Much like the basketball court, the football field and the baseball diamond, the standard has been set high for the LSU Sports Radio Network.
Legendary broadcaster Jim Hawthorne will officially retire after the current basketball season, and for the first time in over 30 years, a new voice will announce the first pitch of LSU’s baseball season against Cincinnati this Friday.
That voice belongs to Chris Blair.
Blair, 40, will be the Tigers’ new play-by-play man for football, basketball and baseball. He will also assume all of Hawthorne’s responsibilities as the Director of Radio Broadcasting, putting him in charge of all of the network’s equipment, personnel and content.
“Once I got into the business of college sports, I realized the power it has and how valuable they are to entire regions,” Blair said. “I don’t have direct ties, but I certainly understand the passion and the power of LSU athletics. All of that together made this a very attractive place to come to.”
Blair is a veteran of the radio business who got his first job as a 14-year old reading 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. news updates for his father’s station in South Carolina. He spent 10 years as the football play-by-play broadcaster for Greenwood High School in South Carolina and announced four South Carolina state championship games.
He didn’t consider a career in radio until he was in college, but Blair always loved sports. He played several of them growing up and while in high school.
His father approached him and asked for help broadcasting high school football games after one of his station’s long time employees took a different job, and Blair obliged. Calling the games changed his entire perspective and made him strive to become a sports announcer.
“It was like playing again,” Blair said. “Even though you’re not playing, you’re still part of the game. I got a separate check from my regular paycheck, but I didn’t expect to be paid. I thought people just love to do this. That was the first time I considered broadcasting for a career.”
After earning his political science degree from Lander University in South Carolina, Blair began working with the Clemson sports radio network as a 22-year-old. Blair worked his way up into the network’s broadcast sales and management departments, solidifying himself as a broadcast professional.
He ran several stations in South Carolina while working with Clemson before being hired as the Director of Network Operations for the Georgia Southern Radio Network in 2006. Blair called all football, baseball and Basketball games for the Eagles.
Blair helped the network grow tremendously as a brand during his 10 years at Georgia Southern. The school’s football team made the jump to the Football Bowl Subdivision from the Football Championship Subdivision in 2014, and Blair’s voice became synonymous with the program’s renaissance.
He announced several great moments for the Eagles including the team’s massive upset at Florida in 2013, the Gators’ first and only loss against a FBS team, and the team’s Sun Belt championship during its first year as an FBS member in 2014.
Blair learned of Hawthorne’s retirement while he was in Monroe covering a Georgia Southern basketball game.
“I never dreamed I would have the opportunity, but it was on the radar because I knew that radio here mattered,” Blair said. “Even with all the digital stuff that power five schools are on, radio is still important. So I went back to Georgia, put whatever I could find on an mp3 and shipped it off to LSU.”
Blair was among eight finalists for the job that included longtime local TV broadcaster Lyn Rollins and New Orleans Pelicans radio play-by-play man Sean Kelly. He was hired in June, and LSU athletic director Joe Alleva called him a “rising star” in the radio business.
He created a trademark football call while at Georgia Southern, “put an Eagle six on it,” to help the brand establish an identity, something he said won’t be necessary during the fall in Baton Rouge.
“You don’t need that here,” Blair said. “Touchdown LSU pretty much says it all.”
During his time at Georgia Southern, Blair turned down announcing jobs from Georgia Tech, Boise State and Virginia Tech before accepting the job at LSU.
Dating back to 1946, LSU announcers John Ferguson, J.C. Politz and Hawthorne were all Louisiana natives. Although Blair isn’t from Louisiana, he has always admired the culture of the region and the winning tradition of its athletics program, and he looks forward to adapting to his new community and becoming the new voice of its beloved LSU Tigers.
“We’ve done more as a family in the last two months here than we did in ten years at Georgia Southern,” Blair said. “There’s just so much to do. There’s a lot I’ve got to learn, but I think when people see me out, taking in festivals and going to restaurants, they’ll realize really quickly how excited I am to be a part of this community and learn everything it has to offer.”