The Voice of the Trojans: Barry McKnight speaks at Troy Rotary

Published 3:03 pm Tuesday, June 11, 2024

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Getting set to enter his 23rd year as the “Voice of the Trojans,” Barry McKnight stopped by the Troy Rotary Club on Tuesday to talk about his career and the future of college athletics.

McKnight has been Troy’s lead play-by-play announcer going on 23 years but he got his start in broadcasting after an accident in college.

“Whenever I started out in broadcasting I had never even taken a broadcasting course,” McKnight recalled. “I was a resident assistant (at the University of Florida) and we were playing in a softball game where I shattered my right leg and had to wear a hip cast for six months. I was putting myself through school and needed to find a job I could work with a big cast on my leg.”

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McKnight landed a job with a radio station in Fort Walton, Fla., as a DJ. He then transferred to Auburn University after landing a job with a radio station in Auburn that would allow him the opportunity to do play-by-play for Auburn Baseball.

“Since then, that’s all I’ve ever done,” McKnight said with a smile. “I was an entering junior and they let me do play-by-play (for baseball). My first year, our best player was a guy named Bo Jackson. I got to travel around with Bo and Auburn Baseball and the places were packed everywhere we went.

“I did the play-by-play for games with Frank Thomas, a Baseball Hall of Famer. When I left Auburn for a year, and did minor league baseball for the New York Yankees organization, our best player was a guy named Derek Jeter. So, I’ve been around a little bit and seen some things.”

McKnight said that he’s been fortunate for the opportunities he’s received, but part of the reason for those opportunities is that he always accepted things that came his way.

“A lot of stuff I’ve been able to do, I’ve just kind of fallen into because I embraced every opportunity,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever said no to any opportunity to speak at an event or work a game or help out in any way and that has definitely helped me.”

Along with broadcasting college sports on television for a number of years, McKnight is one of the most accomplished broadcasters in all of college athletics, with the awards to show for it. He’s won the AP Award for Broadcast Excellence nine times and has been the AP Play-by-Play Broadcaster of the Year and the Sun Belt Broadcaster of the Year. With that success brings opportunities to leave Troy, but through more than two decades McKnight has remained a Trojan.

McKnight is heading into his 23rd year as the “Voice of the Trojans.” Pictured, from left, are McKnight, Troy Rotary Club President Dr. Kerry Palmer, and Goshen graduate CJ Thompson. (Photos by Josh Boutwell)

“There have been other opportunities, other things I could have done but you take a value judgment of your life,” McKnight emphasized. “My wife went to school in Troy and has lived here for a long time. My mother moved to Troy two years ago and lives in a house where her landlord is (Troy color commentator) Jerry Miller. My grandkids live two and a half hours away. I have everything I need right here.

“I think back to when I was at Auburn, I was covering an event and I sat next to former president of Auburn (University), Dr. Wilford Bailey, and he said – and I’ll never forget this – that he thought the best place in the world to live was a small southern college town. I thought about that then and I think about it all the time now, because I have that right here.”

McKnight also credited his broadcast partner, Miller, as a big part of why he doesn’t see himself leaving Troy.

“Jerry Miller has the great responsibility of not only keeping me in control but he is the only color analyst that I know in college athletics that does it for football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball and baseball,” said McKnight. “No one else does it but Jerry does. He also lives about four houses down from me and he and I see each other all the time. How blessed am I? If I worked at some of the other opportunities I’ve had maybe there wouldn’t be anyone like Jerry there. I know what I have here. My family is around. It’s a small college town where you can make an impact and I get to broadcast Division I athletics at its highest level.”

McKnight referred to himself as a “good news broadcaster” because of the success that Troy Athletics have had for the past several years. Even with the ever-changing nature of college athletics – with more change on the horizon – McKnight said he knew Troy University would uphold what college athletics is about along with continuing that success.

“There is a lot of changes coming in college athletics. A lot has happened in the spring and summer already and more that will come later in the summer that’s really going to change things,” he said. “I’m not smart enough to understand the total impact of all of that but I do know it’s going to change. I always tell people, no matter what happens I still take great pride in the knowledge – the knowledge in my heart – that what Troy University is doing with their athletics is closer to the original intent, way back when, of what intercollegiate athletics should be.

“There is a lot of dollar chasing and lot of people in positions of decision making that have lost track in the value of the student-athlete experience and are just focusing solely on the TV money. I think Troy has traditionally done more than any school in our league to not lose focus on what that original intent of intercollegiate athletics should be; an opportunity to grow young people and expose them to the positives of teamwork and sacrifice and hard work and working towards a common goal. I don’t know what is going to happen but I do love the track Troy is on.”