I've written many times before about the three men who spent time being a young broadcaster's mentor. The great Voice of the Vols John Ward, the former Voice of the Mocs Bill Nash, and the former Voice of the Blue Raiders Monte Hale. Monte Hale was the very first who influenced my career. I was a young college student at Middle Tennessee State University who was majoring in Health, Physical Education and Recreation. I had worked in radio for a couple of years but really had no desire to pursue broadcasting for a career but I applied for a job as the sports director of the campus radio station, WMOT-FM.
I got the job and when WMOT joined forces with WGNS radio to set up the very first Blue Raider Network, I became the color analyst for Monte's play-by-play.
Actually Monte was totally against the idea. He had always worked alone basically and had no desire at all to have a young, all-knowing whipper-snapper in the booth with him. My very first broadcast was one I would rather forget. It was a football game at MTSU to open the 1972 season and my job was to open the network broadcast with a basic two minute preview of the game. I did not prepare for that preview. I instead chose to ad lib my way through it just using game notes. It turned out to be a total disaster. When the game was over, I fully expected to be fired on the spot. It was that bad. Instead, Monte Hale sat down with me after the game and instructed me to write out that two minute preview and read it. I should keep doing that until I was more experienced. I did what he told me and the next broadcast was much, much better. To this day, I still write out my opening statements so the open of the broadcast is clean.
Monte didn't fire me. He saw something in me that showed that I had potential. From that day forward we developed a wonderful relationship which turned from student and mentor to great friends. He did more for me than anyone ever did, though John ward and Bill Nash also helped me so much.
Monte was known as a tremendous prankster, spending most of his time making life miserable for head basketball coach Jimmy Earle. After I had spent a year or so under Monte's wings, he and I double-teamed Coach Earle in some classic pranks. We always had coach Earle on one of our November football games to talk about the Blue Raider's basketball fortunes. We always took two minute commercial breaks but this day we acted as if it was a one minute break. Monte turned down all the mics, and I started the interview with Coach Earle. I asked, " Coach what's this we're hearing about a sex scandal on your basketball team."
All the color faded out of Coach Earle's face as he tried his best to assure everyone that the "sex scandal" was non-existant. While he was trying his best to change the subject, he noticed Monte doubled over in laughter and then he caught on to what we were doing, and then replied, "You little son-of-a _______." When the actual interview took place, Coach Earle was so distraught he told me later he couldn't remember what he said.
Monte Hale was a great friend who left this world much too soon as he died from cancer in 1982 at the age of 42. I miss him greatly and had he not been able to see something positive in me, I would likely be a retired teacher and coach rather than a semi-retired journalist.
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Randy Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org