Voice of the Rams passes away
April 30, 2009
FORT COLLINS, Colo. - Touchdowwwwn, Colorado State!
That's how many fans, all of whom considered him as much a part of the CSU family as any head coach, will remember Voice of the Rams Rich Bircumshaw, who passed away Wednesday night at the Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland after suffering a stroke.
Bircumshaw, 54, was a member of the Colorado State radio network since 1999, and had been the play-by-play voice of CSU football and men's basketball since 2002. Most recently, he had teamed up with Brian Roth and Kevin McGlue on the Rams' football broadcasts, and with former Rams standout Eric Friehauf at basketball games.
The CSU athletic department knew Wednesday morning of Bircumshaw's stroke, suffered during his sleep on Tuesday night, and had been in close contact with his family before complications from the stroke claimed his life.
"All of us in the Ram family, all across the country, are deeply saddened by Rich's passing," Paul Kowalczyk, Director of Athletics, said. "Rich had a wonderfully quirky sense of humor and the ability to connect with his listeners in a unique fashion. He was warm and genuine, and a friend to every student-athlete, coach and administrator. He made everyone feel like an All-American, no matter who they were. He's left us with many wonderful memories and will forever be a Ram."
Many of those memories were as special to Bircumshaw, a Colorado and Wyoming broadcaster of the year on several occasions, as they were to the coaches and players who provided the material for his descriptions. Bircumshaw was the director of news operations for Clear Channel of Northern Colorado, providing morning news and sports updates for thousands of radio listeners each morning, but those who knew him best would testify that, professionally, he treasured his role as the Voice of the Rams more than anything else.
"We have lost a dear friend in Rich," said CSU men's basketball Head Coach Tim Miles. "It was very apparent, something that I noticed right after I met him, that it wasn't the job that mattered to Rich, but it was the Rams family that he truly cared about. When we won, he felt like he had won. And when we lost, he lost. Most of all, he was a tremendous person and a great friend to all of us in the program."
Willing to serve CSU unselfishly as a public ambassador for the ideals of the athletic department on a daily basis, he volunteered as an emcee for dozens of CSU events each year. And when he wasn't speaking to large audiences, he was having quality one-on-one conversations with people.
In more than a decade with the Rams, countless players, coaches and staff came to know him as more than their broadcaster. They came to know him genuinely as a friend and supporter.
"I really will remember him as a kind and giving person," football Head Coach Steve Fairchild said. "We became very close this past year, getting together every week for my radio show. He did for us what we ask of our coaches and players: He just gave everything he had for Colorado State. And you never heard him ask for anything in return. He was always upbeat, didn't complain, and he just supported us unconditionally. I know that's how he would want to be remembered, and that's how he will be remembered, because it's the truth. He was our No. 1 fan."
But Bircumshaw was more than a CSU guy. His relationship-building skills were not constrained by any CSU rivalry, or any state line. Many of his friends were in Wyoming, where he spent most of his career broadcasting at Riverton and Casper stations before moving to Fort Collins, or Utah, where he grew up.
Humble to the core, at the end of each broadcast, he never forgot to thank the behind-the-scenes people, including the student-assistants who kept stats, making them feel important.
Born June 30, 1954, in Park City, Utah, he is survived by his wife Wendy Lange, his sister Roberta King, brother John and sister in-law Georgia, nephew Christopher and nieces Jennifer and Angela, as well as numerous great nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Mary D. and Richard F. Bircumshaw of Salt Lake City.
Bircumshaw, who said on several occasions that he had the quintessential face for radio, knew that friendship was more than skin deep.
He counted among his friends legendary coaches such as Sonny Lubick, NBA and NFL stars who had their roots at Colorado State or Wyoming, and current and former governors. He met future President Barack Obama in Fort Collins last fall, and knew hundreds of professional and college sports celebrities.
But throughout his three-plus decades in broadcasting, since his origins as a high-school announcer in Riverton, Wyo., he came in contact with junior-high athletes, fourth-string offensive linemen, and walk-on forwards, and gave each one the same level of respect and authentic interest he would use to address any superstar. That did not go unnoticed, and will perhaps be his lasting legacy.
And for those fans, many who turned down the volume on their televisions, who knew him only through his matchless descriptions of CSU action, Bircumshaw left his listeners with an amazing memory: One of his final calls in the CSU football booth, describing the signature play of the 2008 season, Gartrell Johnson's fourth-quarter run to solidify CSU's 40-35 triumph over Fresno State in the 2008 New Mexico Bowl, Dec. 20.
"Give off to Gartrell, off the left side, he's got the 30, he's got the 40, at midfield, he's in the open, Gartrell, go, at the 40, at the 30, at the 20, at the 10, the 5...Gartrell Johnson...touchdowwwwn, Colorado State!! Gartrell Johnson just went the distance. He just went 77 yards!"