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Stories From IU Radio & TV

Collected by Barrie Zimmerman

RAP Line H-T photo

Indiana University’s Department of Radio & Television Services has a long and rich history. Many significant achievements that have taken place are unknown to the general public or even within the IU community. This work is an effort to compile numerous facts—dates, events, people, some stories, and records of many of the accomplishments and the impact of this relatively small department.

Since its meager beginnings, the goal of the Department has been to provide a quality product—programming and production—to its listeners and viewers. Much of this direction has stemmed from the talent and professionalism of the early generation of faculty members who not only taught classes but also mentored the many students who worked or volunteered in the Department. Thus the reputation of the Department’s strong foundations was formed.

As you read this historical review, you will discover just a few examples of the impact of this Department, particularly for the students in the academic department. The experiences at Radio & TV Services (WFIU-FM and WTIU-TV) have given many students an obvious head start in the business and, indeed, in establishing lifelong careers.

Operators of public broadcasting stations WFIU-FM and WTIU-TV have been responsible for serving the local, state and national audiences with quality content—music, news, public affairs, sports, cultural, instructional and children’s programming. This historical project is dedicated to the many professionals, interns, volunteers, and students who have made these broadcasts part of the fabric of Indiana University’s service to the public.

Indiana University has been steadfast in its support for this Department and the broadcast operations. Much of this is evidenced in the Timeline as continuing support for equipment, from the early days to the current demands for newer and better technologies.

Thanks to the many people who have contributed vital pieces of information to help bring this work together. Of note, special thanks go to: Ken Beckley, Brad Howard, Dennis James, Rick Lehner, Herb Seltz, and John Winninger. And, thanks to current Executive Director Perry Metz whose appreciation for the value of institutional history has helped inspire this project.

This project is dedicated to the late Professor Wm. H Kroll, who served as Operations Director and later Executive Director, and who gave me and many others the opportunity to head start our careers.

We hope that this compilation and collection of materials will serve as a useful historical tool, both as a reference and as a permanent record of the growth and contributions of the Department of Radio & Television Services to the Indiana University community.

Barrie Zimmerman
B.S. Ed., 1966, Radio & TV
Retired Director of Operations & Engineering
IU Radio & TV Services
December 2018

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By Barrie Zimmerman

The Radio-TV Center was the crowning achievement of Elmer Sulzer, Director and Chair of Radio-TV Department. Currently, it is thought of as the “old building.” It was planned/designed in the late 1950’s. Construction started in 1962 and was completed in 1963. The move from the old barracks building began in summer 1963. Operations and classes began in the Fall of 1963.

Somewhat curiously to many, the blueprints for this building identified it as the “Hall of Music Annex No. 2.” The architectural firm was A.M. Strauss of Fort Wayne, Indiana; the engineering firm was Ammerman, Davis and Stout, Inc. of Indianapolis, IN. The construction blueprints are dated May 1962.

Bill Kroll served as building coordinator prior to and after the move to this building. James Rolfe was Chief Radio Engineer and coordinated the move and installation of all radio equipment. Emmet Beeker was Chief TV Engineer and coordinated the design and installation of all TV equipment.

The Radio-TV Building boasted the following complement of rooms/facilities:

RADIO

  • Radio Master Control—central location for radio terminal equipment, patch bays, telephone transmission lines, and a weather station (remote temperature and wind sensors) on the roof, provided by the Geography Department.
  • Studio and Control Room 1 (primary WFIU on-air studio, with dual operators—announcer and engineer)
  • Studio and Control Room 2 (production and alternate on-air studio)
  • Studio and Control Room 3 (medium-sized production studio with poly-cylindrical ceiling and wall b
  • Studio and Control Room 4 (large production studio with folding wall panels to change wall surface from absorbing to reflecting; also included were special acoustic ceiling baffles)
  • A “sound effects” storage/production room
  • Radio News Room and News Director’s office - the largest office in the building, complete with a world map that filled an entire wall! The news room was equipped with a custom- designed and constructed work desk with eight typewriter positions, and built-in filing shelves. A United Press International (UPI) teletype newswire and a NOAA weather wire were added, along with an audio editing station with a Magnecord PT-6 tape deck. (The UPI wire was later changed to the Associated Press newswire service.)
  • Radio Music Library
  • Radio Traffic office
  • Engineering office, parts storeroom and workshop

Radio Master Control and the four control rooms were elevated two steps higher than the studio floors. This was a popular design concept at the time and provided for better line-of sight between the control room director and/or engineer and the talent. However, this layout did not work as well for the WFIU announcer and engineer because of the small spaces and the fact that the new audio console was higher than the bottom of the window; the engineer had to stand or sit on a stool. Historically, WFIU was staffed with two people, announcer and engineer, from its beginning until approximately 1992.

TELEVISION

  • TV Studio 5—production studio, theater style (audience area, stage area with theatrical fly-space with rope & pulley rigging, and proscenium curtain). Control rooms were originally designed and built for 2nd floor operation but this was impractical for ST 5 because of the lack of quick, easy access. Instead the adjacent, 1st floor control room (originally intended for Studios 7 & 8 (also an awkward placement) was, and continues to be used for Studio 5.
  • TV Studio 6—the main production studio, 55’ x 90’ x 21’H. ST 6 was equipped with 34 motorized lighting battens, 12 work battens with linking and variable speed control; 2 cyclorama tracks including a mid-point crossover track; variable air diffuser zones for specific area control; control rooms (video, audio, announce booth) on 2nd floor with large glass observation windows. Access to the studio was via the circular stair or the main corridor stair. When the building opened, this studio was claimed to have been the largest TV studio between the East and West coasts of the U.S.
  • Scene Shop—adjoining both Studios 5 & 6, with two garage doors to the parking lot, and 14-foot high sound-isolating doors to each TV studio. Although the Scene Shop was two stories high, it was difficult to utilize the upper space effectively because there was no built-in storage or means of reaching that height. However, it was also equipped with a winch that was used to hoist heavy equipment (VTRs) to the 2nd floor.
  • Lighting control room—strategically located between Studios 5 & 6. Equipped with Kliegl modular SCR dimmers, patch panel and 4-scene pre-set/fader control console for each studio; a special copper screen for shielding was installed above the dimmer racks to minimize any possible interference between the dimmer and the control rooms directly above. The Kliegl lighting system may have been the first such system designed and built specifically for TV studios!
  • Small props storage room—a small storage room, but with a 6’-7’ wide door to each studio (5 & 6). The intent was that the concert grand piano, along with other items, would be stored in this room, in order to maximize studio floor space.
  • TV Studios 7 & 8—“Closed-Circuit” (i.e., distance education) studios complete with 3-pin lighting connectors installed in the acoustical tiled ceilings and a very small dimmer room between the two studios. The control room was inappropriately placed—adjacent to Studio 5. Neither studio was equipped with TV equipment until 1986-87 when Studio 8 was transformed into the first, multi-camera, remote-controlled distance education studio. A corner of the back of Studio 7 was used as the control room. Up to that time, Studio 8 was used for regular classes and Studio 7 was used for office space.
  • Two “Closed-Circuit” Receiving rooms (2nd floor)—used for classrooms and later as offices when WTIU began operations (1969).
  • Graphic arts, photo and darkrooms (2nd floor)—graphic arts was originally in the corner room (206). It was later moved to the Studio 6 observation room. The photocopy and darkroom were located in the film area, between the videotape room and the 16mm film processing room.
  • Videotape and Film area—the video and kinescope recording room, film editing booths (4), film processing room and film screening room, photocopy and photo darkrooms.
  • TV Master Control (2nd floor)—typical master control facility for terminal equipment, remote control of transmitter, video control (for studio), routing, signal monitoring. The circular stair was also in this area, near the scene shop access door.
  • Observation room (2nd floor)—this room was along the south wall of Studio 6 and boasted two of the largest sound-proof windows in the building. It was built with a 2-tier platform with 32 individual seats, and audio monitoring so that observers of a production could hear either the program audio and/or the director’s intercom. While envisioned as a great teaching-learning feature of the building, most of the time the view into Studio 6 was blocked because either the drape or cyclorama was pulled across that end of the studio. Subsequently, the risers and seats were removed and the room was used to meet the growing graphics needs of WTIU.
  • Dressing rooms (1st floor)—there were separate men’s and women’s dressing rooms, adjoining the rest rooms on the 1st floor and located across the hall from Studios 5 & 6. Each dressing room was classically-equipped with counters, mirrors, make-up lighting, and outlets for irons. Each adjoining rest room had a shower. The story goes that, when asked why there were showers, Elmer (Sulzer) replied that they were for the wrestlers to clean up…after the televised wrestling matches.

