Jerry Allen has called a lot of special University of Oregon sports moments in his 30 years on the radio. As the “Voice of the Ducks” since 1987, he’s seen three Rose Bowl Championships and two National Championship appearances in football, as well as four Elite Eights and one Final Four in men’s basketball. But don’t ask him to pick a favorite.
“It’s really tough to put them in any kind of order,” he says. “Kenny Wheaton’s ‘pick’ in 1994 against UW was the first major ‘wow, can’t believe that happened’ moment. Or watching Marcus Mariota, a true gentleman, become our first Heisman winner. They’re all great moments and memories, but it’s like choosing who is your favorite kid. You simply can’t pick one over the other.”
He’s even fonder of something greater than the games during his time in Eugene.
“I’ve enjoyed interacting with the people around the athletic program,” Allen explains. “I mean, the games are great. I’d rather see them win, because losses are hard because of the people. You want the kids and the coaches to win, and you want the fans to have fun. And when you don’t win or something goes wrong, it’s bad for them. I’ve also built these relationships with the fans. They’re the reason people say ‘You’re so good.’ They’re the ones who have made me the ‘Voice of the Ducks.’ If it’s not for them, then I’m not sitting where I’m sitting.”
But if you’ve listened to any men’s basketball games lately, you might’ve noticed a change in his role on the Oregon broadcasts. While he’s still part of some of those games, he’s no longer doing play-by-play. Instead he’s doing color commentary when the Ducks are at home, while Joey McMurry (a UO grad who has been part of the broadcast team since 2014) takes over the main role of calling the action. Allen admits it’s been a bit of a transition.
“It’s really awkward in a way,” Allen says. “You do something like that (play-by-play) for so many years and is just part of your life; it’s an adjustment. It’s a little sad, because I didn’t make that change because I wanted to personally get out of basketball because I was getting tired. It was more of a need to spend more time with my family, so I kind of had to give that up even though I didn’t really want to.”
Allen also confesses there may be times he’ll have to resist temptation to jump in and talk over McMurry from years of habit.
“I’m sure that’s going to happen,” he laughs on that notion. “It’s hard when you’re the guy that talks continually to suddenly become the guy that’s going to talk every so often. I’ve worked before with play-by-play guys when they’ve sat in with us and they have a tendency to want to talk. That’s why it’s an adjustment. It’s something you have to learn, but I have to give Joey a chance to do his craft. He’s talented and I’m going to have to find a way to complement him, and that’s what’s going to be hard. I have to learn not to say too much.”
McMurry is excited for the new position and hoping to measure up to the standard Allen set.
“I’m thrilled,” he says. “It’s not often you get chosen to call games for your alma mater. I’m fortunate to be able to be here and be part of the UO broadcasting team ever since I graduated. But Jerry Allen has left me a million and a half shoe size for me to fill for basketball, so I’m going to have to do my best to fill those shoes.”
Furthermore, he’s happy to have had Allen to guide him along in the process.
“Jerry has been the best mentor that I could’ve asked for,” McMurry claims about Allen. “I couldn’t have dreamed up a better one. I think there are times that’s he’s helped me realize this is how to do this or this isn’t how to do that. His mentorship has meant the world to me.”
Allen has just as much admiration for McMurry, who he believes will do very well.
“Joey has youth and exuberance, and is going to have a great career,” Allen explains. “He is, after all, an Oregon alum and it’s fun to see him move into that role for that reason. He’s worked hard to get to this position. He’s not one of my kids, but it is kind of like watching one of your own kids become successful.”
That being said, while Allen will miss doing play-by-play for basketball, there are some things he welcomes with the reduced role.
“Not having to travel with basketball for two games on the road every other week will be a plus,” he claims. “An overnight trip in football is not bad. I can get back home quickly and back to my family. But doing the home games and remaining part of the Duck family is something I don’t want to give up.”
He isn’t giving up his role as the “Voice of the Ducks” for football anytime soon. In fact, he can still see himself doing that for a long time yet to come.
“I try not to even think about it,” Allen says of the future. “I’ve always said if I get to a point where I start slipping and not doing as good as I have, then I’ve wanted my wife and close friends to tell me that. If that’s ever the case, then I’ll want to get out. I don’t want to be the guy that should’ve retired a year earlier than he actually did. But I’ll keep doing this as long as it’s fun.”