Play-by-Play Insider: Colorado's Larry Zimmer
Colorado football play-by-play broadcaster Larry Zimmer takes a look back at his career with the school, and he gives fans a run-down on the Buffaloes in this Q+A.
Describe your career as a play-by-play broadcaster, and how you ended up at Colorado.
"Since I was a kid in high school I wanted to be a sportscaster, and I set out to do it. I did my first radio work when I was in high school, a 15 minute sport show in Baton Rouge where I grew up. I set out to go to journalism school and ended up at Missouri. From there I started doing high school play by play and was able to delay a year going on active duty in the Army. In doing so I did my first play by play of high school football and basketball in Colombia, Missouri. After the Army I came back there and worked for 6 years, doing high school football and basketball. I also did some Missouri basketball games and baseball games. I got my big start and big break going into college football in 1966 when I went to work in Ann Arbor and did Michigan football, basketball and hockey. I did that for 5 years and a job opened up in Colorado which involved the Denver Broncos color and University of Colorado play by play plus television. I grew up with the Big 8 so it was good to get back to Big 8 territory so I took the job and I have been in Colorado ever since. My first year of doing Colorado football was 1971, and I continue to do that today. In 1999 I was presented the Schenkel award where they honor a sportscaster, and for a college football broadcaster, I am not too sure if there is a bigger award."
What are some of the historic moments in Colorado athletics history?
"I would have to go back to the only national championship that Colorado has ever won and that was the 1990 season when they beat Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl. It was a rematch because they had played the year before and Notre Dame had won, and in 1989 Colorado was undefeated going into that game. The way they got there in 1990 was interesting because they had actually lost a game and tied a game but still made it to number one in the polls going into that game. Not too many national champions in recent years weren't undefeated. The 1994 team was probably the best Colorado team I had ever seen and that was when Kordell Stewart was quarterback, Rashaan Salaam won the Heisman Trophy, and interestingly enough the entire offensive line played in the NFL. They went on to the Fiesta Bowl and crushed Notre Dame. The highlight of that year was the Miracle at Michigan where Kordell Stewart threw the ball from about his own 26 yard line for a touchdown as time ran out. They went from a 5 point deficit to a one point win. It hasn't been a great basketball school, but we had the year where Chauncey Billups was playing here and we went to the NCAA tournament and actually beat Indiana coached by Bobby Knight in the first round. Beyond that they have had some great track athletes. Emma Coburn right now is the reigning NCAA steeplechase champion, and she just won the steeple chase in the U.S. Track and Field Championship."
What is your favorite call that you've made?
"It would be hard not to choose the Hail Mary that Kordell Stewart threw to win the Michigan game. Although when Rashaan Salaam won the Heisman, he went into the Iowa State game needing 30 or 40 yards to pass the 2,000 yard mark for the season, and I was hoping he wouldn't just creep up on it on a 1 yard run to go over it. Well he didn't disappoint me. He ran about 65 yards for a touchdown and in doing so went over the 2000 yard mark."
What does Colorado bring to the Pac-12?
"It brings a good football tradition. I think it also is a University that is much like many schools in the Pac-10. I think they fit so well with this conference, much better than the Big 12. It's a research University like many of the schools in the Pac-10. They have their second biggest alumni base in California. I think you will find that they will have a lot support out on the coast because it's closer for people to go to. Hopefully their basketball is on the upswing, they went to the semi-finals of the NIT last year. They are dedicated to making their basketball better. Their track and field is very strong and will fit right in. You're in the Rocky Mountains so I think it's truly a western conference."
What's been the buzz around campus with the players, coaches and students moving to the Pac-12?
"Everyone is excited. Many of the players are recruited from California so there is a great deal of excitement amongst them."
What is the toughest challenge in moving conferences?
"I think familiarity is the biggest challenge. For a few years it's going to be a matter of getting to know the other teams and their style of play. The style of football played in the Pac-10 is considerably different than the Big 12. So they have to make that adjustment and I think it might take them a couple years to do that."