Fyffe passes away

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 15, 2003

The most recognizable radio voice in the Southeastern Conference was silenced Thursday morning.

Jim Fyffe, the voice of the Auburn Tigers since 1981, died of an apparent brain aneurysm Thursday.

Fyffe, 57, attended a fundraiser for Prattville High School's athletic department Wednesday night, but when he returned home, he suffered the aneurysm. Sources said he suffered it around 10 p.m. Wednesday and was placed in intensive care.

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Fyffe was taken off life support Thursday morning and passed away later in the day.

Visitation will be held from 5-7 p.m. today at Leak Memory Funeral Home in Montgomery.

A memorial service will be held at First United Methodist Church in Montgomery Saturday at 11 a.m.

A grave-side service will be held at Greenwood Cemetery immediately following the service.

But Fyffe was more than just a radio broadcaster. Although many knew his voice, few knew the man behind the microphone.

Troy State radio broadcaster Barry McKnight benefited from Fyffe's kindness.

"When I was still in school, beginning in sports broadcasting, working part time at WAUB, I remember the first time I spoke with Jim Fyffe," McKnight, a graduate of Auburn, said. "It was at the SEC media convention in Birmingham, and I interviewed him for the radio show.

"Jim pulled me over after and told me that he listened to my show and thought I was doing well. He told me I could go far in this business. He didn't have to do that."

McKnight took the encouragement and made a career out of sports broadcasting. He cohosts a sports talk show weekday mornings in Montgomery and calls play-by-play on CSS in addition to being the voice of Troy State.

McKnight remembers some of Fyffe's legendary radio calls. In the late 1980s, Auburn beat Georgia Tech on a late pass play from Jeff Berger to Lawyer Tillman, and Fyffe's call of that play resonates today to many Auburn fans.

"I remember he said 'Tillman' about six times in a row," McKnight said. "I just sat there and thought, 'That's great broadcasting.'"

McKnight continued to learn from Fyffe several years later. He said when he took the job at Troy State, he tried to broadcast as if he was on television.

But fans came up to him and told him he needed to be more of a fan.

"When the school is paying you, your clientele is the fans," McKnight said. "They expect you to tell them where the ball is on the field, but also to be partial."

Fyffe was notoriously partial. He impersonated the great Foghorn Leghorn when he said, "The University" in reference to Alabama and will be forever known for his long shout, "Touchdown Auburn" after every Tiger score.

"You can't listen to Jim Fyffe and be passive. He made you excited about the game," McKnight said.

Fyffe's best season may have been the 1993 season when Auburn went undefeated but could not go to a bowl or be on television because of probation. Every Auburn fan who could not attend a game had to listen to it on the radio.

While that season produced many great calls (the 38-35 upset over Florida with a 95-yard interception return for a touchdown among them), McKnight remembers James Bostic's long run to ice the Iron Bowl.

Fyffe's state-wide and cross-Iron appeal was evident Thursday as news of his tragedy made its way to the message boards. Alabama and Auburn boards spouted praise and empathy for Fyffe.