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Longtime Notre Dame athletics announcer John “Jack” Lloyd dies at age 79

Jack Lloyd was a familiar voice Notre Dame athletic events for nearly a half-century.

Sept. 17, 2015

John “Jack” Lloyd, longtime announcer for University of Notre Dame athletics event through 2013, died this morning at age 79. Lloyd served as public-address announcer for Irish men’s basketball games for 36 years at the Fieldhouse and the Joyce Center—and he also handled announcing duties in the Notre Dame Stadium press box for nearly a half-century. A 1958 Notre Dame graduate, Lloyd received an honorary monogram from the Notre Dame Monogram Club in 1997. Lloyd was featured in the 2014 edition of Strong of Heart, and that piece appears below:

Jack Lloyd: You can’t miss that voice, but now you will

Jack Lloyd never expected or wanted anyone to know his name. But he understood how important it was that he knew the names of others and that he always, always, always used the correct pronunciation.

“The only thing a person really has is his name,” said Lloyd, who retired after the 2013 season as the Notre Dame Stadium press box internal public address announcer, a job he held for almost five decades. “The least someone can do is take the time to say it correctly.”

Over the course of almost 50 years, Lloyd enunciated a lot of names. . . from Tom Zbikowski, Chinedum Ndukwe, Jeff Samardzija and Mirko Jurkovic to Mosi Tatupu, Tim Biakabutuka, Aziz Shitto and Chuka Ndulue. Even the most phonetically gifted may have been daunted by those challenges, yet Lloyd never thought any of those names were difficult to pronoun because he paid attention to details and always did his homework.

“As much as I enjoyed doing what I did, I always looked at it as a job,” Lloyd said. “I tried to be professional. I focused on what I was doing and made sure I was always prepared.”

In addition to his football press box duties, the 1958 University of Notre Dame graduate also spent time as the public address announcer for Irish men’s basketball and hockey. He’d also don a tuxedo and serve as ring announcer for the Bengal Bouts in late winter. In the spring he would emcee the annual men’s basketball banquet and then call the semi-finals and finals of Bookstore Basketball in late April. Every so often, as a favor to his good friend the late Mike DeCicco, Lloyd would announce at the world fencing competitions the longtime Irish coach brought to campus and the South Bend community.

“Those tournaments were the biggest challenge,” Lloyd said. “There were fencers from everywhere in the world--Russia, Poland, Asia, the Middle East, Hungary, the Czech Republic. I really had to work hard to get those names right, but I usually nailed them. And those fencers were so grateful that someone who had no connection to them or their countries understood how important it was for them to hear their name pronounced correctly. I can’t tell you how many came up and thanked me for my efforts.”

Lloyd has never bothered to count the number of events he worked at Notre Dame. His football total hovers around 275 games over 48 seasons, and men’s basketball probably adds at least 400 contests over 36 years. He does, however, know which ones he missed, and there weren’t very many. He skipped one, just one, football game to attend the celebration of his in-laws’ 50th wedding anniversary.

“I didn’t attend the party for their 40th because I had a game,” Lloyd said. “They weren’t very happy about that, so I promised to be there for the 50th, and I was.”

He also missed one of the biggest “moments” in Notre Dame men’s basketball history--the March 5, 1977, upset of then number-one ranked San Francisco in the Athletic and Convocation Center.

“I had taken my wife to Hawaii,” Lloyd said.

Lloyd announced so many games and events at Notre Dame that many people assumed it was his full-time job. In fact, when his son was a student at Saint Joseph’s High School, his friend said, “Boy, your dad must really make a lot of money. He’s everywhere.”

What most people don’t realize is that Lloyd was never paid a dime for any of his efforts. . . until his last season in the press box.

“No, I was never paid until that last year,” Lloyd said. “And frankly, I don’t even remember what they paid me. I did receive two season tickets for basketball games, and Notre Dame offered me two season tickets for football. But my family had had a box for years, so I didn’t need the tickets. It really was a privilege to do what I did. I felt like I was part of a very successful operation. All I ever wanted was for people to respect and appreciate the job I did.”

