Award winning public address announcer Jeff Smith is not only the voice of TCU athletics, but also one of its biggest fans.
“I’m just as big a fan as anybody, especially for the local team, so I try to keep it all in perspective, try to be a fan but keep it all in check,” Smith said. “The [public address] announcer is really a reporter, and is really supposed to report the game to the fans and let the athletes be the show.”
Yet Smith has been a part of the show, whether he will admit it or not, for the past 10 years announcing baseball, women’s volleyball, soccer and swimming and diving for the Horned Frogs. He is also in his eighth season as the internal public address announcer, announcing for the working media during TCU football games.
Following the 2011-2012 athletic season, Smith was awarded the Bob Sheppard P.A. Announcer of the Year Award by the National Association of Sports Public Address Announcers.
Julie May, assistant director of athletics marketing for the university, nominated Smith for the award.
“He deserves it,” May said. “He really cares about TCU, our student athletes and our fans. He’s very hard working and very good at what he does, so we were glad to see that he won.”
Smith said he was humbled and honored.
“I never thought in a million years that I would even come close to anything like that,” Smith said. “I just try every night to be the best I can. To be named with some of those guys who have won is pretty special.”
Becoming the Voice
After graduating from Castleberry High School in 1981, Smith didn’t know what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.
What he did know was sports.
“I wasn’t a good athlete in high school,” Smith said. “I could always talk about sports, but I could never play them.”
So after a year at Southern Nazarene University, where Smith “found out what a grade point average was,” he returned to the DFW metroplex in hopes of becoming a sports broadcaster.
He was inspired to pursue this dream by talking to professional announcers such as Scott Murray, Pat Summerall, Mark Holtz and Kevin McCarthy.
At a Dallas Mavericks game in 1984, Smith asked McCarthy, the Mavericks public address announcer, how to get started in the business.
McCarthy told Smith to find a small market, get some experience and work his way up to the top.
So that’s exactly what he did.
Smith, living in Mansfield at the time, saw a newspaper article about the high school’s basketball team and decided to go to a game.
“It was a packed house, standing room only,” Smith recalled “The team came out and the crowd went nuts.”
Smith remembered a young lady who walked up to the gym’s microphone, announced the starting lineups for the team, put the microphone down and then sat down at the end of the bench.
“And I’m thinking: That’s all? That’s all you’re going to do? And I just couldn’t get over it,” Smith said. “And then all of a sudden McCarthy’s words came to my mind. ‘Find a small market, gain some experience, work your way to the top.’ And I thought, I could do what she just did, if not better. I had never done it before, but I knew I wanted to do it.”
So Smith got her attention and was introduced to the Mansfield coach after the game.
“They gave me the job that night,” Smith said. “From then on I became the voice of the Mansfield Tigers.”
Smith remained the voice of all Tiger athletics for 20 years.
Smith’s Start at TCU
In 2004, Smith was announcing an AAU basketball tournament at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum. After the tournament, he decided to stick around and watch the TCU women’s team, who had a game that night.
Smith listened to the public address announcer at the time and felt like there was a lack of energy and excitement.
“I was like, man, this is college basketball,” Smith said. “You can do better than that.”
So after the game, Smith approached a man “who seemed important” and asked if TCU had a backup to the regular public address announcer. Smith told him he had been doing high school basketball for years and would be interested.
“I gave him my card, not thinking I would ever hear from him,” Smith said.
But in June of that same year, Smith got a call from the sports marketing department at TCU saying they needed an announcer for volleyball, asking if he could do it.
Smith accepted and started announcing women’s volleyball for the university in the fall of 2004. He’s been the voice of TCU women’s volleyball ever since, watching the team’s growth throughout the years.
“Coach [Prentice] Lewis for volleyball, I like watching her and her girls,” Smith said. “Her team has steadily gotten better every year and now in the Big 12, with the way we recruit now, I feel like we’re just two players away from being able to compete with [No. 1] Texas on an everyday basis.”
TCU head volleyball coach Prentice Lewis said she loves the energy and passion that Smith brings to the games, as well as his support for the program.
“Jeff Smith’s a great guy, he does a great job…he’s part of our team,” Lewis said. “He’s just one of those type of guys who loves to be involved in athletics and is so excited to be a part of TCU volleyball, as well as obviously all the other sports that he gets to do.”
During his first year at TCU in 2004, the TCU baseball team was also in need of a public address announcer. With baseball being Smith’s favorite sport, he jumped at the opportunity to audition. Smith was hired for that spring season, and he continues to be the voice of Horned Frogs baseball.
Smith said baseball, the sport he grew up loving, is his favorite sport to announce.
“Baseball is my favorite, but I like them all because I have the best seat in the house. I’m close to the action,” Smith said. “[TCU baseball] coach [Jim] Schlossnagle is a very intense guy, but he’s a winner and he’s interesting to watch and announce for.”
Once Smith got the baseball job, he said that opened the door for him to be the public address announcer for swimming and diving, soccer and women’s basketball.
“Coach [Jeff] Mittie for women’s basketball, I like to watch him work the sidelines, work the officials during a game,” Smith said. “His girls play hard, they compete.”
Then in 2006, Smith got a call from Mark Cohen, TCU director of athletics media relations, about becoming the internal public address announcer for the football team. He accepted the offer and has worked for TCU football ever since.
While Smith said he would relish the opportunity to become the external public address announcer for the team, he also said he doesn’t need everything.
“I can say ‘first down frogs’ just as good as anybody,” Smith said with a grin. “It would be kind of neat to be the external voice for TCU football, but I’ve told sports marketing that I don’t need it all. I don’t need the whole pie.”
Smith’s Other Jobs
He has enough on his plate already.
Smith works as a legal assistant in his “real” job for the law offices of James E.Walton, working on copyrights, patents and trademarks. He is currently working toward getting paralegal status.
He said the firm has been extremely supportive and flexible about his other job as a public address announcer. Smith often works early mornings and weekends to make sure he can get everything done in his hectic schedule.
Yet in addition to his work at the law firm and announcing for TCU, he has also been the public address announcer for Burleson High School for the past seven years.
Smith and his wife of 23 years, Sheila, moved to Burleson in 2003. He realized that his three sons, Jacob, Isaac and Joel would be going to school in Burleson ISD. So he made the jump from Mansfield High School over to Burleson in 2006, becoming their public address announcer.
For the past three years, Smith has announced Jacob, his oldest son, competing in cross country and track meets for Burleson.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do when I started the career and when I had boys,” Smith said. “I thought it would be pretty neat to introduce my boys.”
Smith envisions one day announcing his younger sons Isaac, 10, and Joel, 8, playing baseball for Burleson.
Smith’s family has embraced him being the public address announcer for TCU and Burleson. He said they think it’s neat. They go to some of the games and enjoy hanging out at the ballpark.
“Sheila originally thought it would pass, but now she realizes I’ll probably do it until I die,” Smith said. “ I think [my sons] are proud of their father, I think.”
Smith’s Love for TCU
Smith said that working for TCU has been a privilege, and it validates him as a public address announcer.
“While it may not matter to anybody else, it’s personally satisfying to me knowing that I get to announce a Big 12 team, and a successful team, whether it be baseball, football, basketball, whatever sport,” Smith said.
“It’s become special. I’m an announcer for a college team, and not just any college team, it’s Texas Christian University, its TCU,” he said. “To say that I’m the P.A. announcer for the Horned Frogs means a lot to me.”
“Being on campus at TCU is just living the dream, it’s fun.”