By Savannah Cooper | Staff Writer
Whether it’s tied in the fourth quarter at McLane Stadium or a playoff-deciding game in the Ferrell Center, there’s one voice who’s at the forefront of it all to deliver each and every play.
John Morris, better known as the “Voice of the Bears,” is Baylor’s assistant athletic director for broadcasting. The Louisville, Ken., native was raised by fellow Baylor Alums and decided to attend Baylor. The class of 1980 alum never left Waco.
“I’m really blessed and I don’t take it for granted either,” Morris said. “I really am fortunate that I get to do all the sports I get to do. I really appreciate that opportunity.”
Morris followed in the footsteps of legendary long-time voice of the Baylor athletics Frank Fallon, but wasn’t intimidated because of the great amount of respect he has for him.
“It could be intimidating if I let it be, because I have so much respect for him,” Morris said. “To me, Frank will always be the voice of the Baylor Bears. I’m just kind of the caretaker of this position right now and there will be somebody who follows me.”
While shadowing Fallon for several years, Morris learned many lessons from him that he now carries with him during each broadcast he delivers.
“I learned just how to be professional in every setting and every scenario no matter how the game is going. If you’re winning or losing, you’ve still got to do a first-class broadcast and be classy about it too,” Morris said. “Frank was really good about doing a neutral broadcast by not saying ‘we’ and ‘they’. It is a Baylor broadcast, but it’s also for anybody else. We want other people to listen also.”
Derek Smith, host of Chalk Talk, shadowed Morris during his early stages at Baylor and he remembers two things in particular that stood out about Morris.
“Two things that really stand out with John are his professionalism and the way he treats people. John puts in a lot of hard work behind the scenes preparing for a great broadcast, and it really shows when he’s on the air,” Smith said. “When you listen to him, he calls a great game, he’s informative, and you can tell he’s for Baylor, but in a way that’s very professional—he’s not a “homer;” you can simply tell by his voice how much he cares.”
For those who are interested in entering the sports media field, Morris pointed out how you have to work your way up.
“Be prepared to work your way up, you can’t just get a job. If you want to work at ESPN, you can’t expect your first job to be at ESPN. You’ve got to get a job, work your way up and learn every step of the way,” Morris said. “Look for connections that you have, use connections along the way and really be willing to work and do the best job at every spot, every place along the way whatever that happens to be.”
Game days for Morris are long, starting with a stadium arrival four hours prior to kick off. After setting up and preparing for the game ahead, the broadcast begins two hours before kickoff and goes through an entire game, followed by post-game coverage and interviews with coaches and players that ends around an hour and a half to two hours after the game ends.
Morris’ preparation for game days are all-encompassing and he uses every moment he can to ensure a good broadcast.
“As much time as I have, I want to use every minute that I have available to prepare,” Morris said. “Looking at the game notes, ours and theirs, hearing from the coaches, talking to players, reading information online, scour all those over the course of the week.”
Morris’ great amount of preparation translates into how prepared he is for any scenario, and Smith witnessed that firsthand.
“Something else about John that stands out is how unflappable he is,” Smith said. “Game days and broadcasts can be chaotic sometimes, with a lot of moving parts, but John always remains calm. He has an easygoing nature that I think has an impact on everyone working around him, and helps him stay cool under pressure.”
Over the course of his 30-year career broadcasting for Baylor athletics, Morris has been a part of some special moments. Some of Morris’ favorite moments date all the way back to 1989 with a 50-7 win over University of Texas in Austin, to beating Texas A&M in overtime in 2004, to watching Robert Griffin III win the Heisman trophy in 2011.
In his free time, Morris enjoys watching sports, but doesn’t have a favorite despite growing up in basketball-heavy Kentucky.
“Whatever’s in season is what I like the best. Right now I’m all football—it’s great, the crowds, one game a week, all the build-up. There’s nothing better than football, especially in the state of Texas and at Baylor,” Morris said.
Not only does Morris get to interact with athletes and coaches, but also with other key people in athletics, including the Baylor mascots. When the Baylor family grew this season with the addition of Marigold, a female bear mascot, Morris said he thinks it’s a great idea to help Bruiser’s busy schedule.
“Marigold is a friend of Bruiser, I had to ask our spirit and tradition folks and they said just friends,” Morris said. “I think it’s great to add another one. It’s kind of like Mickey and Minnie Mouse.”
Like athletes, every game Morris has a ritual so he is constantly reminded of the incredible moments his job allows him to see from the front row.
“There’s a time every game especially big games, more so in basketball when it’s confined in a building, I take my headphones off and I look around and soak it up,” Morris said. “Just to make myself aware of wow this is really cool, this is a great atmosphere, it’s fun to be a part of it. I do that every game just so I will really appreciate the whole scene and appreciate the position there.”
The next time you can hear Morris is Saturday for Baylor volleyball’s home game against Iowa State. You can also find Morris on 1660 ESPN radio with his show titled The John Morris Show.