Jim Hawthorne on his final football season

Hawthorne has called 380 games since he began broadcasting with LSU. Courtesy LSU Athletics

By Marcus Rodrigue

As Jim Hawthorne heads into his final LSU football season in the radio booth, he’s going about his business as usual.

Hawthorne, the “Voice of the Tigers” for more than three decades, is set to retire following the 2015-2016 men’s basketball season. Though he called his final baseball game in June, he says how close he is to the end of his career hasn’t quite sunken in.

“It really hasn’t hit me full-force yet, and it probably won’t until I get well into basketball,” he says. “The days are really numbered, but I’ve still got six months or so to go.”

Until then, nothing will change—Hawthorne says he will keep on doing exactly what he’s been doing for the last 35 years.

Hawthorne first joined LSU’s broadcast lineup in the 1979-1980 season as play-by-play announcer for the men’s basketball team. In 1984, he took over the same position for the football team and hasn’t missed a game since, calling 380 straight contests.

He says the most memorable football games during his tenure were the Tigers’ national championship victories at the end of the 2003 and 2007 seasons. LSU defeated both Oklahoma and Ohio State, respectively, in New Orleans, which Hawthorne says makes the titles even more special.

But a national championship game was also the setting for the most difficult contest Hawthorne had to sit through. It was hard to hide his disappointment after Southeastern Conference rival Alabama throttled LSU, 21-0, in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game, he says.

Oddly enough, he speculates the squad that failed to win the title might have been the best football team during his tenure. But his perspective as a broadcaster prevents him from thinking about individual teams in terms of greatness, he says.

For that reason, Hawthorne is looking forward to being able to sit down and watch LSU games as a fan instead of as a broadcaster once he retires.

“I’ve realized the pageantry and uniqueness of a Saturday night in Tiger Stadium because I’ve been involved in it,” he says. “I hadn’t been able to sit back and look at it and enjoy it from [a fan’s] standpoint.”

The Anacoco, Louisiana, native says he won’t miss the constant traveling and long hours of preparation necessary to put on a broadcast. Despite working on one football game per week during the season, he says it’s the hardest to prepare for because he hosts a two-hour pregame show and conducts interviews with opposing coaches.

Though Hawthorne says he won’t know what he’ll miss the most until he’s retired, there is one part of his job he’ll regret leaving behind.

“Just being part of the experience, the camaraderie with the fans,” he says. “Tiger Nation is just a special group of people.”