By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL/Designated Writers
When Louisiana Tech opened the 2021 football season at Mississippi State on September 4, Dave Nitz did something he hasn’t done in 544 football weekends.
Not a flip chart in sight. The binoculars were nowhere to be found. For once, he didn’t watch a football game and wonder whether that was #13 or #18 who just caught that pass wearing a tight jersey. A pronunciation guide? Not an issue.
While the Bulldogs battled Mississippi State in Starkville, Nitz was 329 miles away in Haughton.
With the exception of one year, Nitz has been the play-by-play voice of Tech football since 1974.
But on the 544th (Satur)day, Dave rested.
Instead, he climbed into his recliner, cranked up the big screen TV (“I guess it’s big screen,” he said), and watched football. Not one or two games, but five.
Welcome to the world of Everybody Else.
He watched a little of UL-Monroe, then Navy vs. Marshall (“until that got out of hand’) and then came the main feature. And his biggest problem. West Virginia was playing Maryland at 2:30; the Tech-MSU game was at 3 p.m.
Nitz, a native West Virginian, was going to have to wear out the AA batteries in his remote control in order to keep up with both.
“I probably got more involved emotionally with the West Virginia game, which I always have been,” Nitz said.
He will be the first to tell you that he is no technology genius, but as you might expect, he wanted to hear the first Nitz-less radio call of a Tech football game but still watch it on TV. “But I never could get that to work,” he said. “So I gave up and listed to Tech on the radio and watched West Virginia on TV. And then I’d switch back-and-forth at every commercial break.”
To be sure, it was different radio experience for Tech fans. Malcolm Butler has taken over the duties from Nitz for football and men’s basketball (Nitz will continue to do Bulldog baseball) and the whole replacing-a-legend dynamic is certainly at work.
But if you think there was a 79-year-old man in Haughton going through broadcasting withdrawal pains, think again.
“It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” Nitz said.
There’s a simple reason for that. “Doing the games was not a problem,” he said. “It just took so much time to put everything together. The homework … I don’t miss that at all. It would take me eight hours every week to get ready for a game. By the time you went through the offensive and defensive lineups and the notes and all that, it took a lot of time.
“I probably missed the game itself a little bit, particularly the camaraderie with other broadcasters,” he said. “But I was basically a fan. I didn’t try to analyze or anything like that on how the game went of how Malcolm did. That’s not my place.”
So instead of spending the night before the game going over his notes and making last-minute adjustments to prepare for the broadcast, Nitz went to a Haughton High School football game.
And of all things, kept stats. “I’ve never done that before,” he said.
Jay Nitz, Dave’s youngest son, somehow talked his father into doing stats for him “on the Facebook,” as Dave calls it.
“I figured keeping stats would have been OK, but the score ended up 55-49,” Dave said. “I didn’t think I was ever going to catch up.”
There are a few things that Nitz knows he will miss, but he does not have plans to be at every Tech home game (where the radio booth is named in his honor). But he will try to make the trip to Ruston a few times.
“Visiting with the broadcasters I know is what I look forward to more than anything else,” he said. “That’s something I miss. That’s something I will try to maintain if I possibly can, at least for a while.”
In 1983, Nitz left Tech for a full-time position with the Oklahoma City AAA baseball team, but he got a call to gauge his interest in doing Grambling State football games on weekends. So even though it wasn’t for Tech, he was still calling college football games in Lincoln Parish.
One Saturday, Nitz came over to Tech’s Homecoming and ran into former assistant football coach E.J. Lewis.
“What would it take to get you to come back to Tech?” Lewis asked.
“Money,” Nitz said quickly.
“OK, that’s all I need to know,” Lewis said.
About a week later, Tech president F. Jay Taylor called Nitz. “I understand that if we made the money right, you’d come back,” Taylor said.
Nitz agreed to come back to Ruston on his way to the Bayou Classic in November and met with Taylor. He turned down the offer, but told Taylor to call back in March if he was still interested.
“Somebody told me later that you never turn Dr. Taylor down,” Nitz said. “But I did. Sure enough, he called me in March and said ‘If we make a change, will you come?’“
And there hasn’t been another change in the Louisiana Tech broadcast booth for almost 40 years. Until now.
“I just sit there and change channels all afternoon,” Nitz said. “I’m just a fan. I just try to sit back, relax and watch the games unfold.”