Part three of a 12-day series profiling each member of the 2012 Colorado Athletic Hall of Fame, leading up to the induction ceremonies on Thursday, Nov. 15. Today's profile is on Larry Zimmer, long-time sports director and voice of the Buffaloes for Newsradio KOA. Click here for more information and to register for the 2012 induction ceremony.
Larry Zimmer has broken the status quo of the individuals previously inducted into the Colorado Athletic Hall of Fame. At 77, Zimmer becomes the first person inducted outside of athletics or coaching.
The 2012 season marks the 39th year Zimmer has been on air as a voice for the Buffaloes.
|Larry Zimmer and Mark Johnson have called CU football together since 2004.
Zimmer was born November 13, 1935, in New Orleans. His mother and grandparents raised him while his father was in the Navy fighting in World War II. The absence of his father during childhood left Zimmer with a void that was filled by his grandfather.
“Had my dad not been in the Navy during the war, I suspect I would have probably grown up liking hunting and fishing like he did,” said Zimmer. “My grandfather, on the other hand, was a big sports fan. He always had football or baseball games going on the radio. It seemed magical to me.”
By age 10 Zimmer had dreams of one day becoming a sports announcer.
He was able to fulfill his dreams after spending two years at Louisiana State University and then finally graduating in 1957 from the University of Missouri with a degree in journalism.
After high school graduation from Columbia Military Academy, his interest in serving in the armed forces continued in college with enrollment in the Army ROTC program. He was commissioned in the artillery upon graduation from Missouri, and served two years on active duty at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He reached the rank of 1st Lieutenant and was awarded the Army Commendation Medal. He continued to serve in the reserves as he pursued his goals in the field of sports broadcasting.
“My sort of guru was the play-by-play voice of the Missouri Tigers, he also owned the radio station and he really gave me my first opportunity,” said Zimmer.
After committing to sports announcing, Zimmer did the play by play for Missouri Tiger baseball as well as the play-by-play for Michigan Wolverine football, basketball, hockey and baseball.
Zimmer first came to CU in 1971 when he was hired by KOA to handle play-by-play duties. He missed only three seasons when the Buffs aired on a different station, KHOW from 1982-83 and KRXY in 1984.
“Literally I have been doing college football in Colorado for 42 seasons,” said Zimmer. “KOA lost their contract with the Buffs from 1982-84 so I did announcing for Colorado State University.”
Zimmer returned to Boulder as the play-by-play voice of the Buffaloes in 1985, just in time to experience the most memorable football ever played at the University.
The season of 1989 is one that sticks with Zimmer to this day. The ’89 team was not only one of Colorado football’s most talented teams; it was a team that captured the hearts of football fans across the nation. This was the year that Colorado quarterback Sal Aunese died at the age of 21 from inoperable stomach cancer.
Aunese’s death happened on a bye week, the week before Colorado was to play the University of Washington. The team arrived in Seattle 3-0. No one knew how the team would react.
“The three games prior to Washington were at home. Sal got to watch all three of the games. He used to sit up in the photo deck in his wheelchair. Each game, before kickoff, the whole team would take a knee and would point to him. In Seattle, right before kickoff the whole team took a knee and pointed up to the sky,” said Zimmer.
Today, this is one of the most memorable moments of silence in the history of college football and it also marked the only time in his career that Zimmer’s emotions got the best of him.
“I truly lost it,” said Zimmer. “The emotions were so overwhelming that I couldn’t keep it together.”
All those who were listening on air felt his overwhelming passion for the Colorado football team.
Zimmer’s most notable moment happened September 24, 1994 when Colorado quarterback Kordell Stewart threw a 64-yard Hail Mary pass to Michael Westbrook as time expired to beat Michigan 27-26.
“Today, they call it ‘The Catch’,” said Zimmer. “That was a signature call for me because ESPN plays it all the time.”
|Larry Zimmer received the prestgious Chris Schenkel Award in 2009. Pictured here with CU alum Chris Fowler (right) and National Football Foundation President/CEO and former CU SID Steve Hatchell
Zimmer retired as KOA Sports Director in 2001, but continues his work with Colorado football as the color commentator for the Colorado Buffaloes Radio Network, teaming with current sports director and "Voice of the Buffaloes" Mark Johnson.
The honor of being the first person outside of athletics or the athletic department to be inducted into the Colorado Athletic Hall of Fame is something that strikes a cord with Zimmer.
“I am blown away,” Zimmer said in an emotional attempt to find the words to describe his feelings. “It’s a great honor and a great feeling that the people who make those selections feel like I’ve made enough of a contribution to deserve this.”
The University of Colorado is not the first institution to recognize Zimmer for excellence. He is a five-time recipient of the White Stagg Award for Excellence in Ski Journalism. In 1996 Zimmer was awarded the Colorado Broadcaster of the Year Award presented by the Colorado Broadcasters Association. In 2010 Zimmer received two of his most prestigious awards. A five-time Colorado Sportscaster of the Year, he is a member of the Broadcast Professionals of Colorado Hall of Fame, the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame and was also the recipient of the Chris Schenkel Award.
Aside from his duties as color commentator, Zimmer shares his passion for sports announcing on campus. He works an adjunct sports journalism professor at CU during the spring semester. Zimmer and his wife, Brigitte, have established an endowed sports announcing scholarship to aid students who share the passion of sports announcing.
Zimmer lives with his wife on Lookout Mountain where he enjoys the mountain scenery and the various animals that wander through his yard. He has two children from a previous marriage, Larry and Tracey. Zimmer is also a grandfather; his granddaughter, Shannon, is a sophomore at Missouri where she is following in her grandfathers’ steps and majoring in journalism. In his free time Zimmer enjoys traveling and the opera. He is on the board of Opera Colorado and frequently attends the University of Colorado Opera.