HE GOT IT! Remembering Bill Teegins
By Jordan Bishop
For 15 years, Oklahoma State fans have yearned to hear the confirmation that, for a decade, resonated throughout the radio waves.
It was a simple call, a certification of another Cowboy 3-pointer finding its way home. The delivery was anything but simple, full of exuberance and life, the three words energized a fan base. If you praised the man behind the microphone, though, Bill Teegins would humbly evade the adoration and instead ask you about your day instead.
That’s the kind of man he was.
Although it was a time-consuming job, he would have done it until the end of time. Teegins believed that until the day he died on a plane crash with nine other people.
“It was the game right before the Cowboys went on that fateful trip to Colorado,” said Larry Reece, OSU’s public address announcer. “I remember Bill joking around and saying, ‘I may just give up this TV gig and just come work for the Cowboy radio network with you.’ I said, ‘Well, You’re going to take a heck of a pay cut.’
“And he points at his chair and he said, ‘Larry, let me tell you this, calling Cowboy games is absolutely my favorite thing to do. Don’t ever let me screw this up. I want to be doing this for a long time.’”
Day in and day out for 11 years, Teegins balanced his duties as Channel 9 sports director in Oklahoma City and “The Voice of the Cowboys” for OSU basketball and football games. Teegins spent hours researching for work, yet he always had time to hear about someone else’s day or ask them a sports trivia question.
His personality and self-deprecating sense of humor was what made him so popular. On different occasions he would play himself down or make fun of himself to keep things at an even keel. Teegins’ wife, Janis, said Bill never let the fame get to his head.
“A lot of sportscasters had big egos but Bill did not,” She said. “In fact, sometimes I teased him and said he needed one, but what you saw is what you got. What you saw on TV is how he was at home. He was very approachable. If someone saw us at a restaurant, he would strike up a conversation with them. He truly enjoyed being a broadcaster.”
Teegins was described by many as a true professional in his reporting. Whether he was covering OSU and OU or being seen in Tulsa or Oklahoma City, Teegins was loved. By transcending bias, a sportscaster from Minnesota was able to become everyone’s friend. Teegins could talk to Eddie Sutton one day and Bob Stoops the next and be revered in both conversations.
“I’ve heard Eddie Sutton say many times that Bill Teegins was like a brother to him,” Reece said. “It’s something when you can really respect the person or people that cover your team and I know Eddie Sutton really respected Bill Teegins.”
Although he was named Oklahoma Sportscaster of the Year eight times, Teegins was concerned more with helping out colleagues like OSU’s current color commentator John Holcomb. When Holcomb applied to Channel 9 in 1995, Teegins was the first one to call him.
The call was to tell Holcomb the station had decided to go with another applicant, but Teegins told him to “hang in there.” A couple of months later, the two met at a Dallas Cowboys’ training camp in Austin when Teegins changed Holcomb’s life forever.
“He and I and John Wahls, the sports director in Tulsa at the time, went out to dinner,” Holcomb said. “While we were at dinner, Bill was talking to John Wahls and he pointed at me saying, ‘Here’s the guy you need to hire the next time you have an opening.’”
A couple of months later, Holcomb was hired on at Channel 6, where Teegins would be happy to know that Holcomb is sports director today.
Whether it was his family of Janis and his daughter Amanda or his broadcasting family, Teegins took care of them. He was the energetic spark at home and on the airwaves, which is why on that January night, everyone who knew him felt they lost something that could never be replaced.
Reece had gotten home from a trip to Tahlequah when he heard that one of the planes went missing. He drove to Stillwater Regional Airport and frantically tried to find out what happened.
“I called his phone and Pat Noyes’s and they would go straight to voicemail,” Reece said. “You just had an eerie feeling that you weren’t going to see your friends again.”
Janis, a flight attendant at the time, was at an airport in Boston when Amanda called her, informing her about the plane crash and asking Janis about Teegins’ state. Janis called Channel 9, only to hear Teegins’ friend and colleague Kelly Ogle confirm the worst.
Teegins was only 48.
When the Cowboys returned to the court after the tragedy, their first game back was against Missouri. Different sportscasters from around the Big 12 collaborated to fill in for their fallen colleague. People like Bob Barry Sr. and Kansas’ Bob Davis got behind the mic, but it didn’t feel like it was the same.
“Just seeing that empty seat down there,” Janis said. “I know people were sitting in for him, but that was a tough one and a tough couple of years. He was a hard one to lose.”
People who were at that game will remember for years the intensity of the crowd and raw emotion that flooded the newly dedicated Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“I will always remember there had been this debate in renovating Gallagher-Iba,” Holcomb said. “Whether it would ever be as loud as old Gallagher where the sound just used to bounce off the ceiling.
“There was a spot in that game I will never forget, Terrance Crawford got a steal near midcourt. He took it down dunked and got fouled and I swear to you I thought the roof was coming off. It was the moment that everyone who was in the stands was waiting for a moment to erupt.”
It would have been a moment Teegins would have definitely gotten excited about. Although, there was no “HE GOT IT!” after a Mo Baker 3-pointer or “Oh brother” to be heard after a Cowboy foul.
The energy behind the Cowboy Radio Network and Channel 9 was gone.
A thousand miles away, a sportscaster for Western Kentucky named Dave Hunziker was still dealing with the news. Hunziker had heard Teegins’ work before and knew of him through his friend John Anderson. Although Hunziker had never met Teegins, he knew the sports broadcasting community had lost a great one.
“We’re all flying around, traveling, running about getting to games,” Hunziker said. “You just felt such empathy for these people even if you didn’t know them. We’re all one big family in college athletics and when you look at it, you just feel a sense of tragedy.”
When Hunziker was named the new play-by-play voice for OSU in the fall of 2001, he didn’t know what kind of reception to expect. Hunziker found out he didn’t need to be worried as the OSU family embraced him and he grew into a fan favorite.
Although his chair had been filled, Teegins’ memory lived on throughout the past 15 years. One notable moment was during OSU’s Final Four run in 2004. Reece had asked Cowboy Radio producer Joe Riddle to use Teegins’ call from the 1995 Final Four if the Cowboys were to make it again.
Riddle pulled up the clip and after John Lucas III hit a 3-pointer against St. Joes to send OSU to the Final Four, fans were treated to “The Cowboys are goin’ to the Final Four” one more time.
“That was a really cool gesture,” Hunziker said. “It was the right thing to do.”
Janis and Amanda came up with ways for Teegins to live on as well with the Bill Teegins Scholarship, awarded each year to sportscasters with Oklahoma roots. Janis also wrote a book about Teegins’ life, aptly titled “HE GOT IT!” She says it helps not only to keep his memory around for younger broadcasters, but also for Amanda’s daughter, Tatum.
“She has three grandparents and there’s that one missing spark,” Janis said.
Janis said she isn’t able to make it to that many Cowboy basketball games anymore. Amanda and her husband Paul Stoke, have season tickets and go to most of the games.
It isn’t the same for Janis, who used to sit up in the stands so she could be allowed to cheer instead of sitting in press row with Teegins.
Janis will be there Wednesday, though for the 15th year without the love of her life, the humblest sportscaster around, the man behind “HE GOT IT!”
“Truthfully, for some reason football games don’t bother me,” Janis said. “But I used to wave to him down there being in Gallagher-Iba so it still bothers me.”