5 Things You Need to Know About...Toby Rowland
He is known for his confident call of “Oh Mama” and his spotter boards (more about that below). He is the "Voice of the Sooners", Toby Rowland, and he carries the play-by-play duties for all radio broadcasts of Sooner football, men's basketball and baseball.
A two-time Emmy award winner, Rowland can be seen on Sooner Sports TV and heard on the air for Sooner Sports Talk. Additionally, Rowland serves alongside Chad McKee as the co-host of the OU Football Press Conference show. Check out 5 Things You Need to Know About...Toby Rowland.
Some pretty big names have found themselves as the voice of Sooner athletics. John Brooks, Mike Treps, the legendary Bob Barry, and even Walter Cronkite, who spent a year as the Sooner voice. What was it like when you got the call saying you were the next guy? Do you still pinch yourself to this day?
I cried like a baby when I got that call. I fully comprehend the magnitude of this chair I get to sit in and the men who have come before me I hold in absolute highest regard. This was “THE” dream job for me, and to get the opportunity to carry the baton from Bob Barry was overwhelming. It still is. The title “Voice of the Sooners” is still something of which I feel unworthy. The voices who came before me are giants, and I try with every broadcast to make them proud and to pay back President Boren and Joe Castiglione for the faith they put in me.
Some of the legends are remembered for their signature calls. John Brooks with "Jiminy Christmas." Bob Barry with "Touchdown Sooners!" Already, people love your calls of "Oh mama," and "Unhitch the wagons, put the ponies in the barn." How do broadcasters develop these signature calls?
I can’t speak for anybody else, but in my opinion, it has to be organic for it to sound authentic. You can’t force it. Those phrases just came flying out at some point in the first year I was in this position. People seemed to have a good reaction to them and they stuck. I’ve said a lot of things once that didn’t work so I never said it again. But, once in awhile something comes flying out of my mouth in the heat of the moment and I don’t even realize I said it until I listen back to the highlights. I knew the first time I said “unhitch the wagon” that that was a keeper. It was a good way to signal that “this game is over.” With “Oh Mama!,” that’s just something that this Oklahoma boy with Oklahoma parents says. I had no idea or plan for that to become a thing, but it’s cool to see how people have latched on to it. I really don’t say it as often as people think I do, but it’s on the biggest moments so those tend to get replayed a lot.
You've also become quite famous for some other game-related items, including the "Scenesetter" and the spotter board. Seems as if both have become internet sensations and game days would be incomplete without either. How did they come about?
I love to write. When I was at KWTV my favorite part of that job was putting together human interest sports features and hopefully move people with them. When I came to OU I was looking for an outlet for that part of me, so we started the “Scenesetter” that would run on our radio broadcasts just before kickoff. It was an audio-only piece for about a year-and-a-half. One day, our former marketing director, Charlie Taylor, asked if I cared if they put video to it and used it on the big screen before a football game. I had no idea they were going to use it right before kickoff. The rest is history. I’m honored people look forward to them and care about them.
The spotter boards are just a part of the job. Every play-by-play guy makes them to call a game. They’re a necessity. One day my spotter, Greg Blackwood, snapped a picture of them before a game and put it on twitter and fans started asking for them. Well, once the game is over I don’t need them anymore so I said “why not.” We started giving them away. Again, it’s very cool that people care enough to want them and display them in their offices and sports rooms. It’s a small little piece of Sooner history.
You're hosting the Big 12 Alaska Cruise for the OU Alumni Association this summer. If we're correct, you've never been to Alaska. To what are you most looking forward?
That’s correct. I’ve never been to Alaska and I’m beyond excited! My wife has been on a few occasions and has always told me stories of the jaw-dropping beauty of the last frontier. This is a bucket list item for me. Glaciers, wildlife on sea and land…I can’t wait for it all! And, to get to experience with it Sooner fans….are you kidding me?! This is going to be the trip of a lifetime! (For more on the Big 12 Alaska Cruise, click here)
You've become part of the fabric of Sooner athletics. What's something about Toby Rowland away from the microphone that might surprise or intrigue people?
Ha. That’s funny. I think I’m actually pretty boring away from the microphone. I’m with my wife and three kids and three dogs as much as I possibly can because of all my travels. I do love to sing, but I’m terrible at it! If you ever see me driving down the road I’ve probably got the music blaring and singing at the top of my lungs. My daughter loves it and my sons hate it. But I can’t help it. I always tell them, “I’ve got a song in my heart and it needs to come out!."