MISC.

  • Front Office Suite—a classic design including the Director’s office; clerical area with reception window; a secure mailroom with individual mailboxes and combination locks; a separate office, originally used as a workroom, and later as an office for the CFO; and a conference room with large table and modest seating.
  • Thirteen (13) individual faculty/staff offices on the second floor. Each office had a window; a separate thermostat and air mixing box; a separate return air vent; an audio monitoring control station, amplifier and speaker; a TV jack; an outside line telephone and an internal (2-digit-dial) phone;
  • A faculty/staff lounge (2nd floor) with kitchenette facility.
  • A student lounge (1st floor)—located just inside the main entrance. Space was provided for various vending machines.

MECHANICAL & ELECTRONIC

  • 5 separate air handling systems with ducted returns and individual room thermostats for each office and all working spaces.
  • Electrostatic air filtering on all system intakes (these systems were quite troublesome and, ultimately, were taken out of service due to the lack of parts.
  • Standby generator to maintain all on-air operations for radio, TV and emergency lighting
  • Roof mounted platform for various small antennas.
  • Simplex-brand master clock system with radio received tuned to WWV (located in Radio Master Control) with slave clocks in all studios, control rooms and corridors
  • Floor trench system for all technical (audio, video, control, etc.) cabling, including a separate grounding system for electronic equipment racks.
  • Sound locks for all studio entrances (except Studios 7 & 8).
  • A separate, in-house 2-digit telephone system for all production spaces and faculty offices.
  • An audio “house monitoring system” (audio) with a 19-position selector switch and volume control in each office, all production spaces, dressing rooms, and lounges.
  • Acoustical treatment in all 1st floor corridors (in addition to all studios and control rooms). The acoustical treatment was very effective, acoustically, but the surface panels, made of a somewhat brittle “Transite” material (cement/asbestos), were problematic, especially when people hit and broke a panel. Subsequently, all “Transite” panels were removed from the building during renovation and asbestos abatement.

Addition & Renovation (mid 1996-mid 1998)

In the early 1990’s Indiana University developed a plan called the Multi-Campus Technology Project. This plan included four technology components plus the addition and renovation of the Radio-TV Building. The building construction project took place from July 1, 1996 through June 1998. Principal architect was Ratio Architects of Indianapolis; Engineering was by Harley Ellington Design from Southfield, Michigan. Acoustical consulting was by Jaffe, Holden, Scarborough. The lead architect from the University Architects Office was Hernan Cadavid; construction manager was Robert Cunningham; departmental building manager/representative was Barrie Zimmerman.

The construction project was done in two phases. The first phase was to construct the building addition. This was done on the north side of the building, facing the Arboretum and on the site of the then paved and landscaped parking lot. Many may recall that the Radio-TV Building was faced with limestone, except for the back (north) side, which was finished with white brick, in anticipation of an addition. Construction of the addition took approximately one year. At about the half-way point, all offices and the WFIU on-air studio operation were moved into temporary, cramped quarters in the addition.

Then, renovation of the old building began, including asbestos abatement. This phase took nearly another year, after which all RTVS functions returned to both renovated and new spaces, and the Telecommunications Department moved into the addition. TV Studios 5 & 6 were shut down at different times for various phases of the renovation.

Upon completion, and for the first time since the late 1960’s, the Telecommunications Department was housed together, including all faculty, counseling and administrative offices. All faculty offices were on the third (3rd) floor, with administrative offices in a shared area on the second (2nd) floor. And, for the first time, the Telecommunications Department had an office suite for guidance and counseling. The 1st floor housed an expansive area for lab space (audio studios, video editing booths, a computer/multimedia lab and a telephony lab.

TV Studio 6, the main legacy feature of the building, remained unchanged, except for the installation of a new HVAC system and new roof. However, leaks persisted for several years where new HVAC ducts were cut into the roof. And, leaks from the mechanical room into Control Room 6 continued due to inadequate preparation before new HVAC systems had been installed. The large viewing glass on the 2ndfloor, south side became more functional because of the re-routing of part of the 2nd floor corridor. Both TV Studios 5 & 6 had a new theatrical lighting control system (ETC product) installed (replacing the original Kliegl system) about two years before the renovation project.

TV Studio 5, another legacy area, continued as the teaching studio for the Telecommunications Department, although with a slightly smaller area. The adjacent control room was expanded into the studio by about five feet to provide a more functional space. The entrance door and sound lock were changed and the area at the back of the studio, under the 2nd floor control rooms, was converted into a corridor so that people would no longer have to pass through either TV studio (during a production) to get to the scene shop, lighting control or sound lock.

The building project incurred an additional cost (over $1 million) for the replacement of the five original HVAC systems. The original systems (early 1963) had degenerated to the point where there was little-to-no air filtration but the new systems provided some of the best filtered air of any building on campus. A new emergency/standby generator was installed at ground level, on the west wall (outside the radio area). This was a significantly larger unit and provided emergency power to many more areas of the building so that all on-air radio and TV operations (except Studio 6) could continue during a power outage.

The original scene shop was transformed, but with a notable loss of functionality—the upper-story area became space for 2nd floor offices. A part of the main floor now resembled a mechanical room with the result that workable ceiling height, for flats and other scenery items, was drastically reduced. The engineering consultants apparently failed to fully understand the functionality and relationship between a scene shop and production studios. The two original overhead doors (to the parking lot) were removed, but the west door was replaced by a large double-door opening to provide some access for large items from the loading dock area.

The art department (now graphics) moved to the original film processing and editing area, in an open space. The original screening & projection rooms were renovated to serve the IT area.

The original video tape/kinescope room had been converted to two non-linear editing suites and that was maintained in the renovation. The original Telecine room had gone through a transition period where it was an editing room and was then used as disk recording/playback production support for Control room 6.

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By Barrie Zimmerman & Dennis James

The Chair of the Radio & Television Department, Elmer Sulzer (1954-1964), had a number of interests and talents. Among them, music - he was a musician-entertainer and those talents were at a keyboard. Stories told said that, during his college days, he earned extra money by “cutting” player piano rolls. Indeed, Elmer was an accomplished keyboard artist/organist of the popular music genre, and his favorite instrument was a theater pipe organ.

