It's appropriate that Kansas University's men's basketball game against Texas Tech today is public-address announcer Howard Hill's last. Though he prefers to be heard and not seen, Hill isn't above some good-natured high jinks.
Two years ago when Bobby Knight made his first trip to the fieldhouse as coach of the Red Raiders, Hill decided Knight deserved a fitting welcome to the Big 12 Conference after spending most of his career in the Big 10 Conference at Indiana University. After discussing the idea with KU band director Tom Stidham, Hill came up with the perfect greeting.
"I said, 'Well, why don't you have the band play 'Back Home Again in Indiana,' and he did. The crowd gasped, and I roared," Hill said with a laugh.
Not all of Hill's memories from the past 21 years are as joyful.
The 70-year-old, who has manned the public address microphone for both KU basketball and football home games, has been scared at a game just once, but he had plenty of reason to be afraid that day.
After a KU football victory at Memorial Stadium, a group of Jayhawk fans carried a goal post upright up the stairs in the east stands. It was obvious the fans were planning to throw the post into the parking lot below, which was full of fans and cars. He tried to talk them back down to the field, but had no luck. Fortunately, he had an unknown assistant in his quest.
"My real hero is the guy who stood on the seat at the top of Memorial Stadium," Hill said, "where he could have been pushed over. And as they got there with the goal post, he stood there and put his hand on the end of the goal post, which really put him in jeopardy. I don't know what he said, but it worked, and they came back down ... I said 'Let's give them a hand. They did the right thing.' We might have had people killed that day."
A more pleasant memory was the final men's basketball game of the 1987-88 regular season. KU senior forward Archie Marshall had sat out much of the second half of the season with a knee injury, but returned for the last few moments of his final home game.
"He was kind of the spirit of that squad, he and Danny Manning," Hill said. "I could feel lumps in my throat like you wouldn't believe. I gave his hometown and his number and his name, and the crowd went crazy. That's a night I'll never forget."
Another memorable event for Hill was when Wilt Chamberlain returned to KU in January 1998 for his jersey retirement. Long-time KU broadcaster Max Falkenstien took over announcing duties for the halftime ceremony, allowing Hill to enjoy the moment instead of working. Falkenstien also announced each of last year's jersey retirements.
"I sit back and just become a fan and enjoy it," Hill said. "It's a lot better if Max does it. I've never wanted to be a star. As a matter of fact, I've always thought that a good public-address announcer should be heard and not seen. It's not going to happen that way this Saturday, I have a feeling, but we'll see what happens."
| Last call for KU announcer Hill recalls memorable moments of his career Hear Howard: Audio clips from the interview 6Sports video: Hill stepping down after two decades Booth to replace Hill as Kansas PA announcer Kansas fans sure to miss announcer Hill KU announcer Hill stepping down
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