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Sunday, May 22, 2022

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Spider radio announcer wins state award

Bob Black, the engaging, upbeat voice of the Spiders, this year was named Virginia Sportscaster of the Year for the fourth time.

Black also won the title, which is awarded by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, in 2008, 2000 and 1997.

Since the 1983-1984 season, Black has been announcing the play-by-play of the men's basketball and football games for the Spiders. In nearly three decades at the University of Richmond, he has missed only a handful of games.

"He's pretty much an institution," said Matt Smith, football sideline reporter and 1992 Richmond graduate. "He's been here for a long, long time."

Black was behind the microphone for many of the great moments in Spider athletic history: the 2008 national football championship, the men's basketball team's win over Syracuse University in the 1991 NCAA tournament, its 1988 run to the Sweet Sixteen and the baseball team's appearance in the 2002 NCAA Super Regional. In fact, 1984, his first year at Richmond, brought the basketball team's first-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament.

Black said he was saving a spot among his favorite broadcasting moments for this year's basketball season.

Perhaps best known for his honesty and fairness as he announces the play-by-play, Black has become a fixture in Richmond athletics.

"We've been listening to him call football and basketball forever," alumnus Jerry Williams, RC '70, said.

"I much prefer listening to him than any announcer I've ever heard," said Karen Williams, an avid Spiders fan. "You know he's the announcer for Richmond, but he doesn't give that overly biased opinion."

Black, who studied at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, said his upbringing as a journalist led him to value honesty over pandering to the home team.

"I'll never be the 'Rah rah, everything's always great for the Spiders,' guy," he said. "I think our fans are smarter than that."

"I always feel like I'm getting an honest assessment," Williams said, "and if the other team does something exceptional, well, he'll say so, but he's still loyal to Richmond."

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Black had more than a few opportunities to exercise his honesty in Saturday's game against Xavier, which the Spiders lost 85-62.

"Xavier has taken care of business today," he announced into the microphone, with two-and-a-half minutes left in the game and the Spiders down by 21 points.

As Richmond fans began to file out of the Robins Center, the normally jovial sportscaster looked sullen for a moment.

It was only during the commercial breaks that he revealed his true disappointment: "I really wish that one had gone in," he admitted once, referring to a shot by the Spiders.

Black described his sportscasting style as positively accurate.

"The script is written in front of you," he said. "My job is to describe it but with a positiveness toward the Spiders and with a level of professionalism and positive accuracy."

He adds colorful descriptions to the play-by-play whenever possible. A successful Xavier shot from near the three-point line late in the second half was "a dagger," and another Xavier shot was a "thunderous two-hand dunk."

During the football season, he's known for illustrative descriptions of the weather on game day. "It's a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon," is one of his oft-repeated opening lines.

"It's a storytelling profession," Smith said, "and the things you do to paint the picture, that's what really makes it a story."

Black's loyalty to Richmond has also earned him some admirers over the years.

When Richmond played Syracuse, his alma mater, in the NCAA tournament in 1991, he had to field questions for a week about whom he really wanted to win. But he wanted a Spider victory in that game more than any other game he had been a part of, he said.

Many lesser sportscasters would have looked at Richmond as a stepping-stone school on the way to better-known athletic programs, Smith said. But Black has stuck with the Spiders.

"I fell in love with Richmond," Black said. "It's a good place to work, a good place to live and we've had some pretty good national exposure experiences."

Contact reporter Ali Eaves at ali.eaves@richmond.edu

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