Two years ago, on the occasion of his father’s retirement after 40 years as the North Carolina radio voice, Wes Durham said he hoped that he would likewise finish his career at Georgia Tech.
An opportunity to pursue a career objective, though, will take him away from the microphones at Bobby Dodd Stadium and McCamish Pavilion. After 18 years, Durham has left his post as the Yellow Jackets’ play-by-play man for a television job.
“I’m really excited,” Durham said Tuesday evening. “It’s hard, obviously. I’ve got a lot of time invested there with a lot of great people. At the same time, the opportunity there was something that I’m excited about.”
Durham, 47, could not specify the position, but said that it is TV play-by-play. He will remain the voice of the Falcons, a position he has held since 2004. The choice was between either staying at Tech or jumping to TV.
Durham informed athletic director Mike Bobinski, men’s basketball coach Brian Gregory, football coach Paul Johnson and other athletic department staffers Tuesday of his decision.
“I’m really sad to see Wes go,” Johnson said. “He does a great job with what he does, and he’s been a tremendous personal friend and still will be, but I’m excited for him and (his wife) Vicky because this is a great opportunity.”
Durham, named Georgia Sportscaster of the Year eight times, said he wasn’t actively pursuing a new job, but said that doing TV work was a career goal of his. The opportunity came together in a matter of weeks, he said.
“It’s something that, I didn’t expect it to materialize to the scale that it has and to the point where, if I didn’t do it now, I might not get the chance (again),” he said.
In 18 years, Durham became a beloved Tech personality. Authoritative, quick-witted and engaging, Durham brought enthusiasm and color to his broadcasts from Bobby Dodd Stadium, the old Alexander Memorial Coliseum and arenas and stadiums around the ACC.
One of his most replayed calls came from a Tech-Clemson football game in 2004, after the Jackets took possession of the ball deep in Tigers territory with seconds to play to set up an epochal touchdown catch by freshman wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
“(Reggie) Ball from under center, sets, throws, Johnson’s there. It is caught! Touchdown, Calvin Johnson! Son of a gun! He has absolutely lived up to the legendary billing! And with 11 seconds left, Georgia Tech has taken the lead! Are you serious?”
Durham arrived at Tech after a three-year run at Vanderbilt, filling the seat of the legendary Al Ciraldo. He brought to life several memorable Tech moments, such as the 1999 football win over Georgia in overtime, the men’s basketball Final Four trip in 2004 and the football team’s ACC championship in 2009. His last broadcast for Tech, it turns out, was the men’s basketball ACC tournament loss to Boston College on March 14.
“When you think back on (memorable Tech games and plays), Wes Durham’s voice is playing over those memories,” said Greg Tinsley, 37, a lifelong Tech fan.
In all, his Tech career spanned more than 750 football and basketball broadcasts. He had thought it might last much longer. When his father, Woody, retired as the longtime voice of the Tar Heels in 2011, speculation centered on his son replacing him. He put it to rest by telling fans at a caravan event that he hoped to finish his career in Atlanta at Tech.
Said Durham, “Had it not been for this, that probably would have happened.”
Tech, along with multimedia rights holder IMG College, will begin a search for Durham’s replacement. The Jackets’ first game is Aug. 31 against Elon (Durham’s alma mater, coincidentally).
“There is a strong commitment going forward to continue to bring Georgia Tech fans award-winning broadcasts,” Bobinski said in a statement.