Presumably, sometime in the 1950’s, after negotiations with the owner of the Princess Theater (downtown Bloomington), Elmer was able to acquire, on behalf of the Radio & Television Department, the Estey theater pipe organ that had been in that theater. The console was a two-manual model with a full pedalboard. A good sampling of typical theater organ effects were included—drum, block, train whistle, cymbals, xylophone, etc. When first acquired, this pipe organ was installed in Studio B (TV) in the original barracks building. Stories also told said that Elmer often would provide noontime entertainment with the studio doors opened to the hallway. It is thought that a number of musical TV programs were produced in Studio B and may have featured The Faculty Five instrumental ensemble, along with other performers. The pipe organ undoubtedly was included in some of these programs. Some in the building did not necessarily appreciate the organ concerts, presumably because the organ may not have been in good condition and the fact that the old building had little sound-proofing. One story is that, one day, during one of Elmer’s sessions, someone walked into the studio and fired a starter’s pistol. Supposedly, that ended the random concerts.

As noted in other sections of this historical account, the plans for the current Radio-TV Building were titled “Hall of Music Annex #2.” One might expect that it was appropriate to have some musical instruments. Consequently, TV Studio 5 was designed with an organ chamber and organ blower room, specifically to accommodate the Estey theater organ. The organ chamber was located on the north wall of the studio and had a tasteful wooden façade with acoustic fabric to conceal the pipes and swell shades. The organ blower room was adjacent to the organ chamber and was accessible via a small door from the Scene Shop. The move and refurbishing of the pipe organ was included as part of the construction of the building. This work was done by the John Cave Organ Company of Evansville, IN. That work included a new wind chest, repair work on pipes, refurbishing of the console and the installation of a new (manual) switching mechanism to provide far greater flexibility in the selection of “combinations” from the manuals (keyboards).

The Cave Organ Co. removed the organ from the barracks building and completed the shop work in Evansville. In approximately late 1964 or early 1965, the refurbished instrument was installed in Studio 5. Following that, there were occasional noon-hour concerts, for nearly an hour, when classes or labs were not in session. Elmer was in his element and provided great entertainment, often joined by faculty member Martha Walstrum on vocals, and others who appreciated the opportunity to sing along.

In 1967, a student of Organ Department Chair and Professor, Oswald Ragatz (IU Jacobs School of Music), had learned of this organ and spoken with Bill Kroll with the idea of showing silent films and using the Studio 5 organ as accompaniment, much the same as would have been done in the days of silent movies. Bill Kroll was in an ideal position to handle this request—he had a strong photography-film background, taught a class in Film for Television, and was the most knowledgeable (of the Radio-TV faculty) in terms of film genre. And, as Director of Operations for the Radio-TV Department, he also understood what would be involved. Studio 5 also was an ideal setting for this event, since its floor plan was similar to a theater, minus a projection booth. Subsequently, the first campus showing of a silent movie with organ accompaniment was held in Studio 5. That concert showing was the first of a long-standing series of Halloween silent film concerts, now a popular Bloomington campus tradition. The student-organist was IU graduate Dennis James, who became perhaps the most accomplished and best known theater organist and authority on the silent film-organ genre. A year after the concerts began in Studio 5, they were moved to the IU Auditorium, where the Halloween concerts have continued to this day, with Dennis James at the console. October 2018 marked the 50th year of this popular and unique campus tradition.

Elmer Sulzer passed away in the late 1960’s and the organ was no longer used. The console was on a large roll-around dolly with a large, cumbersome wiring harness. This took a lot of space that was deemed more important for TV production and labs. Consequently, around 1970, or so, the organ was auctioned and removed from the premises. There are no remaining parts or traces of the organ. The upper part of the organ chamber was converted, with a new floor, to expand the Television Master Control space in order to accommodate more technical equipment. The lower part was used for studio storage and, in the 1996-1998 renovation project was rearranged for a more workable space. The organ blower room became a secure tool storage room for the Scene Shop.

•••

The following stories were written by Dennis James.

Rumor has it Hoagy Carmichael played this Princess Theatre Estey Organ accompanying silent films during his student days at IU.

One night I was working alone in the organ chamber and got myself trapped behind one of the percussion assemblies: the chime rack was set against a wall in the organ chamber and I had barely enough room to squeeze in behind, and there were many protruding organ parts, pins of wire, and many things that snagged my clothes and dug into my skin. Anyway, at one given point I noticed I couldn’t go forward nor backward, couldn’t turnaround, couldn’t reach for anything, nor go up or down because doing any of those things would cause great pain from being poked and stabbed by the organ parts. So I was trapped and spent the night in that position until somebody came into the organ room the next morning and helped me get away.

At one point we were adding switches to the horseshoe shaped organ controller areas, and were about to install a small vertical switch, but didn’t actually have the switch in hand. So we stopped work that day leaving a cut in the wooden surround. I had a bright idea, put a piece of masking tape over the hole, cut a nice slot opening and wrote the instructions INSERT 25 CENTS. And sure enough, when we came back after that weekend there were about 6 quarters inside the console . . . People had inserted their quarters into the hole, and, of course, there wasn’t any mechanism behind and nothing at all happened.

For our first silent film show at the IU Radio Station I wanted a bomb effect sound to happen when the robbers blew up a strong box in the Mail Car of a train while it was running down the tracks in the 1903 Thomas Edison silent film THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY. One of our organ workers had the bright idea to rig up a 38 caliber pistol fastened to the side of the Chimes rack assembly. He added a washing machine solenoid to be able to pull the trigger by the push of a button on the organ console. Then he loaded the revolver to fire blanks, aiming directly at a wall and had taken the safety step to mount a metal plate onto the wall where the blast effects coming from the pistol would be most concentrated. We didn’t have any time to test it and he told me it would work, so along I went into the film show, coming to the robbery scene, and watching the robbers set the fuse on the bomb. I hit the “explode” button at just the right time - - unfortunately, the room the organ spoke into was small, seating maybe 50 people when appearing full, and the pistol explosion coming out of the chamber sounded akin to an atomic blast to the audience causing people to shriek and howl in fright, with many spontaneously standing up. The power of the blast knocked the chimes tubes from their mounts and they went cascading to the organ chamber floor clattering to a heap. Most impressive of all- the smoke from the blank charge poured out of the organ grill and into the audience causing the film image to be projected onto smoke instead of the obscured screen. It rippled about illegibly until the smoke faded away.

Our crew leader decided to figure a way to get working tremulants into the wind system of the instrument, coming up with the idea of creating a dump valve and exhausting compressed air from various sources in the organ design to a regular pulse of 6 1/2 movements of the tremulant device per second (creating a similar shaking sound to the pipes in order to be comparable to that of a soprano singer performing in the traditional operatic manner).

Pictured in the attached images is the very first hand-printed ticket I made in the IMU student craft shop, and mention of the beginnings of silent film screenings at IU with the Organ Journal article about the Estey Organ written from the perspective of a person who attended a special organ concert, without film, for visiting theatre organ buffs who were brought by bus from Indianapolis.

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By Herbert Seltz

Myshkin, an opera written for television by IU composer John Eaton, was the 20th opera telecast produced by IURTS and WTIU, and the first in color. The opera, a co-production with the Indiana University School of Music, was funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Indiana Arts Commission, took more than two years to complete, and was seen on PBS nationwide in April 1973.

