#STINGDAILY: Making a Tough Call

June 27, 2013

Jon Cooper, Sting Daily –

Wes Durham announced a lot of good calls, a lot of bad calls and certainly a lot of tough calls since becoming “The Voice of the Yellow Jackets” in 1995.

However he probably never had a tougher call in his 18 years than the one he made on June 18 — the announcement that he would no longer be behind the mike for Georgia Tech football and basketball games, leaving to pursue a new challenge in television (he cannot discuss specific terms).

“I wasn’t looking to leave for another school. I was very happy with the two great opportunities that I had in Atlanta and would have never left for another school or any other situation,” said Durham, who will continue to broadcast the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. “But this was something that I kind of wanted to do. I wanted to see if I could do it, see if I could do it at a high level. There was a challenge there, a professional challenge.”

His decision to leave Georgia Tech was not one he made without extensive contemplation with his wife, family and closest friends and advisors.

“It was a very difficult, emotional decision. It was a professional decision,” he said. “I kind of looked at my career circumstances, I talked with my wife, Victoria, I had some people around me who are very close have helped me make a lot of decisions personally and professionally. I said, ‘I’m 47 years old. If I don’t do this now I may not ever have this chance.’ Quite frankly, that was a big part of it. I have passion and drive and ambition to be good at it. Just as I did with radio to be good at what I did there.”

The counterweight on the scale was his having to say goodbye to Georgia Tech.

“A lot of people say they’re special but Georgia Tech really is because very few places want to try and match the history, the tradition, the academics and the athletics like Georgia Tech does,” said Durham. “It is a unique, special place with special people. They may not have the most but they’ve got some of the best fans. They’ve got people who are so proud of the place and they should be. It was a blessing and an honor for me to be part of it.”

There were two specific times when he felt especially blessed and honored to be part of the Yellow Jackets, the 1999 Gator Bowl, a 35-28 victory over Notre Dame, and the 2004 Men’s Basketball NCAA Final Four appearance.

“You don’t get three years of Calvin Johnson and not have big moments,” he said, with a laugh. “But those two individual games are what I remember because of just the huge turnout and the stage that they were played on as it related to everybody involved with Georgia Tech.

“They were playing Notre Dame on New Year’s Day (1999) in Jacksonville. I just remember that game that particular day, being so about Georgia Tech and what an unbelievable following that that team had,” he continued. “The other time that I felt that same kind of momentum and united concept among everybody — the Institute, the athletic department, the fans — was in San Antonio in 2004 when they played Oklahoma State [in the Final Four]. When they came on the floor in the Alamodome right before the ball game, I just remember thinking, ‘Wow. Georgia Tech is here! They’ve gotten to this stage and people have responded to it.’ Those are the two single moments of the last 18 years where you just remember how much that stage meant to the Institute, meant to athletics. Whether you be the President or whether you be an alum who lives in New York that decided you were going to get to San Antonio or get to Jacksonville for the game.”

Durham’s announcement of his leaving has stirred up a similar passion among Jackets faithful, as since last Tuesday, he’s been overwhelmed by the number of people who have reached out to him via social media (Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin), e-mail and voicemail to send thanks, their love and best wishes in his new endeavor.

Wes saw a similar outpouring for his father, Woody, the longtime voice of North Carolina who retired two years ago, and understands how moving it was for his dad to be directly on the receiving end.

“It’s just amazing to kind of get some sort of sense of people that have listened to you,” he said. “It’s been very special. It means a lot to me that I guess I did a really good job of care-taking this post that Al [Ciraldo] did such a marvelous job for 43 years. Really that was kind of my goal, too. Just to be the guy that took care of the obligation of doing radio, to do it at a very high level and make Georgia Tech fans proud and, at the same time, give college football and college basketball fans a product they thought would be entertaining and informative on Saturdays and during basketball season.”

Regardless of where his new gig takes him a piece of Durham’s heart will continue to be with the Yellow Jackets, as will his family’s.

“My son wanted to make sure he could still be a Tech fan,” he said with a laugh. “I said, ‘Absolutely.’ That’s the kind of impact the place has had on me and my family. Victoria has been a Tech fan since she was three years old. We’ve been married about 5 1/2 years now and my 14-year-old twins are Tech fans.

“I hope maybe I’ll be able to do a Georgia Tech game on TV down the road,” he added. “That’ll be different for me but, at the same time, it’ll be special to come back to a comfortable place to be there to do the game.”

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