Central National Bank’s Joe Nesbitt has always had a fondness for radio. As a child, he and his older brothers, Tom and Bill, would oftentimes sit in the living room listening to sports broadcasts on the radio.
“To this day, I can pinpoint the exact moment my infatuation with radio first began,” said Joe. “I was standing in the living room with Tom, and we were listening to the last playoff football game for the old Richfield High School, a game that wasn’t decided until the final play. I remember thinking, ‘this is so intense.’ I just loved it.”
For his brother Tom, one of his earliest radio memories is the 1978 Baylor-Texas football game—a game famously remembered for the legendary worm-eating halftime speech by Coach Grant Teaff.
“We didn’t know about the worm-eating episode until much later, but I remember being riveted to Frank Fallon’s voice and his description of that great Baylor victory,” said Tom, a lawyer who now lives in Austin. “They didn’t televise nearly as many college football games in the 1970s and 80s, so radio was the only way to follow our Baylor Bears when they played on the road. Frank Fallon brought those games to life for us.”
While the brothers have always held a special reverence for sports radio, none of them ever dreamed they’d one day be calling plays on the airwaves.
Frustration sparks an idea
On a Friday night in October of 2011, all three brothers were spending time at their family ranch in Valley Mills. Collectively, they expressed frustration when they couldn’t tune in to follow their alma mater’s football game—Waco High School—on the radio. That frustration sparked an idea.
“What if we called the games?” remembers Joe. “We could put together the sponsors, find a station to broadcast the games, and we could do the on-air play-by-play.”
That idea turned into action. Joe and his brothers soon scheduled a meeting to visit with Waco ISD about the possibility of putting the games back on the air, an idea that was openly received by Waco ISD Superintendent Bonnie Cain, as well as the administrative leadership at Waco High School.
“When Joe and his brothers reached out to us, you could really see their passion for the future success of Waco High,” said Lisa Saxenian, assistant principal at Waco High School. “Because we knew it was such a great project, we immediately directed them to Dr. Cain.”
With the green light from the school district, the Nesbitt brothers formed a not-for-profit business, solicited sponsors, and formed partnerships with ESPN 1660 and 104.9 FM. They are quick to thank David Smoak, Paul Catalina, Jason Barringer and Zach Burke at ESPN Central Texas for their leadership on the project.
“At the risk of harming their reputations by association with us, Smoaky and his team at ESPN Central Texas have made a real commitment to sports in Central Texas and particularly to high school football,” Joe said. “We owe them big time for letting us be part of that.”
With sponsors and a radio partnership formed, the brothers broadcasted their first Waco High game in August—a season-opening win over the Manor Mustangs.
New excitement for Waco High football
“If I’m being completely honest, we were really worried that we’d stink,” joked Tom, who then added, “And, we do. But, not as badly as we expected.”
Saxenian and others would disagree with Tom’s joking assertion.
“Former students and current fans really enjoy listening to the games,” said Saxenian. “Joe, Tom and Bill offer the one-on-one personal touch to their comments on the game and about the players on the field. They bring an enthusiasm not usually found at a sporting event.”
“A lot of people have told us that what we’re doing means a lot to the community,” said Joe. “But, in some ways, we feel pretty selfish about the whole thing. I mean, we’re doing what every SportsCenter viewer has secretly dreamed of doing. We’re just like those kids sitting around the living room radio. We still can’t believe we’re actually doing this.”
Even with perhaps a few selfish motives considered, Saxenian believes the brothers are doing a great service for both the school and the community.
“Words cannot begin to tell Joe, Tom and Bill how much they mean to Waco High School, to the community, and to me for taking the time and interest to make this happen.”
More Information: During game broadcasts, listeners can tune in to Waco High Radio on 104.9 FM or www.centraltexasbeat.com. Waco High Radio can be followed on Twitter (@WacoHighRadio), Facebook and YouTube.