Myshkin, based on The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, was conceived for the screen. All of the action is seen through the eyes and mind of the title character Prince Myshkin. John Eaton, who died in 2015, was internationally recognized for his work in electronic music. His compositions were widely performed and he won numerous honors, including a MacArthur Genius Award.

Pre-production planning and musical preparation for Myshkin started in Fall 1970. The following spring, the orchestra was pre-recorded, and later, at the time of final production, mixed with a live audio pickup of the singers in the TV studio. All of the aural and visual elements: pre-recorded orchestra and electronic instruments, singers, scenery, lighting, special effects, costumes and even a Turkish band, were joined by about fifty (50) faculty, staff, and student production and technical personnel when Myshkin went before the color cameras in August 1971 in WTIU’s Studio Six.

WTIU did not acquire color studio equipment until 1974, so it was necessary to work with a commercial television production company to provide studio cameras and editing facilities. Indianapolis-based National Teleproductions had a large remote van and the equipment that the production required. The four-day shoot resulted in 15 hours of television tape involving 190 takes to be edited for inclusion in the opera’s 26 scenes. Post-production took place at the Indianapolis facilities of National Teleproductions and was completed in late March 1972. The program was submitted to PBS for screening and nine months later, WTIU was notified that Myshkin had an air date of April 23, 1973 on the PBS series NET Opera Theater.

Myshkin was repeated twice on PBS and screened internationally by the United States Information Agency. In 1973, Myshkin was honored with a George Foster Peabody Award.

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By Ken Beckley

Indiana University owned and operated its own radio sports broadcasting network for sixteen years, 1957-73, a non-profit venture that provided on-air experience for student announcers and entertainment for listeners and fans throughout the state.

The university had previously been at the forefront of a significant moment in television sports broadcasting history. The world’s first regular season collegiate basketball game to be televised—IU vs. Valparaiso University—was December 6, 1951, in the Seventh Street fieldhouse on the Bloomington campus. WTTV (Bloomington) originated the telecast, with three alumni playing prominent roles—Paul Lennon, BS ’50, play-by-play; Bob Cook, BA ’35, color commentary; Bob Petranoff, BS ’48, broadcast director.

By at least the 1956-57 basketball season, WTTV (Sarkes Tarzian Corporation) was contractually paying the university $1,000 per game for the right to televise home games. (1)

The Sarkes Tarzian-owned radio station in Bloomington, WTTS, had been broadcasting IU basketball and football games since at least 1950.

First Season

At its May 1957 meeting, IU’s Board of Trustees approved the hiring of an ambitious Richard D. Yoakam as Assistant Professor of Journalism and Radio and Television, and News Director of the Radio and Television Service. Yoakam had received his bachelor’s and masters’ degrees in journalism from the University of Iowa. Immediately prior to coming to IU, he was news director of KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

In a family interview for archives in 2002, Yoakam recalled that in 1957 he approached the chairman of the Department of Radio and Television, Elmer G. Sulzer, with the idea of IU broadcasting its own football and basketball games and using students as announcers. Yoakam was critical of the quality of broadcasts by commercial stations. He felt “that IU could be better represented on the air and I talked with Elmer about it and he thought I had some good ideas…so I said why don’t we broadcast the games? And put it out available free to any station that wants to pick up our broadcast. Elmer…got another idea which was a FM relay network. An FM relay network which was a genius idea of his that if the FM stations were broadcasting they could pick up other FM stations with a clear signal and pass it all around the state free of charge rather than pay the phone company an awful lot of money to carry the games by wire.” (2)

Yoakam assured Sulzer that students could do the job. “We may have to coach, do some heavy coaching for a while but we’ll be all right, and so I put an ad in The Daily Student and said sports announcers wanted.”

“I went to (football) Coach Phil Dickens and I said, listen, you’ve got to wear numbers at practice on Saturday because…I’m going to try out some sports announcers. (Dickens) “got very serious about it and said, ‘I want to be sure…Yoakam has the right numbers.’”

Yoakam said “eight or ten” students including Dick Enberg answered the ad. Each was given a list of football players’ names and jersey numbers and told to be prepared to “broadcast” a team practice the following Saturday. “I think ten guys showed up at the old stadium (Tenth Street stadium, later the site of the IU Arboretum) and that wonderful old press box which was always falling apart and they (employees) would nail it together again from time to time. They (students) showed up. They were ready. They all had their numbers memorized in their heads. So the game started…and nobody wanted to go first for a minute. Enberg said I’ll go first and he sat down and just started…and about eight guys left right away.”

A masterful story-teller, Professor Yoakam found the audition to be one of his favorite, oft-told experiences. With much laughter in his deep voice, he would state that once Enberg had his audition, Yoakam went to the waiting room and found it empty; the others having heard Enberg and deciding they could not compete. “Sam Taylor, one of my older students, a guy who had quite a lot of experience in World War II, he stayed around and did it. Sounded pretty good. And Phil Jones who…always wanted to be a sports announcer and he stayed around and he was pretty good so I had three and that’s all I needed.”

Regarding Enberg, Yoakam said, “Of course he was good from the start. And we got…on the air and (it) was a big success. My reputation went up and even the members of the Board of Trustees who were doubtful about this whole thing said, ‘Boy, that guy’s pretty good. How are we going to keep him around here in four years?’ As a matter of fact, elaborate efforts were made to keep Enberg from going to California including giving him a faculty position and all kinds of nonsense.” Enberg claimed he never got an offer to teach full-time, thus he reluctantly moved to California and a college teaching position but later had an acclaimed career as announcer of major national and international sports events.

Enberg, MS ‘59, HSD ’62, said, “My very first day on campus in 1957 (there on a graduate assistantship in the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation), I saw a notice in…WFIU…for auditions for the new IU Sports Network. Previously as a student, I had been the sports announcer for Central Michigan University games on WCEN in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. So, I immediately signed up. I had the advantage of being fresh from two years of play-by-play at Central Michigan, a professional at a lusty $1 an hour. Anyway, I was selected for the initial voice of the IU Sports Network. Yoakam’s recollection is what I remember, that I ad libbed a complete drive down the field for a touchdown and many waiting in line to audition walked away.” (3)

Phil Jones, BS ’60, (who later had a distinguished career as a news correspondent for CBS) was selected as Enberg’s first color commentator, the term for a sidekick or game analyst then. He saw the result of the audition only slightly different. Jones was among “twelve to fifteen” students who turned out for the chance to audition for both play-by-play and “color” in the stadium “press box.” He said, “I was scared to death.” And added, “When Enberg auditioned, in spirit we left.” (4)

Jones and Enberg were IU broadcasting partners for two years, along with Sam Taylor.

Enberg stated, “As I recall, using an FM network, they relayed the broadcasts of football and basketball games throughout…Indiana. We started in 1957 with 8 stations and it grew to around 40 when I left after the 1961 season.”

Enberg: “It was all about Yoakam. He created it and made it work.” Jones: “I had the great privilege to witness Dick Yoakam putting the revolutionary WFIU-FM relay network” (together). The entire ‘relay’ network was ground breaking.” (5)

One of the on-site engineers for Enberg and Jones was John Harrell, an IU graduate student who arrived in late 1957 after receiving his BS from Butler University. Harrell was responsible for setting up the broadcast equipment at games, then ensuring that the signal on a telephone line was kept constant to the WFIU studio for relay to stations in the state. When not serving as engineer, Harrell was “board announcer” at the studio and read promotional announcements during breaks in the games.

