WHITEWATER — In March 2019, Gary Douglas retired.
After 16 years at WFAW which followed 27 years at WDUX in Waupaca, Douglas decided it was time to step away from the daily grind.
But fans of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater do not have to worry as Douglas still will be the play-by-play voice of the Warhawks in football and basketball. So, when the Warhawks take their eight-hour trip to Moorhead, Minnesota to play against Concordia-Moorhead on Saturday at noon, Douglas will be there along with Don Wadewitz calling the game.
“This job was great. I’ve enjoyed every minute of this job except for getting up at 3:15 in the morning,” said Douglas, who was responsible for all aspects of the sports department at WFAW as sports director. Now, he’s only responsible for providing coverage for the fan base he has endeared himself to. “I decided it was enticing to see what it would be like to do football, coaches shows and basketball and not have to be up at 3:15 in the morning.”
It’s old school, but he wants to see what it’s like to primarily focus on being the play-by-play guy. The UW-Whitewater fan-base retains its eyes and ears.
“Fans don’t have the luxury of watching most of the road games,” Douglas said. “I remember at a football banquet a few years ago, Dick Telfer, the former Chancellor, told me something that I always try to remember, he and his wife tried to make all of the home games but he told me I was their eyes and ears when the teams are on the road.”
For Nancy and Rollie Cooper — who live in Whitewater and have a grandson, Andy, on the football team — they listen to Douglas’s calls even when they’re at the games. For former basketball player Dalton Menke’s grandmother, it’s the only way she knew what was happening in games, according to Menke’s father.
“Yes, my No. 1 fans are mother, grandmothers and uncles that live a long ways away,” said Douglas with a laugh.
But the way he conducts himself on the call isn’t something to be taken for granted.
“I do appreciate it because he brings a level of professionalism that gives credibility to everyone involved in his telecast,” said UW-Whitewater head men’s basketball coach Pat Miller, “whether that’s the station or our school. “I’ve talked to so many people who listen to him and love listening to him because of his professionalism and neutrality when he does games. He’s a great asset for our University doing our games and for the radio station as well.”
Douglas is an old-school, even keeled broadcaster. Somewhere along the line, he did convert from outsider trying to call a game to insider fighting the urge to be partial. Early on in his tenure covering the Warhawks he wasn’t sure it was going to be easy to take over for Tom Pattison, who had become a legend.
That’s a tough act to follow.
“I remember going to a Quarterback Club meeting and all these guys ended up being good friends of mine, but they heckled me something awful,” said Douglas, a native of Minneapolis. “They wound up being good guys and were just giving me a hard time. It was difficult following Tom to an extent because he bled purple and I’m a light shade of violet.
“If you lose a game, you lose a game, but Tom thought it was the end of the world.”
Slowly but surely, Douglas became part of the Warhawk family. Even though he tries his best to remain impartial, he can be heard slipping when he refers to the UW-Whitewater team on the field, whether that’s football or basketball, as ‘We.’
But he had been on the bus during the long trips and on the flights for the Stagg Bowls. At some point, it felt natural.
“I think it was when I started traveling with them more. When we started getting into the playoffs with football,” Douglas said. “The first couple of years, I treated it like a high school game. I think when we got deep in the playoffs for football and you start traveling with the team for three or four weeks and staying in the hotels or the team meals, you subconsciously become part of it. …
“You have your own spot on the bus and everyone calls you GD and you have pizza on the bus. I think it’s those things where you become part of it. When it first started, I just treated it like anything else I had done.”
This Friday, Douglas will be on one of those long bus rides because the fan base needs him to be there on KOOL 106.5 when the Warhawks (1-0) take on the Cobbers (0-1) at noon.
“What can I say? Gary is the voice of the Warhawks,” Bullis said. “He’s our version of Bob Uecker. His passion for and support of Warhawk athletics is excellent. He’s retired but still wants to be our voice: What does that tell you?”