Nov. 23, 2007
By Brian Tom
The University of Washington has been more than just an alma mater and an employer for long-time Husky Stadium public address announcer Lou Gellermann. It has been his life.
And even with the announcement of his retirement the week of the USC game, it does not mean that life, as Gellermann knows it, is over. It just means it's time for the next chapter in a long book that spans many years of Husky history.
Long before he became the voice in the sky at Husky Stadium, the venue served as Gellermann's personal playground. He grew up in the University District and remembers sneaking into the stadium on game days. As a teenager, he went up the tunnel with the Husky team, hand-in-hand with brother-in-law, Clyde Seiler, an offensive lineman for the Huskies from 1950-53.
It was shortly after that time, with a love for Husky athletics already firmly implanted into him, that Gellermann would get his first taste of announcing. He started off by calling basketball games at his high school, Roosevelt, and that grew into announcing high school football at Memorial Stadium in the Seattle Center.
Upon high school graduation, he went onto a decorated athletic career with both the Washington rowing and swimming teams. His crowning moment came in 1958 when he and his Husky teammates beat the Russian National Crew in an international upset of epic proportions.
With his collegiate days behind him, Gellermann moved across country to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., where he served as the Plebe Heavyweight Rowing Coach and head coach. All the while he coached, he also served as the public address announcer for the Navy football team. He was lucky enough to call the action at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia for one of the most-storied rivalries in all of sports, the Army-Navy games. He was also privy to watch first-hand the college career of football legend Roger Staubach, a Navy grad.
In 1968, an opportunity to return to Seattle and coach the Husky freshman crew proved to be too good to pass up, and Gellermann packed his bags and headed back to Washington. As an added bonus, Gellermann was promised the basketball public address and football press box internal PA announcer jobs. He finally had the opportunity to combine his two passions at the place he loved.
Until Gellermann announced his retirement this year, he had missed only one football game at Husky Stadium in the 40 years since returning to Seattle. He spent 18 years as the press box announcer before finally getting the field public address announcer job when Wendell Broyles retired before 1985. He also held the basketball PA job for 26 years from 1969 until 1994.
During his storied career, Gellermann is probably most renown for his "Hello Dawg Fans" call over the speaker system at Husky Stadium. A rousing "Hello Lou" from the home crowd always answered the salutation. While a lot of younger fans may think of the banter between Gellermann and the crowd as a football tradition, it actually originated in the confines of Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
"Cindy Holt (former marketing director) and I were kicking around ideas of how we could make (basketball introductions) better, and I don't know how it happened, but I said `Hello Dawg fans' and across the way, they said `Hello Lou' back," says Gellermann.
"It was an instant tradition. When I got into the football venue a couple years later, I just continued the tradition."
Over the years, Gellermann feels the response from fans has waned. It used to be that "Hello Lou" was a deafening roar from the fans.
"Recently, it doesn't feel as many people say `Hello Lou' back," says Gellermann. "When it first began, it was really loud and sometimes REALLY, REALLY loud."
Gellermann has seen his share of great Husky moments that were egged on by a frenzied Husky crowd. One of those games, a personal favorite of Gellermann, was the 1990 upset over No. 3 USC that the Huskies won 31-0.
While the wins stand as his favorite games to announce (the Huskies were 101-35-2 during Lou's time as PA), it is the memory of a Husky loss that epitomizes the kind of announcer Gellermann is. He has always prided himself in his objectivity and that was never more put to the test during a 1985 loss to Oregon State.
"Oregon State scored after a blocked punt and they beat us 21-20 because the Huskies went for two points," recalls Gellermann. "My stomach turned into knots, yet I said `Touchdown Oregon State' like I was supposed to do. I think that (I've) been very even-handed, very fair and not a `homer' announcing. I'm proud of that."
Gellermann also takes a lot of pride in his press box team, which consists of himself and long-time spotters Bob Sifferman and Rick Smidt. Sifferman moved from his position as internal press box spotter with Gellermann in 1985, while Smidt was already in place as field PA spotter when Broyles retired. Gellermann is eternally grateful for their services that made his job much easier.
"Over the years in football, I've gotten an immense amount of help from my two spotters," credits Gellermann. "They have been incredible help and it truly has been a team effort."
While his press box team has never played a down of football on the fi eld at Husky Stadium, it has been an integral part of the game day experience for the last 23 years. On Saturday, Gellermann will be recognized as the Husky Legend during the 100th playing of the Apple Cup. It is an honor that is well deserved.
"It's humbling," says Gellermann about being honored on the field. "I'm a non-football player that is being mentioned among the Husky Legends, which is all football players. That's a pretty nice gift." It is only fitting that Gellermann receives this gift after he gave so much joy to Husky fans over the years.