As executive producer of the broadcasts, Professor Yoakam found his role often “more toward voice coach in many instances. But the guys were wonderful in their serious move to professionalism and we got along fine. Once in a while I had to yell at somebody but not every often. Trying to keep their heads in the game. I coached, I listened a lot. I had the games taped and I listened to the tapes and I got the guys in there to listen for themselves, too, which really is the best training you can get is to listen to yourself do it for a while and find out where the holes are in your approach to a game or a sport.”

“We did basketball also. Basketball was immensely popular with Enberg. Just tremendous because he was very, very good in basketball. We used Taylor, Jones, and Enberg for football and then sometimes I think we only had two at night in the basketball series. And that’s all you really need.” (6)

Season #2

The first official university account of the network is found in a memorandum written after the 1958-59 seasons:

RADIO AND TELEVISION SERVICE INDIANA UNIVERSITY — REPORT ON INDIANA UNIVERSITY OFFICIAL FOOTBALL AND BASKETBALL BROADCASTS — Season 1958-1959

The report is in IU Archives. Its author is unknown but because of wording about him, it likely was not Yoakam. “Much of the general on-air excellence was due to Mr. Yoakam’s supervision of these details.” (7)

In the book she authored, The Indiana University Alumni Association, One Hundred and Fifty Years, 1854-2004, Janet Carter Shirley, BA ’56, wrote: “In 1958, Rich (Claude Rich, BS ’29, Alumni Secretary) presented a proposal for garnering more regular radio coverage of IU football and basketball games. At that time, broadcasts were sporadic and at the whim of local stations. The alumni association (IUAA) authored him to develop a network of radio stations to broadcast IU games, and agreed to underwrite the estimated cost of $1,946. In the first year, 11 AM radio stations and 13 FM stations participated in the program…. When Rich retired in 1968, the radio network turned a profit of $445.” (8)

The “Report on Indiana University Official Football and Basketball Broadcasts” cited above, states, “The 1958 football season broadcasts were carried by 25 different radio stations, AM and FM. The largest number on any one game was 24, the smallest number on any one game was 18 for the Michigan game. Although this was one of the top games of the season, the high privilege fee charged by Michigan for visiting stations probably accounts for the difference.

“The 1958-59 basketball season broadcasts were carried on 29 different stations, including some stations which did not carry the football season. We were particularly happy to have the aid of the Alumni Association in lining up broadcasts in such important markets as South Bend and Fort Wayne.

“The largest number of stations to carry a basketball broadcast was 20, for the Ohio State game. The smallest number for any one game was 10, for the Missouri game.”

The Report continued, “We think it is important to point out here that the sports network did not develop the station loyalty for the basketball season that it developed for the football season. Part of this is due, no doubt, to the way the basketball season went….” Further, “Many stations reported conflicts with local high school games as the tournament season approached. Others said the conflict with the television accounts of the game—for those stations in the Indianapolis area—made the program too difficult to sell to local sponsors.

“This is an area in which we think important liaison work can be done by representatives of the Alumni Association in future years. A local station would still carry the I.U. games, if the station representatives were convinced by personal contacts that the local audience wanted the games broadcast.”

WFIU, the originating station, aired 450 spot announcements during the football and basketball seasons of 1958-59. Network commercial stations were permitted to sell air time to support their costs of receiving the WFIU broadcasts and to supplement their local commercials with public-service or WFIU-provided spot announcements. “…many of the stations were able to sponsor the broadcasts locally, and many of them commented that the broadcasts were profitable to them…” (9)

Replies to a questionnaire sent to the stations showed that WFIU-provided spot announcements were used 1,584 times among all the stations during the two seasons. The Report claims, “If this time, given free to Indiana University and its Alumni Association had been purchased at the prevailing spot rates for these stations, the cost would have been $7,910.85.” Credit was given to Professor Daniel O’Connor, IURTS community director, and Thomas D. White of the IU News Bureau for the preparation of the announcements. They worked closely with the IUAA.

The stations voiced their pleasure with the performance of the lead announcer of the games, according to questionnaire responses. “In general, the stations were generous in their praise for the broadcasts, particularly the play-by-play by Dick Enberg. We have all been pleased with the excellence and high professional standard this young man has set. We feel, too, that the men who helped Enberg with the broadcast (Phil Jones and Sam Taylor) did a fine job, and developed their abilities as the year progressed. We are happy to be able to say that Mr. Enberg will be with us again next year.”

The Report claims “There were few technical difficulties in the operation of the FM replay network.” Further station comments about program, signal, and broadcast quality included these:

  • ‘…audio portion was bad (2/25/59)…Broadcasts were well received by listeners in the South Bend area, and excellent service…’ WSBT, South Bend
  • ‘…good play by play and color, announcers and producers sometimes were careless about cues and times for station breaks...’ WANE, Fort Wayne
  • ‘…on game days, it would help if WFIU would sign on earlier (football) so that engineers could have additional time for antenna lineup…’ WSLM, Salem
  • ‘…we thought the play by play was done in excellent style…the crowd noise on occasions was much too loud…we were well pleased, so was the sponsor…’ WBNL, Boonville
  • ‘…your play-by-play man was top notch. We were most pleased with the entire operation…keep up the good work…we think you fellows did a terrific job on the IU basketball games, and we are interested in the football broadcasts next fall…’ WIRE, Indianapolis
  • ‘…Inability to sell sponsors forced us into an out-of-pocket expense, but we’re still sold on the idea and plan to carry the games next basketball season. One criticism: the announcer should tell the direction of the ball: i.e.: short, long, off the board, etc. when a basket is missed.’ WKVB, Richmond (9)

A Key Decision

A meeting among four major IU entities in the summer of 1959 ensured the continuance of the sports network with a joint plan to widen radio coverage for football and basketball games and develop broadcasts that would be acceptable to listeners.

The Alumni Association, Athletics Department, University Relations, and Radio-Television Services “decided to devise a plan that would be pleasing to Indiana radio stations, not only from the standpoint of program quality, but also from the objective or delivering to each station a sponsorable product, thus encouraging the use of the I.U. broadcasts.

“In the past, a restrictive factor has been the prohibitive cost of telephone lines from Bloomington to the various stations, thus necessitating a charge to sponsors that was generally prohibitive. To obviate this difficulty, a plan was formulated by which WFIU…would key a system of multiple off-the-air FM relays by which an FM blanket would be superimposed over most of the state. Then any AM station under the ‘hood’ of one of these FM stations could pick up the FM signal and rebroadcast it. No line charges would be involved in such a system.

“To be more explicit, the signal of WFIU would be picked up directly by the commercial FM stations in Indianapolis, Columbus, Madison, Washington, and Terre Haute. Washington’s signal would be picked up by Jasper and Evansville. Indianapolis would directly feed New Castle and Connersville, New Castle would feed Muncie, Muncie would feed Marion, Marion would feed Warsaw, Warsaw would feed Elkhart, and Elkhart would feed Hammond.” (10)

In exchange for relaying the signal, FM stations were not charged a fee to carry the games. AM stations were required to pay $10 per game.

