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A Grand Time: 1,000 Games
By KEN DAVIS
Courant Staff Writer

October 8 2004

Wayne Norman, radio analyst for UConn football and men's and women's basketball, celebrated his 1,000th broadcast on the UConn Radio Network Sept. 30 when UConn defeated Pittsburgh 29-17 in East Hartford. Norman, who started calling UConn games as an undergraduate on WHUS, made his network debut Sept. 22, 1979 when UConn lost 21-10 at Navy. When the Huskies return to action Wednesday night against West Virginia, it will be his 256th UConn football broadcast. But first he reflects on the Pitt game and the halftime ceremony held in his honor.

Q: Broadcast No. 1,000 came at Rentschler Field and it was a night you will never forget. What was the experience like for you?

A: Largely unexpected. I thought something might happen, but nobody told me ahead of time what was going to happen. I finished my first segment of the halftime show, recapping the first half, and then [associate athletic director] Mike Enright comes in the booth and says, "Come with me." So we start walking down the hall, and down the elevator, there's the band playing on the field, and the next thing I know I'm at the 50-yard line waving at 40,000 people. By that time Mike had handed me off to Jeff Hathaway.

Q: What gifts did you receive?

A: UConn gave me a framed aerial photo of opening day 2003 at Rentschler Field with a nice inscription at the bottom. They also gave me a plaque with a microphone on it, basically commemorating the 1,000th broadcast. That includes anything that went statewide, on the UConn network. That includes exhibition games, by the way. If I got paid for talking about UConn hoops for three hours ... that works for me. WTIC gave me a Red Sox jersey, which I'll be wearing to the playoff game [today] at Fenway. It says NORMAN across the back, with the number 1000. They tell me they got that directly from the Red Sox front office. WTIC also gave me an expense-paid trip to Orlando. This isn't a great time to be taking a trip [because of games]. That might have to wait until after the Final Four. All the gifts were totally unexpected.

Q: What was it like being on the field in front of so many people?

A: Many times you're talking to a crowd of that many on the radio. But you're talking to a microphone. You don't see 40,000 faces. This time they're applauding for me. It's pretty humbling, to tell you the truth.

Q: Thursday night was special in another way; it was UConn's first Big East win. What has it been like for you watching this program make the upgrade to Division I-A, and going from unheated Yankee Conference press boxes to the luxuries of Rentschler Field?

A: After 1,000 games, you do bleed UConn blue and white, sort of. With all the attention given to me in that one game, you can't be losing that game. It turned out to be a terrific win. That was not just another game on the UConn schedule. That was a signature win for the program and it came on a pretty special night for me. As far as the sudden growth of the program, I'm caught up in it like everybody else is. No one would have believed this five years ago. And that's not a slam on Randy Edsall. That's just a statement of how difficult it is to do what UConn has done.

Q: There seems to be another surprise waiting around every corner with this program. You've never covered a bowl game, right?

A: No, but when it comes to doing UConn football I still look back at 1998 as being special. That was the one year they went to the I-AA playoffs. Even though they lost to Georgia Southern, the whole excitement around that game was really something. That was a big-time I-AA program down there. Hopefully, UConn will have a similar run this year.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the book you are working on that chronicles the history of the UConn men's basketball program?

A: I'm working on the book with Bob Porter, UConn Class of '71. He's an international banker. We were at WHUS together and lived in the same dorm at UConn. The first chapter talks about the game when Worthy Patterson hit the layup to beat Holy Cross in 1954. We refer to that as the first signature win for the program. Then we go through stuff in the 1960s with Wes Bialosuknia, Toby Kimball, who I interviewed one-on-one out in California. Then there's Dee Rowe's first year, kind of getting the program back on track. This week, we just finished a chapter on the Dream Season (1989-90). This goes back to pre-Jim Calhoun. A lot of the old-timers are just thrilled to be acknowledged. And we've talked to former assistant coaches like Howie [Dickenman] and Dave [Leitao].

Q: When will it be showing up in bookstores?

A: Well, the publisher was talking about March or April, but we're trying to accelerate that a little bit. We don't want it coming out after the basketball season. It may be in Connecticut by February.


Copyright 2004, Hartford Courant

 

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