While the more than 100,000 people who attend Ohio State’s football games are focused on the field during game time, there’s one voice that reaches out to all of them.
That’s the voice of Bob Kennedy, the OSU public address announcer.
“This is my 11th year doing football at Ohio State,” Kennedy said. “It’s an honor and a privilege — it really is.”
Kennedy’s passion for radio and broadcasting started back in his early childhood, Kennedy’s first cousin Shelly Pfaub said. “He just wanted to do it since he was little.”
As a child, Kennedy would try to talk like a radio announcer using pencils or Lincoln Logs as a make-believe microphone, she said, laughing.
“I’m proud of him,” Pfaub added. “He has this booming voice.”
Kennedy said his career in broadcasting “in one form or another” has been going on for more than three decades. He was born in Sunbury, Ohio, where the early beginnings of his career started.
“I did some Little League games for a youth athletic association in Sunbury,” Kennedy said. “Sometimes you really have to yell at the top of your lungs ‘cause the PA system didn’t always work the way it should.”
Kennedy graduated in 1987 with a Bachelor of Arts in speech communication with a concentration on broadcasting from Otterbein College, where he also started working as a professional PA announcer for the school’s basketball games 24 years ago. It wasn’t long before he was doing the PA announcing for Otterbein’s marching band.
Then 14 years ago, Kennedy expanded his services to OSU as a backup PA announcer.
“I was just looking to fill in periodically. I wasn’t looking to do any sports on a regular basis per se,” Kennedy said. “I wound up doing three sports on a regular basis my first year.”
Kennedy was the regular PA announcer for women’s ice hockey and soccer, as well as baseball during the 2000-01 academic year.
The following year, after becoming the regular announcer for the men’s soccer team, Kennedy got his first taste as the announcer for OSU’s football games. The announcer at the time had to miss the game against Kent State, which conflicted with a religious holiday, Kennedy said.
“They liked how I announced and everything,” he added. “They kind of liked my approach to how I did (it).”
David Brown, the associate athletic director at the time, agreed.
“He has the voice for (PA announcing), no question,” Brown said. “It wasn’t monotone … He was able to get excited about plays.”
That was when the wheels started turning for Kennedy. In the spring of 2003, Kennedy received a call from Brown.
“Dave says, ‘I know you’ve worked games at Otterbein. What I want you to do is check their football schedule, check our football schedule. See if there are any conflicts,’” Kennedy said. “So right now, I know something’s up … The next day I get another call and he says, ‘OK, the jig’s up — here’s what we want. We want you to take over doing announcing for Ohio State football on one condition: you do all the games or you do none at all.’”
This posed a complication for Kennedy, who knew Otterbein might want the same privilege. He then called Dick Reynolds, the athletic director and men’s basketball coach for Otterbein at the time, who was out of town in New Orleans for the national coaches convention at the time.
“He said, ‘You’d be a fool not to take this,’” Kennedy said, adding that there was one condition. “He says, ‘When you need to be at Ohio State and we have a football game here at Otterbein, you make sure that you have … our butt covered by having somebody in that press box doing the PA for our football games’ … and that’s the agreement we’ve had ever since.”
During the 11 years as the regular PA announcer for Ohio State football, Kennedy said two moments especially stand out to him.
The most memorable was his first game as a regular PA announcer where OSU was facing off against Washington.
“The team was coming out of the tunnel right before the national anthem, and there was a sunset over the ‘Shoe that is just breathtaking,” Kennedy said. “I got cold chills. I literally got cold chills.”
However, the 2006 Ohio State-Michigan game, when both teams held the top two spots in the BCS rankings, came in as a close second, he added.
“If that game had gone overtime, I don’t think I would have any of my voice left,” Kennedy said. “I was losing my voice in the fourth quarter. I was carrying cough drops with me to keep my voice moist and loose, and I was out of cough drops by the end of the third quarter, so I was really hurt.”
Since his time with OSU, Kennedy said he has done PA announcing for 20 of the 37 sports offered at the university as a regular or fill-in. In addition to PA announcing for Otterbein and OSU games, Kennedy works as a morning news anchor for 98.9 “The Answer” radio station and has been the PA announcer for the Columbus Clippers for almost 11 years.
“Bob’s a great guy,” said Rich Hanchette, the former PA announcer for the Clippers and a motion graphic artist for the Cleveland Browns. “There’s only one person I knew I wanted to be my successor, and that’s Bob Kennedy.”
Though he continues to work in the broadcasting field, Kennedy said there’s a lot of uncertainty in terms of his future.
“As unstable and insecure as my line of work has become over the years, it is really difficult to say what you will be doing in five minutes, much less five years because things can change that quickly,” he said. “You’re pretty much forced to make your crystal ball look only one day in advance.”