FM station operators met at IU that summer and endorsed the plan, as did the board of the Indiana Broadcasters Association. “A special IBA committee was set up as a liaison to Indiana University, and this committee, chaired by Roy Hickox, manager of WLRP, New Albany, performed valiant service in promoting the plan.” (11)

The Report claimed that the multiple station relay had never been tried in Indiana and that the participating stations “entered the new project with great enthusiasm.” Every FM station in Indiana participated in the network, with the exception of Connersville, Evansville, and Hammond. “Many of the stations involved purchased new, high quality receivers, and new specialized receiving antennas.”

Delineation of Duties

To make the plan work smoothly from IU’s perspectives, the four cooperating departments agreed to assigned roles.

The Alumni Association “guaranteed the financial success” of the network, including line charges and telephone calls from away-from-home games to the master control room at WFIU. To help offset its costs, the IUAA was allowed to keep the $10-per-game fee charged to each AM station. IUAA staff asked alumni and others in various communities to assist in generating interest among stations to carry games and staff secured sponsors when necessary.

The Athletics Department’s role was to handle “transportation, meals, lodging, and tickets for the broadcasting crews” at away games, to issue permits and collect station fees during the 1959 football season, and share in the four-way split among the departments for any facility fees that were charged by universities at away basketball games.

Thomas D. White, University Relations, worked with Professor Daniel O’Connor of IURTS to prepare spot announcements used by the IU game broadcasters and offered to all stations throughout the network. The announcements pertained to the IUAA’s services and to a range of interests involving IU.

The fourth partner, referred to throughout the report as Radio and Television Service, was responsible for programming and operations. “At least four (staff) were substantially involved. The ordering of lines for away-from-home games and the perfection of remote engineering and other technical details were handled under the supervision of William H. Kroll, technical director. Richard D. Yoakam, news and special events director, was essentially in charge of programming details. He worked out the general spot break-away schedules, supervised and made on-air personnel assignments including the game caller (Enberg) and the various ‘color’ announcers. Much of the general on-air excellence was due to Mr. Yoakam’s supervision of these details. Daniel O’Connor, IURTS continuity head, working closely with Thomas D. White of the News Bureau, and the Alumni Office, was responsible for the 70 spot announcements so liberally used during these broadcasts. Elmer G. Sulzer, director of the IURTS, had general supervision of the operations, laid the ground work for the FM network cooperation, and specifically was responsible for insuring the lineup of FM stations for each football and basketball game, the presentation of proper cues, and other adherence to regulations. During the basketball season, Mr. Sulzer issued all station permits and collected all fees…. An average of six long distance calls from this department were made preceding and during each of the various football and basketball games at its expense.” (12)

The Founders

By all accounts, Richard D. Yoakam has long been credited with having the idea for IU to broadcast its own football and basketball games and to use student announcers. In his own words, Yoakam gave credit to Elmer G. Sulzer for expanding the idea to broadcast those games on a relay network of FM stations in Indiana. Yoakam had a distinguished career as professor and inspired students like Phil Jones and Jane Pauley who had distinguished careers of their own. Yoakam retired in 1989 and was inducted into the Indiana Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame and the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame. He died in 2004.

Elmer G. Sulzer came to IU from the University of Kentucky where he had been director of the marching band, director of public relations and director of broadcasting. He received educational broadcasting’s highest honor, the George Foster Peabody award. At IU in the early 1950s, he founded the Department of Radio and Television. An accomplished jazz pianist and author of articles and books about railroads, he was honored by the governors of Indiana and Kentucky with the Sagamore of the Wabash and the Kentucky Colonelcy. Sulzer died in 1976. (13)

Claude T. Rich was the chief executive officer of the IU Alumni Association (in his era, he was titled Alumni Secretary). He is given credit for the IUAA providing much needed financial support when the network expanded in 1958. Rich died in 1999.

The Announcers

Dick Enberg, who died in 2017, had a storied 60-year career in sports broadcasting. The list of play-by-play experiences is lengthy and includes: Nine years for UCLA basketball, more than 30 National Football League seasons, 28 Wimbledon tennis tournaments plus U.S. Open, French Open, and Australian Open tournaments), 15 NCAA basketball title games, 10 Super Bowls, nine Rose Bowls, the 1982 World Series, Breeders Cup horse racing, PGA golf, Olympics, and professional boxing. He worked for NBC, CBS, and ESPN. In 2016, he retired after seven years of broadcasting San Diego Padres baseball games.

Enberg’s numerous honors included 13 Sports Emmy Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Emmy, 14 Sportscaster of the Year awards from national sportscasters’ associations, honors from the national football, baseball, and basketball halls of fame, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He is the only person to win Emmys as a sportscaster, a writer, and a producer. He was inducted into the Indiana University Athletics Hall of Fame. Enberg received honorary doctorates of humane letters from IU, Central Michigan University, and Marquette University.

Phil Jones went to IU after graduating from Fairmount (Indiana) High School. (Fairmount was the town where famed actor James Dean lived for approximately nine years during his youth. He, too, graduated from Fairmount High School, a half-dozen-years before Jones.)

Jones said that as a youth he was interested in broadcasting of any kind, not necessarily sports. He grew up on a farm and his father permitted him to use a chicken coop as a “broadcast booth.” Jones pretended he did news, talked, and spun records. Then at another farm where the family lived, he used part of a milk house as his “radio station.”

Jones majored in Radio-Television and was a junior when selected as the sports network’s first “color” commentator along with Sam Taylor. “Dick (Enberg) was inspiring to be around.” Jones, unpaid for the games, used a spotting board during football and basketball games. The broadcast booth was in the Tenth Street stadium press box and “in the rafters” of the Seventh Street fieldhouse.

Jones spent most of his career with CBS News. One of his assignments was the CBS bureau in Saigon, from which he reported on the Vietnam War. In 1972, he went to Washington, D.C. and was assigned investigative duties in connection with the Watergate break-in that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Jones’ career included correspondent work in covering Capitol Hill and the White House. He retired in 2001 after 32 years with CBS.

Student Sam Taylor, BA ’60, also did color for some of the broadcasts during Enberg’s tenure. Records could not be located to show the specific amount of Taylor’s involvement. He died in 1998.

Enberg’s broadcast partner for the 1959-60 and 1960-61 football and basketball seasons was student Gordon Stevens, BS ’61. Stevens later had a career in television and video production.

John Gordon Gutowsky. As a trial to determine whether Gutowsky had the qualities to be a play-by-play announcer, Yoakam gave him a heavy “Wollensak” reel-to-reel audio tape recorder which he lugged to Royer Pool to “broadcast” a men’s swimming meet. It was Gutowsky’s first opportunity. He also practiced in taping games in the Seventh Street fieldhouse (down the row of announcers from Enberg) and at the new Memorial Stadium on Seventeenth Street, both sites sometimes with this author.

When Enberg left after the spring 1961 semester, Gutowsky was awarded the job. His first regular season football broadcasting experience was an away game of Indiana versus Kansas State, September 23, 1961. “I rode in a car with Yoakam. Yoakam helped me in preparation with the spotting boards (to keep track of players) in Bloomington. But I forgot my spotting boards, so was it ever a struggle to keep track of the players! Yoakam was so mad I thought he would leave me in Manhattan.” (14)

Pat Williams began working with Gutowsky the 1962-63 seasons. Williams got broadcasting experience at the campus radio station as an undergraduate student at Wake Forest University. When he arrived in Bloomington to work on a master’s degree in September 1962, Williams attended an audition session conducted by Yoakam and was selected as Gutowsky’s sidekick. Recalling that year’s basketball season, Williams said, “We made trips on the IU charter. McCracken sat up front.” Players included Tom Bolyard, the Van Arsdale twins (Dick and Tom), and Jon McGlocklin. “It was quite a time. It was a wonderful experience for me.” (15)

Williams stated that he and Gutowsky did live radio broadcasts of men’s swimming meets for WFIU and in 1963 “we went to WTTS and convinced them to let us broadcast IU baseball that spring.”

