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Bill Roth:The Exit Interview

Legendary Broadcaster Says Goodbye to Blacksburg

Bill Roth has given 27 years to the Hokie Nation.  In his time he has seen dreams fulfilled, and hearts crushed.  He has witnessed the closest thing to perfection Tech has offered.  He has seen humiliating defeats, that still invoke painful memories.  Through the thick and thin, Bill Roth has exemplified a professional broadcaster attitude that was as sturdy as the limestone that frames the campus.  The biggest accolade Bill deserves is the fact that his demeanor seldom changed.  Huge win, debilitating loss.  His voice never wavered.  He certainly invoked a solemn tone in the tough times, but he metered his joy in the jubilance that kept all Hokie fans grounded.  He tried to be impartial at all times, and that mattered.  It's easy to imitate guys in the broadcasting business, and Roth carved out an individual personality that was the VT Voice.

So without further ado, here are my ten questions for Bill Roth:

RH: Over your time at Virginia Tech, who was your favorite athlete to cover and why?

BR: Wow, totally unfair question.  You trying to get me in trouble?  We're talking about thousands of athletes, and I'd hate to omit any of 'em.  I loved watching Deron Washington dunk especially when he sailed over Paulus at Duke.  I really admired the way he could leap, and I loved his smile.  And I loved Jamon Gordon, who was tough and did great post game interviews and talked about his grandma.  I guess I liked tough guys like Jake Grove and John Engelberger and Jarret Ferguson, George Del Ricco and Cody Grimm and Vince Hall and Kam Chancellor.  See how you're getting me in trouble?  I'm going to leave someone out.  I loved the way Michael Vick could scramble and leave guys grasping for air, and I liked the way Andre Davis would just zoom away from people.  David Wilson.  I loved the way David Wilson could accelerate and spin.  Vapor trail.  I swear I saw a vapor trail when he scored against Georgia Tech on that T.D. at Lane. Ryan Williams, what a player. Kevin Jones.  Can we please just YouTube the LSU game and watch him run?  I could watch KJ run on and endless loop.

I always thought Damon Watlington had a third lung. And David and Jim Jackson? I'd go to battle with those two dudes anywhere, anytime.  I liked the way Tyrod (Taylor) was cool, like on the TD against F.S.U. in Charlotte where he casually walked into the endzone as if he had just blown out the flame on the Seminoles' spear.  Just a cool dude.

"Best penalty in 27 years was when he flashed the "U" sign after scoring a T.D. against the 'Canes in Miami.  It was worth every penalty yard on the ensuing kickoff."

I loved Corey Moore. I loved Lee Suggs. Still do. I cried when he tore his A.C.L.. Eddie Royal. There's another dude that always smiled, then ran by you for a T.D..The Lewis brothers, and the Hopkins brothers, and the Fuller Brothers. I just wanna hug Mrs. Fuller. Cornell Brown. Everyone except James Brown (look it up kids). Blake Christopher...well Blake's Beard.He always referred to his beard as another person, an alter-ego. I'm leaving too many people out, and I'm going to get in trouble. Bryan Randall. When he's the governor, you'll be even more proud of him. I'm doing this off the top of my head and I'm gonna get some heat. I will get an email within 20 minutes from someone like Keith Short. Wayne Ward will show up at my house and block me like he did against that guy from W.V.U. on that Thursday night game. But if you're gonna pin me down, I'm going with (broadcast partner) Mike Burnop. Favorite athlete to cover. I've been with the guy for 27 years and he's going to be my all time favorite athlete, number 81!

RH: What will you miss most about living and working in Blacksburg?

BR: I'll miss walking by everyone tailgating and taking in the aroma from all the grills around Lane Stadium. Most of all I will miss Mike and our radio crew. Johnny Alga, Mike Kelly, Carter Myers, and of course Mike Burnop.

RH: How did you break the news to Mike, and what was his reaction?

