UK Happenings

'Voice of the Wildcats' Celebrated at UK



Hear Claude Sullivan call the 1953 UK football game versus University of Tennessee. 

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 1, 2014)University Press of Kentucky (UPK) and the University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center will team up this week to remember the "Voice of the Wildcats," Claude Sullivan, in celebration of a new book on the broadcaster by son Alan Sullivan. Alan will give a talk based on the UPK book,  "Voice of the Wildcats: Claude Sullivan and the Rise of Modern Sportscasting," 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 3, at the King Alumni House on the UK campus.

In "Voice of the Wildcats,"Alan Sullivan and Joe Cox give the behind-the-scenes account of the man whose voice embodied UK Athletics from 1947 to 1967. The 1940s witnessed an explosion in sports broadcasting across the country, and when Claude, a 17-year-old from Winchester, Kentucky, took up the microphone, he became part of a rapidly changing field. His career developed as Kentucky began its rise to prominence and spanned the first four NCAA Basketball Championships under Coach Adolph Rupp. Claude also revolutionized the coverage of athletics by introducing a coach’s show with Kentucky football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. It was not only copied by other institutions but would also become an important innovation that paved the way for the modern televised sports entertainment industry of today.

Claude’s reputation grew beyond Kentucky, eventually propelling him to the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, which increased his national reputation. He often leveraged his position as an announcer to pursue more strictly journalistic endeavors, including following the Wildcats behind “Iron Curtain” during the early part of the Cold War where he expanded his coverage through interviews with Soviet citizens. He was also involved with the development of a mobile broadcasting unit that was mounted in the trunk of his Oldsmobile convertible. Claude’s foresight into sportscasting’s potential would eventually lead to his induction into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame.

While Claude loved his Wildcats, it had always been his dream to become a national broadcaster. He earned the chance in 1965 when he took over for legendary Yankee pitcher Waite Hoyt as the top announcer for the Cincinnati Reds. The position was short-lived, though, as he fell victim to throat cancer only two years later, cutting his pioneering career short at the age of forty-two. His death devastated Wildcat fans around the country, including Cawood Ledford, his successor as Kentucky announcer.

As Alan and Cox make clear through interviews with players and other announcers, Claude’s voice still echoes despite the years since his death. At the heart of his career was a series of connections with the players, the coaches, and most of all, the fans listening to his game calls. Those connections, which made a lasting impact on so many, keep Claude Sullivan’s legacy alive today.

In addition to the press, UK Archives has been home to The Claude Sullivan Collection since 1978, when his wife, Alyce Sullivan, donated 254 tapes made of Claude’s sportscasts and additional recordings of his early broadcasts of UK sports events. An additional one hundred plus recordings, including some records that preceded magnetic tapes, were discovered in 1998 and put into the collection. Forty-three transcription disks made by WHAS Radio were transcribed in 2008 and added. Also in 2008, Alan used money from Alyce’s estate to begin digitizing all the recordings that make up the “final” Claude Sullivan Collection, which took several years to complete.

Following the digital archives project, Alan Sullivan completed his biography of his father, "Voice of the Wildcats." The enhanced e-book features 28 embedded audio clips with over an hour of features from the UK Archives profiling Sullivan’s work with UK, Cincinnati Reds, horse racing, and overseas travels, including milestone trips for WVLK to Russia in 1956–57 and the 1960 Rome Olympics. Twenty-seven of these audio files are available on

Alan Sullivan is a healthcare architect. Joe Cox is an attorney and the coauthor of "100 Things Wildcat Fans Should Know.".

UPK is the scholarly publisher for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, representing a consortium that now includes all of the state universities, five private colleges and two historical societies. Led by Director Stephen Wrinn, its editorial program focuses on the humanities and the social sciences. Offices for the administrative, editorial, production and marketing departments of the press are found at UK, which provides financial support toward the operating expenses of the publishing operation. 

UK Special Collections Research Center is home to UK Libraries' collection of rare books, Kentuckiana, the Archives, the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, the King Library Press, the Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center, the Bert T. Combs Appalachian collection and the digital library, ExploreUK. The mission of the center is to locate and preserve materials documenting the social, cultural, economic and political history of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

MEDIA CONTACT: Whitney Hale, 859-257-8716;