For 1963-64, Williams said Gutowsky was the play-by-play voice and he, color, throughout the football season and Yoakam had them reverse roles for the basketball season.

At IU, Williams was involved in more than broadcast media. He wrote for Indiana Daily Student sports “pretty much every day.” Regarding his years at IU before earning his MS in 1964, “IU really, really meant the world to me. My world view expanded. I love the school.”

Professional life would bring the two together again. The Philadelphia Phillies organization, for which Williams played minor league baseball in the summers of 1962 and ’63, hired him as general manager of its Spartanburg, South Carolina, franchise in 1965. He hired Gutowsky as the team’s play-by-play announcer from a radio station in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, ironically, the same station (WCEN) where Enberg worked prior to going to IU. Williams and Gutowsky worked together four years. “That’s where John cut his eye teeth, where his baseball voice came from.”

Williams’ illustrious professional sports management career turned to basketball in 1968 when he was hired as business manager for the Philadelphia 76ers of the National Basketball Association. A year later, he became general manager of the Chicago Bulls, a position he held four years before joining the front office of the Atlanta Hawks. Only a year later, he was back with the 76ers, as GM. During his twelve years at the helm, the franchise reached the NBA finals four times, winning in 1983. An offer to assist Orlando, Florida, business leaders land an NBA franchise, which he accepted, led to league approval in 1987. The Orlando Magic began play in 1989. In helping to “create a franchise from scratch,” Williams’ long tenure with the club has included roles as President, General Manager, and Senior Vice President and Co-Founder.

In addition to his responsibilities with the Magic in 2018, Williams was engaged in three “talk” shows on radio and continued as a prolific writer with his 107th book being published. Among the topics are leadership, faith, success, teamwork, and sports. He and his wife have nineteen children, fourteen of them “adopted from around the world.”

After the 1963-64 basketball season, Gutowsky, a Michigan native, went to WCEN where he did high school and college sports play-by-play. In the summer of 1962 he had served as an intern at WSAM, Saginaw, and in summer 1963, at a competing station in the same city, WSGW. “During that summer, I became friends with Ernie Harwell in Detroit (for 42 years the announcer of Detroit Tigers games). He was my biggest mentor ever. He became a very close friend. Ernie may have been the most knowledgeable baseball announcer ever. He knew statistics and player profiles like no one else.” (16)

At the insistence of program director Bruce Malle for an on-air name change, Gutowsky became John Gordon (his middle name) at WSAM in 1962 but continued to operate as John Gutowsky in IU broadcasts. “My mother always wanted me to be Johnny G., but I thought that sounded too much like a disc jockey.”

After his time at Spartanburg, 1965-70, Gutowsky became “the third guy” on radio broadcasts of Baltimore Orioles games. In fall 1973, he moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, and worked for the University of Virginia as announcer of football and basketball games. Four years later, he was back in baseball as voice of the Columbus (Ohio) Clippers of the International League. During that time, he also worked for WBNS and did Ohio State University away football games and home and away basketball games. In 1981, Gutowsky became a member of the New York Yankees broadcasting team, and also served as play-by-play voice of Seton Hall men’s basketball for one year. His illustrious career as radio announcer for the Minnesota Twins, 1987-2011, earned him induction into the Twins Hall of Fame.

Ernie Nims, BA ’65, was on the network for three seasons. First with Bill Orwig, Jr, BS ’66, then Bill Cameron, BS ‘68. “When I worked with Orwig, (Fall of 1964 through Spring of 1966) we split play-by-play and color right down the middle; i.e., I would do play-by-play the first half and color the second half and then we’d reverse it the next game. With Cameron, (Fall of 1966 and Spring of 1967) I believe we did the same. If not, then I did most of the play-by-play.” (17)

The longest-serving announcer on the network, until Don Fischer began in 1973, was Max Skirvin, AB ’51.

As an IU senior, Skirvin did play-by-play of the 1950-51 IU football and basketball seasons for WTTS (Bloomington) radio. Following graduation, he was in the U.S. Air Force, stationed in England. In 1953, Skirvin returned to Bloomington and became an announcer and director at WTTV. Six years later, he moved to the IU Alumni Association as Alumni Club Director. One of his responsibilities—get radio stations in northern Indiana to carry the games on the IU Sports Network. To assist, Skirvin asked alumni clubs to bring pressure on them. “One of the challenges was that stations said they never knew who the announcers would be.” (18)

To solve that, Alumni Secretary Claude Rich asked Skirvin to become the lead announcer, in addition to his regular staff duties, thus ending the ten-year era of student play-by-play announcers. Skirvin’s first color commentator was Bill Cameron, still a student. “After that first year (1967-68), I had a different student sidekick for every game.” Skirvin served as the play-by-play announcer until 1973 when IU sold the broadcasting rights to Farm Bureau Insurance. Fischer took over play-by-play duties, with Skirvin serving alongside him through the NCAA basketball tournament in 1997. In total, Skirvin broadcast on the radio network thirty years.

During his years of network service, Skirvin was on the IUAA staff for nineteen years, then moved to the IU Foundation, where he worked for seventeen years, retiring in 1994. However, he continued in service as a volunteer with the IUAA and “retired” again in 2006.

Changing of the Guard

The network went from a non-profit operation to a commercial one when the IU Board of Trustees approved an agreement with the Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company and United Farm Bureau Family Life Insurance Company for radio coverage of football and basketball games and television coverage of basketball games. Minutes from the trustees’ June 23, 1973 meeting state, “The contract will result in increased income and it provides some 150 time periods on radio for the carrying of information about the University and two periods for extended messages on television at each game.” The minutes further reflect that “All the University requests are provided for in the contract, including the widest possible exposure to the public and Indiana University alumni through the radio and television networks hookups.” (19)

The originator of the idea to begin broadcasting games in 1957, Professor Yoakam, was asked his opinion of why the IU-owned and operated network ended. “Commercial…the whole issue of sports (broadcasting) rights got very much involved in it and we were offering this as a special service, free service which I thought was the right thing to do.” (20) But he expressed no objection to the selling of the rights. His regret was that students would no longer gain experience as announcers of the games.

Sports in America were becoming more popular, especially broadcasts of sports. Indiana University saw opportunities.

Thus ended sixteen years of IU’s operation of the sports radio network.

Acting on behalf of its client, Farm Bureau Insurance, Cranfill Advertising Agency of Indianapolis began negotiating in 1973 for the rights to broadcast football and basketball on radio and television.

“We had a partnership agreement with the Indiana High School Athletic Association to broadcast state basketball tournament games on television. It was a very successful experience, so we turned our attention to Indiana and Purdue,” said agency executive David Cranfill. (21) “We negotiated with (athletic directors) Bill Orwig at IU and George King at Purdue. In exchange for a guaranteed rights fee to IU, Farm Bureau/Cranfill set up an expanded radio network for both sports and agreed to telecast a minimum of fifteen basketball games on WTTV. Remember, there was no cable back then.” WIRE was the originating station for radio.