BR: He knew what was happening from day one. He must have heard me ask, "What should I do?" 1500 times. He's sad, but he understands. We're still gonna be best buds and hang out on vacation and I'm going to make fun of him and vice-versa. Knowing Mike Burnop is the best thing that's ever happened in my career. Fact.

RH: What was it like covering the Beamer Era, and how would you characterize your relationship with him today?

BR: He treated me with respect from day one..that was amazing. I learned more from him , and talked more with Coach Beamer than any man other than my father. He taught me how to treat people, how to act. When this U.C.L.A. opportunity came up, I went to coach's house and we talked it over. I didn't want to hurt him. He was supportive. Anything I ever wanted to do for 27 years, he was supportive, including leaving if it was best for me. How selfless is this man? Now you see why his assistant coaches love him. How would I characterize my relationship with him? I love the man. Love him. I wish I could be more like him.

RH: What was the most memorable team you covered?

BR: You're going to get me beat up again! I loved the spirit of the '95 N.I.T. Champs in hoops. I loved Bill Foster too. There's another man I learned so much from during his tenure. And the '95 football team. Those dudes were great. The 1999 team speaks for itself, but in terms of "memorable" I think the '95 football and basketball teams collectively because of their chemistry and their togetherness.

RH: What is the most exciting game you ever called?

BR: This one is easy.1995 at U.V.A.. Scoring 3 times in the 4th quarter to clinch the Sugar Bowl. It meant so much to people. It launched our program. That game was thrilling and had high stakes.

RH: If you could change anything about your tenure at VT, what would it be?

BR: I wish I had my folks come to more games. That's more of a personal thing, but I wish I had flown them in for more games. Professionally, I made mistakes early but I learned from those. I wish I would have spent more time with Wendy Weisend and Tom McNeer and some other folks who were around when I first got here. Waddy Harvey. I loved Waddy and we had great visits, bud I should've recorded some of those conversations. Also, I never walked away from a broadcast feeling like I did a perfect job, so each game there are always a few things I wish I'd done differently. Looking back, maybe we should've had a second television show each week?

"I wish I could've tailgated once. Just to try it."

RH: Did you ever feel you did a disservice to the program or a particular player?

BR: Yeah. VT lost to South Carolina in a basketball game once and the Gamecocks had 4 starters suspended and won the game with walk-ons scoring most of the points. I made note of that several times during the game that "their walk-ons were beating our scholarship players". Dave called me in and said that wasn't fair to Frankie Allen (our coach at the time) and that while he didn't mind me bringing it up, he thought I was accentuating the negative and showing my emotions on the air in a way that was bad for the program. Teaching moment. He handled it great. I learned. Dave was right. I was wrong. Here's another: Coleman Collins wrote an op-ed for the CT, for which he got tremendous acclaim. I disagreed with what he wrote however and mentioned as much to him. I had hurt him with my rebuttal. He was really down and I felt bad because in this case, I overstepped my role. I apologized and we had a really good talk about his column and we've remained friends since. I enjoy reading Coleman's work now and interacting with him when we can.

RH: Best road game catering?

BR: Texas A&M. Beef brisket carved at the stadium.

RH: Have you spoken with Coach Mora, and if so compare/contrast with Beamer

BR: Yes, I visited with Coach Mora last week and he was very nice and welcoming. Just like Coach Beamer. Jim's a second generation coach, he and his dad have been N.F.L. coaches. I'm looking forward to working with him, and learning from him. I could tell from being around the Bruins' practice Thursday he has a lot of respect from his players, just like Coach beamer gets from his.

I hope you enjoyed your time with Bill Roth as much as I did. He was as kind and forthcoming as his interview portrays. I wish him nothing but the best with his future in Los Angeles, but I hate to see him go. It marks the end of an era for Bill Roth at Virginia Tech, but 27 years worth of memories will keep Bill in the Hokies' hearts forever.

Follow me @roybhatfield