Tom Kelly, USC’s broadcast voice for football and men’s basketball for 43 years, passed away from cancer in Encino Monday at the age of 88.
Kelly, who started his broadcasting career during his college days after sustaining an injury playing football at Northland College, started broadcasting Trojan football games in 1961 after working for various radio stations throughout the Midwest at the onset of his career. He would broadcast games over the radio from 1961 to 1965 and 1973 to 1988.
“His voice was something you could hear from a subway tunnel six blocks away,” said current USC Football Broadcaster Pete Arbogast to the Los Angeles Daily News. “He was the voice — he was the guy.”
Kelly eventually moved toward television, where he broadcasted games from 1989 until his retirement in 2003. In addition, he hosted the USC Sports Magazine Show and executive produced, hosted and narrated the Trojan Video Gold series. According to the Los Angeles Times, even after his retirement he was a staple at press boxes for USC until his death.
In addition to USC, Kelly called games for the San Diego Chargers, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and the now-defunct United States Football League’s Los Angeles Express, in addition to boxing matches.
“Having grown up in Southern California as a sports fan hearing all the great announcers, then as a big USC fan, I really studied his mannerisms and inflections and the excitement level he brought,” Arbogast said. “I remember getting up for USC-Notre Dames in South Bend that started at 10 a.m., getting all the snacks lined up and just listening to him call it, from pregame to postgame, because it wasn’t on TV.
Kelly was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001, the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Golden State Boxers Hall of Fame in 2003.
“For so many generations of Trojans, Tom Kelly was the voice of USC Athletics over the airwave, and what a voice he had,” USC Sports Information Director Tim Tessalone said to USC News. “His deep, rich voice was so identifiable with USC.”
Kelly is survived by wife and his four children — Kathleen Kelly Borisoff, Colleen Kelly, Kevin Kelly and Christopher Kelly — as well as a stepson and six grandchildren.
“It has been an unbelievable career … there’s no rhyme or reason how I managed to remain the Voice of the Trojans except luck and good fortune. … I don’t know how I qualified but I’m thankful,” Kelly said in his 2007 biography. “I enjoyed every moment and realize I was one of the fortunate ones.”