David Cranfill said IU received $70,000 per year for the first three-year agreement. At their August 14, 1976, meeting, the Trustees approved two contracts, “with radio station WIRE…to provide radio broadcasts of football and basketball games; this contract is to run for five years, with return to the University in excess of $215,000. The contract for television coverage is with…Farm Bureau…for a term of five years, with the return to the University in excess of $500,000.” (22)

Don Fischer was the new sports director of WIRE when the commercial radio network was launched in 1973. His legendary career as play-by-play announcer continued in 2018 (45 years) when this history was written. After Max Skirvin’s twenty-four years as his broadcast partner, Fischer had a variety of game analysts working with him through 2018’s basketball season.

Following Farm Bureau and WIRE, other corporations had broadcast rights agreements with IU. In 2018, Learfield, a years-long partner, was paying IU a guaranteed rights fee on a multi-year agreement to sell all the marketing, promotional, and advertising assets of IU Sports.

FOOTNOTES

  • (1) IU Trustees Minutes, June 1957.
  • (2) Transcript of Richard Yoakam interviews by daughter-in-law Caroline Beebe Yoakam, 2002.
  • (3) Email response to questions from Ken Beckley, March 28, 2016.
  • (4) Jones telephone interview with Ken Beckley, March 22, 2016.
  • (5) Email response to Ken Beckley, January 6, 2016.
  • (6) Ibid #2
  • (7) IURTS report 1958-59, IU Archives.
  • (8) The Indiana University Alumni Association, One Hundred and Fifty Years, 1854-2004. Used with permission of the Indiana University Alumni Association.
  • (9) Ibid #7
  • (10) Ibid #7
  • (11) Ibid #7
  • (12) Ibid #7
  • (13) Information from Indiana University Board of Trustees Memorial Resolution, April 20, 1976.
  • (14) Gutowsky telephone interview with Ken Beckley, February 12, 2018.
  • (15) Williams telephone interview with Ken Beckley, January 9, 2018.
  • (16) Gutowsky telephone interview with Ken Beckley, February 12, 2018.
  • (17) Nims email response to questions from Ken Beckley, December 26, 2017.
  • (18) Skirvin interview with Ken Beckley, May 2016.
  • (19) IU Trustees Minutes, June 23, 1973.
  • (20) Ibid #2
  • (21) Cranfill telephone interview with Ken Beckley, January 11, 2018.
  • (22) IU Trustees Minutes, August 14, 1976.

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By David L. Shank, RAP Line Creator and Producer

It was a different time on the IU Bloomington campus—the 1970s. The Viet Nam war hung over our heads like a nasty remnant of a Napalm attack. Traditional panty raids with thousands of frat boys charging down Fee Lane headed for Forest and Teter women’s dorms were replaced with anti-war demonstrations in Dunn Meadow.

The industrial and military complex seemed to take over the business school; and racial sensitivity and awareness were beginning to become a reality but few really know how to do it. Peoples’ Park on Kirkwood was created as a landing place for all and soon turned into respite space for gay people.

You didn’t chill over a Starbucks because Starbucks hadn’t been brewed yet. You headed for the Union and talked—or more timely—rapped over a Coke. Mainframe computers with the power of a today’s iPad took up rooms, users used punch cards…wait for it…there was NO internet, meaning no Instagram, SnapChat, Facebook, Firefox, Internet Explorer or Twitter. WFIU, in the pre-NPR days, was the news and classical music campus radio station cranking out 75,000 Watts of mono programming. WFIU was a potent training ground for future radio journalists under the firm but caring hand of Prof. Richard Yoakam. WTIU-TV, in its infancy, was also a pioneer in presenting a nightly student produced newscast. I couldn’t get out of the R-TV building. I was the first live voice heard on WTIU as its first live booth announcer.

It was also the birth of RAP Line. I saw, even as a senior, WFIU and Bloomington media didn’t have a true community conversation medium. As a voice of IU it could serve as the voice of the community and the underserved. What a radical idea for an educational institution and a radio station licensed to “serve in the public interest, convenience and necessity.”

As a head-strong senior, I created a program proposal and prospectus which was given (before email) to Department Head Donley Feddersen and copied to Herbert Seltz. The first proposals were denied without much comment. I wouldn’t be stopped trying to bring the station to a higher level of community service and involvement. It took two more submissions but finally I was told the concept had been approved. I was later told RAP Line was approved because of my persistence in submitting plan revisions—a life lesson that’s stuck with me for years.

RAP Line first aired Thursday, January 7, 1971. The first program preceded the opening of the 1971 Indiana Legislative session and the first guest was Bloomington’s David Rogers, Senate Minority Leader.

The early weekly shows were peaceful and calm as were most but we realized we were vulnerable to crank and obscene calls, something the IURTS, the university and the FCC would have frowned upon. Audio delay systems were expensive at that time. Now portable digital delay equipment can be purchased for less than $200, but we didn’t have them in 1971. Ingenuity reigned.

Radio engineer Jeff Stoll creatively recognized the distance between the record heads on an Ampex-200 vertical rack-mounted reel-to-reel audio recorder and the playback heads of a twin side-by-side Ampex would give a controllable seven to 10 second delay. Our ingenious and no-cost tape delay system was a huge loop of ¼-inch audio tape running from one Ampex to the other. Beginning with about the third or fourth shows we had our own delay system with the engineer’s finger hot on the nasty switch. I don’t think we had to use it while I produced and moderated the show.

Our programming was as diverse as the issues confronting Bloomington, southern Indiana and the world. I spent hours each week in the Monroe County library researching topics and booking guests. Programs with best call-in participation were around election periods. I worked especially hard to book guests who probably didn’t have other opportunities to be heard.

The most difficult interview

The 1970s were not only the years of anti-Viet Nam war protests; they were the years of the birth of Earth Day and a new awareness of global population growth. The phrase that caught attention was zero population growth. I booked the internationally recognized ZPG expert, Dr. Paul Ehrlich, but can’t document that. I spent weeks absorbing his book. The show was promoted and I was prepared for having all of our phone buttons blinking with backed up calls. It didn’t happen. Not a call, not a lit-up button light.

It turned into a fascinating hour-long one-on-one interview with me and the expert. It was also one of the most grueling live interviews I’ve conducted. The engineer would occasionally whisper an encouraging “sounds great” or “great discussion” through my headphones.

The craziest show brings kids to the studio

I had been working on a documentary and visited a Bloomington low-income social service agency in the fall. It occurred to me some the children from the area might not have a chance to talk with Santa. Could RAP Line help?

We could and we did. We set up Studio 4 with chairs and a platform for an authentically-costumed Santa, who was another R-TV student. Children and families came to the studio and Santa talked with kids in the studio and on the telephone before he headed for the North Pole.

The power of radio was demonstrated in a different way!

I had to say good-bye to RAP Line

RAP Line was a great semi-professional learning experience. Many of the production and management lessons learned carried over to my professional life as a journalist and eventually a long career in public relations.

But, I was also a student and my RAP Line days were curtailed when I had to head to New Albany, Indiana to serve my student teaching obligation at WNAS, the New Albany Public Schools radio station.

My replacement was also my campus roommate and future Emmy Award-winning TV journalist, Bud Gillett. As I handed over the mike switch to Bud in Studio 2, he said to me, “Now, we’re going to have interesting RAP Line shows!”

Thanks, Bud. But more importantly, thanks to IURTS and WFIU for allowing a senior to start the tradition of community conversation and involvement on WFIU.

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