Few people in the annals of Clemson Football are more remembered, more revered and more loved than Jim Phillips.
He is simply referred to as “The Voice.” Though he never played a second on the field or courts of sport, he was an important figure in the building of the Clemson brand we know today.
In my first memories of Clemson sports, it is his voice that provides the soundtrack. As a young fan, we’d travel to Clemson most home games. We would take our seats in the stadium, gaze at the order of all the pre-game pageantry, the band, the cheerleaders, and “the Tiger.”
After the playing of the National Athem, singing of the Alma Mater, and the pre-game prayer, finally, the team would run down the hill. I’d do my Saturday game day ritual, I’d pull out my little transistor radio with the corded earphone and place it in my ear. I was ready. His voice added color, structure, insight and emotions to what was unfolding before me.
Other than my daddy, Jim Phillips taught me Clemson Football. His words painted a picture of each game. He was the quintessential play-by-play guy.
On those Saturdays, when the Tigers would hit the road for an away game, we’d be around the radio, anxiously listening to his near perfect description of what he saw. Daddy would tell us at the time, this is what entertainment was like before the days of television. Rarely, if ever, did Clemson play on TV. For you young fans, back in the “old days” before ESPN existed, we had Phillips. Thanks to him, we were always there, seated on the 50 yard line, right beside him.
In doing research for this article, I was surprised, no amazed, at all he did in those 36 years as the voice of the Tigers. He called Tiger Football, Men’s and Women’s Basketball and Baseball. Add to this, for a large number of those years, he was the Sports Director for WFBC/WYFF in Greenville and also, in his “spare time,” he called the Greenville Braves baseball games.
Add to that, the coaches radio call-in shows and the Sunday morning, television broadcast of the coaches shows. I ask myself, how did he accomplish so much? Simple answer, he loved his work and had an unapologetic love for all things Clemson.
He was the consummate professional, respected by his peers and was the Dean of ACC play-by-play announcers. He counted among his many colleagues and friends both South Carolina announcer, Bob Fulton and Larry Munson, the voice of the Georgia Bulldogs. Both Legends in their own rights and in their respective Universities.
It was Fulton that paid tribute to Phillips, the week following his death, by calling the second offensive drive of the Tigers against Middle Tennessee State. I remember the emotion in his voice as he sat in the chair of his once-a-year rival, always friend. I will never forget the emotions of that game.
In all of his 36 years, he called over 2000 games for all four of Clemson’s biggest sports. He called over 400 Footballs contest and over 1000 Basketball broadcasts and only missed calling one game. Not because he was on vacation or ill. No, he was halfway around the globe in Tokyo, Japan calling the Clemson vs. Wake Forest 1982 ACC Championship, “The Mirage Bowl.” Unlike with today’s technology, he couldn’t be in two places at one time but if he could have, he’d surely have tried.
In 1992, he was inducted into the Clemson Athletics Hall of Fame, an honor well deserved. As I understand the reasons why he can’t be, if anyone is deserving of inclusion in the “Ring of Honor,” it would be Phillips. Hopefully one day, his name will be added to its much deserved place in Memorial Stadium and Littlejohn Coliseum.
There have been two subsequent play-by-play announcers since his loss, both have done admirably but they have perhaps a near impossible task. They were/are charged with the difficult task of filling the shoes of the Legend, the Voice. His memory casts a large shadow.
Through the miracle of technology, on that fateful night in Tampa at the 2017 CFB National Championship Game, Phillips was there, not only in spirit but in voice. I’ve got to believe, it is perhaps one of “his” favorite calls of an illustrious Career. To the Voice of Clemson Football, we all say thanks.
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