Lloyd was born in Michigan City, Indiana, but grew up in South Bend where his grandfather had started an independent insurance agency in 1917. After graduating from Notre Dame in 1958, he entered the U.S. Army and left with the rank of major in the artillery division.

A year later, Lloyd returned to South Bend and the insurance business, running the successful agency begun by his grandfather. Just for fun, he did radio play-by-play for high school football and basketball games on WJVA-AM. Lloyd estimates that he did about 60 events a year--a game on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights during those seasons. He toyed—briefly--with the idea of pursuing a career as a professional play-by-play announcer, but Lloyd was now married with a growing family (he and his late wife Linda eventually had five children), and he knew how tough it was to make it to the network level and stay there.

“I really enjoyed doing the games on radio, but I was starting to make money in the insurance business,” Lloyd said. “Play-by-play announcers are always on the road and to make more money you have to continually move to a larger market and hope that you can make the big time. It’s a tough, tough business on families.”

The opportunity to become the public address announcer for Notre Dame men’s basketball came out of the blue.

Lloyd’s father was close friends with John Jordan, the Notre Dame men’s basketball coach from 1951-1964, and he would often travel with the team. Jack, who attended Campion High School, a Jesuit boarding school for boys in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, would join his dad on a few trips when he was home for breaks. Through those travels Lloyd got to know John Dee, then an Irish assistant coach. When Dee replaced Jordan after the 1963-64 season, the new Notre Dame head coach asked Lloyd to take over the PA duties in the old Fieldhouse.

Then, in 1966, sports information director Roger Valdiserri asked Lloyd to serve as the football press box internal public address announcer. Although he could use his voice, emotion and humor to rev up the crowd at Irish basketball games, Lloyd had to remain calm, cool, collected, objective and professional in the football press box. His job was to provide sportswriters and broadcasters covering Notre Dame the most crucial statistical information along with interesting facts and figures during the game. As a vital part of the Notre Dame media relations game day crew, he passed along yardage gained or lost on each play, identified those who made the plays, shared notes on records and trends and provided scores of other games taking place across the nation--a service much more valuable in the days before cell phones, laptops and Twitter made that information just a click away. He created his own forms to record each play, making it easy to produce drive summaries at each change of possession and following a score. He also brought along his own punting wheel that made it routine to input yard-lines, distances of kicks and returns to arrive at the correct critical numbers.

Just a few years ago, Lloyd brought a friend with him to the press box so she wouldn’t have to sit by herself in the stands. She was amazed at how busy Lloyd was during the game.

“Boy, you really have to work hard up there,” she said.

Lloyd’s other mission, while in his seat at midfield on the third row of the media level, was to “gently” reprimand those within earshot of his microphone when they vocalized their partisanship for the Irish. “Please, there is no cheering in the press box,” he would say.

“In the press box, I tried very hard to be anonymous,” Lloyd said. “You are there to serve the media members covering the game. You aren’t talking to the fans. You have to be the utmost professional. It’s not about you. You are representing the University.”

Lloyd was so good at his job that when former Notre Dame assistant sports information director Ted Haracz became the public relations director for the Chicago Bears, he asked his Notre Dame friend to do an encore on Sundays in Soldier Field. For over 30 years, Lloyd also did the internal public address announcing in the Bears’ press box.

“The Bears offered me four season tickets to do the games,” Lloyd said. “I told them I only needed three--one for my wife and two others so I could bring along another couple to make the drive more enjoyable. They couldn’t believe I wouldn’t take that fourth ticket.”

What he enjoyed most about being the Notre Dame men’s basketball public address announcer was the opportunity to create signature statements to help generate some excitement among the crowd. During most of his tenure behind the mike at the scoring table, the student section was usually lively and crowded and there rarely was an empty seat in the Fieldhouse or the Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center.

