Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 9, 2013
SALISBURY — In a football-proud state, Ohio State sportscaster Paul Keels embraces his roots, not only in Columbus but from his hometown, Cincinnati.
Everybody boasts about the Buckeyes in Ohio, where the action on fall Saturday afternoons in Ohio Memorial Stadium is top priority for many. After all, The Buckeye state is the cradle of big-time football and where legends like Jim Brown, Woody Hayes and Paul Brown perfected their craft. NFL brother/coach tandem John and Jim Harbaugh brought their teams to the Super Bowl last year and are Ohio natives.
But Keels still has a spot in his heart for prep football and Moeller High in Cincinnati. On the air, he represents the scarlet and gray but off it, he’s a ardent supporter of his high school that’s won multiple state titles in football.
“Being from the southwest Ohio, I brag about that part of the state,” Keels said. “We have great traditions. When you look at a lot of coaches collegiality and in the pros, a lot of them have been in the state of Ohio. We like to blow our horn about that.”
Keels just finished his 15th year as the Buckeyes’ radio play-by-play man and won the Ohio Sportscaster of the Year Award for the fourth time overall and third in a row. Although Keels is a big guy, the imposing physical figure has brought more success to Columbus despite not donning a jersey.
“What makes our job fun is great teams and great fan support,” Keels said.
Keels is fond of athletic excellence at OSU, who’s coming off a 12-0 year in football. A Bowl Ban prohibited the Buckeyes from postseason play, hindering what could have been a special season. Despite that, coach Urban Meyer surpassed expectations and restored honor to a proud program.
“It was an exciting but a strange year,”
Keels said. “People thought it could be a good year with a favorable schedule. I don’t know realistically anyone thought they’d be undefeated.”
Quarterback Braxton Miller leads the Buckeyes as a redshirt junior and is a Heisman candidate entering the season.
The men’s basketball team won the Big Ten Tournament in a highly competitive league and reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
“ I don’t know that Thad Matta gets the credit he deserves,” Keels said. “To get one game from the final four was really a tribute to Thad and his staff.”
OSU President Gordon Gee announced his retirement Thursday after some off-the-cuff jabs at Notre Dame and Roman Catholics. Keels says Gee’s words were poorly chosen, but will remember Gee as a positive role model for the school and even helped him through a tough time.
“About three years ago, I was in the hospital for abdominal surgery and all of a sudden he comes in to see me for five minutes,” said Keels. “He’s that kind of person.”
As a youngster, radio influences came to Keels through the car or a transistor radio underneath his pillow at night. He listened to Dom Valentino describe the Cincinnati Royals, now in Sacremento. As a Reds fan, he listened to Al Michaels calling the action.
Keels called games for his hometown Bearcats before joining OSU. He started his career at WLW radio in Cincinnati as a news reporter before moving to Detroit to call Detroit Pistons games for WJR. Ironically, the next stop came in Michigan from 1981 to 1987 where Keels saw the other side of the conference’s most intense rivalry. Decades ago when the conference got one bowl bid, the game was rife with postseason implications.
“Starting as a kid growing up in Ohio you knew Ohio State-Michigan was something big,” Keels said. “It was for the Big Ten championship.”
Now Keels and the rest of his colleagues deal with the changing landscape of college athletics. The Big Ten gains Maryland and Rutgers in 2014. Nebraska joined in 2011 when conference expansion was starting to gain momentum.
“Some people are stretching their head about that,” Keels said. “People felt that Rutgers or Syracuse would be targeted because the Big Ten wanted a New York TV market. “I understand why it happened but I don’t know people are crazy about the fact that it’s Rutgers and Maryland.”