A partially burned down stadium, two trips to the Rose Bowl, the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows; the long-time radio play-by-play voice of the Washington State Cougars, Bob Robertson has seen it all.
Robertson remembers when Martin Stadium’s south stands were the victim of arson in 1970.
“I wasn’t here the night Martin Stadium burned down, but I’ve been through the process of it burning down, growing up and getting bigger,” Robertson said.
Robertson was also there when the Cougars had three consecutive ten-win seasons.
“We get a little more exuberant about going to a Rose Bowl or winning ten games in a season, three years in a row,” he said. “Cougar fans get really turned on by that.”
In contrast, Robertson has also been there for seasons in which wins were scarce for Cougars. “Our good cycles are sometimes shorter, and our bad ones are sometimes a little bit longer,” Robertson said.
Robertson, who bolstered WSU’s broadcasting image since starting with Cougar Athletics in 1964, wasn’t always known as the voice of the Cougs.
“At that time we were on KVI in Seattle, and the contracts used to change every three years,” Robertson said. “In 1969, things changed. That year, KVI won the bid for guess who? The Dawgs. So guess who was the voice of the Dawgs?”
However, a short stint in Seattle was all Robertson had in mind. While the Huskies continued to trade wins and losses with the Cougars in the annual Apple Cup, they might have suffered their biggest loss at the end of the 1971 season when Robertson left for the Palouse.
From 1972 on, Robertson was a full-fledged Coug. He was at the helm of 470 consecutive Cougar football broadcasts leading up to the 2013 season-opener against Auburn, and he has been a member of the Cougar radio broadcast team for a total of 521 football games.
It didn’t take him long to get acclimated to the atmosphere that surrounded him in Pullman.
“There’s a family feeling when going to school over here. When the team is winning, it’s like your brothers and sisters are winning something. You’re happy for them,” he said.
At 84 years old, Robertson continues to connect with Cougars in Pullman and all over the country. Although he is always a broadcaster first, Robertson is a Coug fan.
“I’m happier when the team I’m broadcasting wins. But I’ve never tried to get to the ‘me vs. they’ or believed that all the good guys are on my team and all the bad guys are on the other team,” he said.
Robertson’s class and love of the game is never overshadowed by poor sportsmanship. Fans are reminded of this at the end of each WSU radio broadcast when he delivers his signature sign off, “Always be a good sport. Be a good sport all ways.”
When he started working part time in radio in Bellingham, he was feeling the pressure to match other radio personalities who had signature opening or closing phrases. His distinct phrase took some perfecting.
“Most often, the reason was I found out someone on a network was using it, and that’s probably why it sounded good to me,” Robertson said. “One day, the play on words rumbled through my head. I tried it, it worked, and no one else was using it, so I just stayed with it.”
While Robertson is all about sportsmanship, he still appreciates the energy Cougar fans exude while cheering on their teams. He praised fan movements like the Wave the Flag Road Trip.
“It’s just crazy Cougar. It’s the way they are. You get it in your blood,” he said. “You get old enough that you probably in some cases would outgrow doing things like that, but when you’re a Cougar, you don’t. They just have an enjoyable time.”
Robertson has seen his fair share of great moments. His favorite was the Cougars’ first appearance in the Rose Bowl Game.
“We didn’t win it, but boy did we give a great effort,” Robertson said. “To be in there and see the place filled with crimson - and hey, it was three-quarters crimson – our kids were playing in the Rose Bowl.”
At the start of the 2013 football season, Robertson changed roles with former sideline reporter and last year’s color commentator, Bud Nameck.
“That was just natural progression. I got to the age where I thought it was a good idea,” Robertson said.
Robertson will continue to host WSU’s pregame, halftime and postgame shows and will likely have plenty of insight and stories to add to a dynamic WSU radio broadcasting team that includes Nameck, Shawn McWashington and Jessamyn McIntyre.
“Bob Robertson is synonymous with Cougar Athletics and will be a member of our broadcast team for as long as I am athletic director,” WSU Athletic Director Bill Moos said in a press release.
Robertson will always be intertwined in WSU’s rich history, and his support of the university will serve as an example of excellence for current and future Cougars.
No matter what position Robertson is broadcasting from on a Saturday in Pullman, two sentences will be on the minds of Cougar fans everywhere. “Always be a good sport. Be a good sport all ways.”