“Creating interesting ways to draw attention to a name was a lot of fun, but I worked at it,” Lloyd said. “Sometimes it took me a while to figure out what to do or what the person earned or deserved.”

The first nickname Lloyd bestowed on a player was “El Sid,” for Sid Catlett, a three-year standout for the Irish from 1969-71. Among his favorite names to say were those of All-American Austin Carr and Orlando Woodridge.”

“If the three-point shot have been in effect when Carr played, he would have scored a million points,” Lloyd said. “When he would hit a long bomb, I’d say, ‘Carr—oooooooom.’ Orlando’s name was easy to play with as well so I’d say, ‘Or-land------o------ Woodridge. Kelly Tripucka’s name was a lot of fun because when I’d draw it out, I’d sound like I was getting sick.”

In the mid-eighties, he convinced the student section to finish his sentence with its last two words when a Notre Dame player went to the free throw line in a bonus situation. “At the line for the Irish, Tim Kempton shooting one and. . .the bonus. “

But one of his favorite memories is the way he introduced former Irish All-American guard John Paxson.

“Pax was just such a special person and player,” Lloyd said. “I wanted to do something unique for him. I think it was his junior year, and he was always the last starter introduced. I don’t know why, but I started saying, ‘He’s 6-2. . . he’s a junior. . . he’s from Kettering, Ohio. . . he’s John Paxson.’ His mother told me that John’s younger sister Maggie, who was about 7 years old when he played at Notre Dame, loved to imitate me introducing her brother.”

During his time as the basketball public address announcer, Lloyd occasionally had an opposing coach “get in his face.”

“One time Bobby Knight came over during a time out and just berated me for about two minutes because a fan had thrown a coin on the floor,” Lloyd said. “A few minutes later he walked back over and sort of apologized, saying he had just been upset with what had happened.

“Another time Al McGuire was questioning an official’s call and asked me, in a very loud voice, what had happened. I said, ‘Coach, he called a technical on Digger.’ McGuire said, ‘Oh. Good call.’”

After 40 years in the insurance industry, Lloyd “semi-retired” and began to spend the winters in Scottsdale, Arizona. But he also would come back to do most basketball games. At the end of the 1995-96 season, he turned to Notre Dame media relations director John Heisler, who sat next to him on the scoring table as well as in the press box, and said, “I think I just did my last basketball game.” The next year the Notre Dame Monogram Club recognized his longtime contributions by presenting him an honorary monogram.

Lloyd remained a vital cog in the football press box operations until health issues
forced him to retire after the 2013 campaign.

“I retired on my own volition,” Lloyd said. “I knew that if I ever got to the point where I couldn’t do it anymore, I would be the first to know.”

His successor, Bob Montgomery, realizes that if Lloyd’s legs worked as well as they used to, the veteran would still be behind the microphone.

“It’s an honor, but it’s really hard to follow a legend,” Montgomery said. “Jack is a professional in every sense of the word. My only regret is that Jack’s physical struggles caused this move. He’s as sharp as a tack and his voice is as strong as ever.”

Montgomery met with Lloyd after agreeing to be his replacement.

“I spent some time with Jack and learned why he always handled it so smoothly. He is not only a natural, but he worked hard at his craft. To say he was organized and prepared is an understatement. There’s a reason why Jack did this job for 48 years, spanning several changes in University leadership. He’s a pro.”

Lloyd watches Notre Dame games now with friends or family as a proud alumnus and fan. He often finds himself yelling at the TV or getting excited about what’s happening on the field – letting out the emotions he had to keep in check in the press box. Watching games now is fun he says, but he misses the people he came to know and respect.

“I have met and worked with so many wonderful people throughout the years,” Lloyd said. “Those interactions and ensuing friendships were the best form of payment. They helped me in my job, and I tried to help make their jobs a bit easier as well.”

And that, he certainly did.

                                                                                              — By Karen Croake Heisler

 

 

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