For 37 years—longer than ESPN or the Internet—Bill Marcroft BFA'52 has been the eyes and ears of Ute fans. Marcroft was the source for the latest information on Utah football and basketball. From the days of Jack Gardner to those of Rick Majerus, Mike Giddings to Urban Meyer, Marcroft has seen virtually all of the great and not-so-great moments of Utah sports.
"Bill Marcroft is without a doubt the greatest Ute fan around," says Crimson Club director and former Ute quarterback Frank Dolce BS'93, Marcroft's football broadcasting partner for the last ten seasons. "He loves the U and Utah athletics. He's always genuinely willing to share time with fans, players, and friends.
Indeed, Marcroft is an ironman of broadcasting. He has called 38 NCAA basketball tournament games involving the Utes, including the 1998 national championship game, as well as six Utah football bowl games. He's missed only six Utah basketball games in his broadcasting career: four from a bout with Legionnaires' disease, one when he had to broadcast a Utah Stars game, and one when his flight was delayed due to an ice storm (though he arrived in time to do the post-game show).
"Bill is the Chick Hearn of Utah Athletics," says Manny Hendrix, director of athletic relations and former star Ute guardBS'94, referring to the voice of the Los Angeles Lakers for 42 years. "What I love about Bill is his way of making an average to below-average player great and making regular plays spectacular. His passion for Utah athletics is unequalled."
So who better to ask about standout Ute moments? Marcroft's memories of Utah athletics could fill volumes. Still, "It's not the great plays that I remember most," he says. "Associating with the great players, great teams, and great coaches is what I've enjoyed most."
The Early Years.
The 1969-70 basketball team eventually reached the second round of the then 16-team National Invitation Tournament at Madison Square Garden. Though Marcroft didn't call the game, he still remembers its international flavor. "The Soviet Union sent their national team to play college all-star teams from different states. The Soviets came to Utah undefeated, having beaten teams from New York, Indiana, and Kentucky. Newlin and Gardner were the featured players for the Utah All-Stars, The Soviets were huge favorites, but the Utah team stayed with them. The Soviets led by one with seconds remaining and Utah got the ball. Newlin hit the shot and the Utah All-Stars were the only team to beat the Soviets on that trip."
Marcroft's reaction? "I vaulted over the front row and ran onto the court. I was a pure fan that night. Those were 'my guys'."
Marcroft also has a soft spot for the 1969-73 football teams coached by Bill Meek, with players like Steve Marshall ("possibly the best athlete to ever play at Utah"), Lance Robbins BS'74, Scott Robbins BS'72, Steve Marlowe BS'80, All-American Steve Odom BS'74, and quarterback Don "Brownie" Van Galder BS'74.
The 1972 game with then-WAC foe Arizona stands out. "It was the greatest comeback in NCAA history," Marcroft notes. "Utah was down 27-0 after three quarters. Van Galder passes to Odom for two touchdowns to cut the lead, but Arizona starts a time-consuming drive. Then Marshall intercepts a pass and makes an incredible runback for a touchdown. It's now 27-21. Utah holds on defense, gets the ball, and starts a drive. With no time outs left, Van Galder dives in the end zone with 10 seconds left to win 28-27. Just an unbelievable comeback."
A GOOD Kentucky Memory.
"Kentucky had just opened up Rupp Arena and Utah was invited to play in the Kentucky Classic in mid-December," he says. "We battled Kentucky down to the wire. We're tied 68-68 with eight seconds left and Utah has the ball.. Judkins has been the big star, so Kentucky bottles him up. Jonas drives, then kicks off to the right wing to Earl Williams ex'79, who is not known as a shooter. As Williams goes up, 27,000 people are screaming. When it goes in at the buzzer, I look at the official. And when the official raises his hand that it's good and the game is over, I scream 'It's good!' and all 27,000 people stop screaming. And all you hear is this one voice, me, screaming. We beat Kentucky for their first loss ever in Rupp Arena."
It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over.
Most amazing about Hendrix' shot is the number of people who supposedly saw it. The announced crowd was 5,890. "I'm not trying to discredit anyone," says Hendrix, "but the number of people who have told me they were there is a lot more than those who actually were there."
"Utah's playing Minnesota, at Minnesota, and we are tied at 29," Marcroft recalls. "Minnesota's got a 25-yard chip-shot field goal attempt to win it on the last play. Had it been on national television, the camera would have been on Minnesota's coach, but since we were televising the game back to Utah, the camera was on McBride to see his reaction if the kick was made and Utah loses the game. But Utah blocks the kick and Lavon Edwards BS'92 returns it 91 yards down the sideline. McBride, with the came on him, is trying to go stride for stride with Edwards on the other sideline. It's one of the all-time great pieces of footage. It's been immortalized on tape just like the play involving the Stanford band." Utah won 35-29.
Free(dom) At Last.
"One of the weirdest games ever," Marcrof rememberst. "Utah only had 75 yards of total offense. But Utah's defense was absolutely phenomenal. And Arizona's 'Desert Swarm' defense was the nation's best. With about four minutes left and Utah down 13-9, Cal Beck returns a kickoff 72 yards to the Arizona 5. But the Utes can't punch it in. On fourth and goal, McCoy scrambles towards the sideline, is in the grasp of a big Arizona lineman, and launches a wobbly pass toward the end zone. Kevin Dyson BS'98 is standing in the end zone and makes a spectacular catch, snatching it away from a defensive back, giving Utah its first bowl victory in 30 years." The Utes finished No. 10 and No.8 in the two final 1994 major polls.
As for the future, Marcroft anticipates more great memories. "I'm looking forward to working with Urban Meyer," he says. (See textbox below.) "He's bringing a lot of excitement to the football program. And I like the new recruiting class that Majerus is bringing in."
And as for moving away from the microphone? Don't count on it anytime soon. "I'll be here for as long as they'll have me," Marcroft says.
—John Fackler BS'89 BS'94 MprA'95 is director of business relations at the Alumni Association and a passionate Ute fan.
THE START OF AN URBAN LEGEND?
High power offense with stingy, hard-hitting defense. Discipline on the field and in the classroom. The Urban Meyer era of Utah football kicks off this fall, anxiously awaited by fans since Meyer's hiring last December.
Meyer spent the last two seasons as head coach at Bowling Green State University of the Mid-American Conference where his teams amassed a 17-6 record. Bowling Green ranked third in the entire nation in scoring last season, averaging 40.8 points per game. Before Bowling Green, Meyer was an assistant coach at such notable football powerhouses as Ohio State, Colorado State, and Notre Dame.
Meyer's high-octane offense will be fueled by returning quarterbacks Brett Elliott and Alex Smith, along with stellar running backs Brandon Warfield and Marty Johnson. Utah's receiving corps will be busy, led by Parris Warren, Steven Savoy, Travis LaTendresse, Ben Moa, and Larry Miles.
Along with hiring an impressive array of new assistant coaches, Meyer retained outstanding defensive coordinator Kyle Whittingham and defensive backs coach Bill Busch. Utah led the Mountain West Conference last season in total defense, scoring defense, and rushing defense. Standouts Jason Kaufusi (DE), Josh Savage (DE), Arnold Parker (DB), Dave Revill (DB), and Ray Holdcraft (LB) return for their senior seasons.Meyer's disciplined approach has already paid dividends in the classroom. Thirty four players achieved a 3.0 or higher grade point average Spring semester. "I was thrilled that the players took our academic goals seriously," said Meyer "To have 40-percent of our team receive a 3.0 GPA or better shows a real commitment to academics."