Ron Franklin graduated from Ole Miss with a journalism degree in 1965. A Mississippi native, Franklin went on to be the voice of both the Houston Oilers and the University of Texas Longhorns. From 1987-2011, Franklin worked for ESPN and ESPN2 as the network’s play-by-play voice for “College Football Primetime.”While at ESPN, Franklin was a fan favorite as part of the soundtrack to college football. HottyToddy.com got a chance to speak with Franklin about his career, as well as what Ole Miss has meant to him over the years.
Hotty Toddy: Why did you choose Ole Miss?
Franklin: Primarily because I lived in Oxford. I went to University High School and we had an expression when you went to University High School that you were just going to “go across the bridge.” I lived right there and just why not? I knew many professors, went to church with them and knew a lot of people who went to school out there. I just thought this is a great situation to be right here, might as well stay at home.
Hotty Toddy: What is your favorite memory from Ole Miss?
Franklin: Wow. There are so many fond memories of that place, particularly because it was home. My experiences were different from a lot of students who came in just because I not only knew the lay of land, but I knew so many professors. But, you know, the thing that made that campus very, very special is that we were small, there’s no question about that, and everybody knew everybody. The warmth. It wasn’t a specific moment, it was an everyday thing. You really felt that you were part of an operation that really did practice what it preached. That will always be near and dear to me.
Hotty Toddy: What is something you experienced early in life that you feel prepared you for your career?
Franklin: My mom had this thing, I could play sports in high school, but I had to take voice lessons. I had a decent voice, but [lessons] taught me not only how to breathe and to sing, but it also taught me how to speak. I came from the diaphragm rather than from the throat. That was such a valuable lesson and I think it helped me as far as learning how to pronounce and enunciate. Then when I went into speech classes, I was way ahead of other people because the Lord had given me a very decent instrument and I had learned how to use it.
Hotty Toddy: What would you tell your freshman self?
Franklin: (Laughs) Oh, that fraternity was important but not nearly as important as I made it many times. You know, drink beer, drink beer. But there should have been a little bit more of a serious side to me.
Hotty Toddy: What advice would you give to soon-to-be graduates? (Franklin said that after working in radio during college and wanting to make the transition to television, he was advised by the former head of the speech department to start in a small market. He spent a couple of years working in Roswell, NM in what he called “a wonderful situation.” He was then called to work for NBC’s Tulsa affiliate, and that’s where his career really started.)
Franklin: Don’t let your ego get in the way. A lot of people want to start too high. Go where you can learn; you can always learn, I don’t care how long you’ve been in this business. Another thing is internships. We had an internship at our station that was rare and went above and beyond. You weren’t gophers at our station. If you came to work for us, by the time you finished the year you had learned how to edit, everything. We would tell the guys, “Hey these are interns, not going to be used on the air, but would you do a quick interview with them?” So they left our internship with 10-12 stories that they had put together that in most instances were big time pro athletes. I really highly recommend the internship thing. We had people that came to us thinking they wanted to be on-air, but ended up liking production or something like that. I say go for it! Producer’s jobs are great jobs.
Hotty Toddy: What is the biggest difference you notice in journalism today from when you first started?
Franklin: I can’t use the words I want to. True journalism is not being practiced today for the most part. Politics now run journalism and everybody is really afraid to do and say things. They are chicken you-know-whats. They’re afraid to do what they are supposed to do. That to me, and I have to admit it’s been a long time since I have watched a national news telecast because I either get angry or a I sit there and shake my head and say, that’s really your lead story? Don’t you think there’s something at the White House that happened today that someone might point the finger to and say, “Well, that’s prejudice or racially-oriented.” No, it’s not. If it’s a story, it’s a story. That’s the way I learned growing up. I’m embarrassed by the national news media right now.
Hotty Toddy: What do you think made you a reporter that people enjoyed listening to for so many years?
Franklin: For starters, I always said if I got the opportunity and was lucky enough to gain status to work for a network, that I was not going to be somebody else. I would have my own phraseology, I would do mine in a different way, and to a certain extent just be boring. I chose not to talk over everything and let the pictures tell the story. It was just not getting in the way of the telecast. Too many people try to over-talk it. I was blessed to work with Mike Gottfried for around 19 years. He is a former coach, but Mike is not a guy who would sit there and it be all about him. Too many of these young guys now are “me, me, me, me.” I don’t care about their career or what they did. They’re not playing anymore. Just help me with technically why something is happening or why something is about to happen. I like to think that maybe Mike and I were dead on in that kind of situation. We didn’t tiptoe around the truth, and we called a spade a spade, but we also had respect from coaches and that’s the main thing. I didn’t want coaches to like me, but I wanted them to respect me and the way I handled the telecast.
Hotty Toddy: What was your favorite game you ever called?
Franklin: See that’s impossible! I have to say, the one game that sticks out in my mind because I have lived in Austin for many years is the University of Texas vs. Southern Cal national championship game. I thought, whoever loses tonight, it’s going to be difficult because these are two really great football teams. Texas came from behind, and if you had a scriptwriter in Hollywood, write the most ridiculously, dramatic finish to that ballgame, that’s the way it finished. It was really, really fun. I was exhausted when the game was over. I knew I was coming back to a city that was going to be ecstatic. The next night, my wife and I were sitting on the deck and we could see the tower. The tower burns orange when Texas wins in any of their sports, but when they win a national championship, the tower burns orange and they put a big “1” on it. We stood outside, took a couple of pictures and were happy. That game was as special as anything I could ever be a part of.
Hotty Toddy: What would be your quote to live by?
Franklin: I don’t want to say this because so many other people have used it but I love it: Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.
Hotty Toddy: Finish this quote: “Ole Miss is…”
Franklin: Ole Miss has been and always will be the grand ol’ lady of the South.
Story contributed by Morgan White, Ole Miss journalism major, firstname.lastname@example.org.