When he signed off on his final broadcast of the 2010-11 basketball season, Woody Durham knew it was time to retire as “The Voice of the Tar Heels.”
Though he no longer calls North Carolina football and basketball games, like he did for 40 years, Durham isn’t spending his retirement by sipping tea on the porch or playing shuffleboard.
He’s still as much a part of the North Carolina athletics department as he ever was, title or not.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to call it retired because, certainly, a lot of people in the athletics department and the Ram’s Club are working hard to keep me busy,” Durham said Thursday at Benvenue Country Club, where he spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Rocky Mount. “And they’re doing a pretty good job of that.”
Durham was told once by veteran sportscasters that he would know when it was time to call it a career.
Toward the end of his tenure, he found that his preparation was not as thorough as it had once been, and that he wasn’t quite as sharp on the call like he had been in his younger days.
In his opinion, his work was not making his self-defined grade.
He knew it was time, though he does miss it.
“Of course, I miss doing the games. That’s the biggest thing,” Durham said. “But I don’t miss the preparation to do the games, not one bit.”
With more free time – at least when he wasn’t needed at some Carolina-Blue-clad function – Durham was able to complete his autobiography, “Woody Durham: A Tar Heel Voice,” which hits the shelves Sept. 1.
Forty years of broadcasting one of college athletics’ premier programs left Durham with piles of great stories.
Many around Durham knew he could tell a great tale, but his answer for when the book would come out was simple.
“People asked me the last few years I was doing the games – I guess more so after Roy (Williams) won his second national championship (in 2009) – ‘Are you going to write a book?’ I said yes, and they said, ‘When?’ I said, ‘When I’m finished,’ Durham said. “I didn’t want to write a book and then have something happen that should have been in it, so I waited until I retired.”
While he’s no longer in the broadcast booth, Durham still is a fixture on North Carolina gamedays.
Durham still makes his home in Chapel Hill, and he still has near perfect attendance.
“I don’t spend many Saturdays at home,” Durham said. “My wife and I did not miss a single football game and only one basketball game because we were on the road for a meeting I had to attend.”
Durham went on the road with Tar Heels to Maryland (where he said he’ll never visit again because the fans’ reputation for being nasty is true) and to the ACC Tournament, simply because he likes being there.
From time to time, Durham will even wander to campus to watch football coach Larry Fedora’s practices.
He has no obligation to be there, but found he likes it too much to stay away.
“Coach Fedora said to me one day on the practice field, ‘You just can’t get it out of your system, can you?’ Durham said. “I said, ‘No, and neither can you.’
"He laughed as he walked away and he said, ‘You’re right.’”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or at npiotrowicz@ rmtelegram.com