "I get in there and do the game, broadcast the game and then like a little kid, I get on the phone, 'Dad, how'd I do? How'd I do, Dad?' ... He said I did OK."

OU football coach Bob Stoops, in a statement released by the university, expressed condolences to Barry's family.

"I know this is a difficult time for them, but hope they can find comfort in a life well-lived and the love of countless fans all over the country."

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, who was the Cowboys' quarterback when Barry was the Cowboys' play-by-play announcer during the 1980s, issued a statement calling Barry a family friend and a state legend.

"He always had a smile and a great sense of humor. From the Gundy family and the entire Oklahoma State family, we send our thoughts and prayers."

Barry was sports director at Oklahoma City's KFOR until 1998, when he was succeeded by his son, Bob Barry Jr. Barry Sr. continued providing reports for the television station until retiring in 2008.

"I never saw Bob have a bad day," said Toby Rowland, who replaced Barry as OU's radio play-by-play voice this season after working two years with Barry as the sideline reporter.

"He loved life. And he loved his job. Even after 50 years of broadcasting he would show up at the stadium like a kid in a candy store. His play-by-play style was unmistakable, but it is his gentle, kind and fun-loving spirit that I will always remember. His advice and words of wisdom will forever be cherished in my heart."

Jake Trotter covers University of Oklahoma football for SoonerNation. He can be reached at trotterjake@gmail.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.