A new Voice of the Auburn Tigers: Andy Burcham rises to job he worked for all his life
AUBURN — Andy Burcham has been working toward this day since he was 6 years old.
He grew up listening to Hall of Fame broadcasters Harry Caray and Jack Buck call games for the St. Louis Cardinals, who played just 50 miles west of Burcham's hometown of Nashville, Illinois. The goal listed underneath his senior portrait in his high school yearbook is “To be the Voice of the St. Louis Cardinals.”
Burcham, of course, never did become the voice of his hometown baseball team. That career goal changed soon after he began attending college at Indiana State University, when he said he “started to understand the allure of being a voice of not just one sport, but many.”
And as of Monday, he is exactly that: The Voice of the Auburn Tigers. Starting with the 2019-20 athletics season, Burcham will take over as the lead play-by-play voice for Auburn football, men’s basketball and baseball, as well as the host of the weekly Tiger Talk radio show.
It’s the job he has wanted since he was in elementary school. The only thing he wishes is that the circumstances of how he got the job were different.
“It is with great humbleness and happiness that I take this job as the Voice of the Auburn Tigers. It is the worst possible way to do it, though,” Burcham said Monday after being introduced by athletic director Allen Greene and Auburn Sports Properties vice president and general manager Chris Davis.
“Rod Bramblett and Paula Bramblett were special friends of Jan (Burcham’s wife) and mine. They are missed to this very day, and that will never change.”
Rod Bramblett, who took over for the late Jim Fyffe as the Voice of the Auburn Tigers in 2003, died along with his wife, Paula, from injuries suffered in a car accident on May 25. "Roddy" and Burcham were not only broadcast partners and coworkers; they were friends. Brothers, even. Burcham and his wife have since welcomed Bramblett’s children, Shelby and Joshua, into their own family.
The idea of trying to find someone to replace Bramblett, of course, was “very difficult” Davis said — it’s not a conversation anyone ever wanted to have, not with him in the prime of his life and career at 53 years old. When it did come time to have that conversation, though, Davis said it was “really clear” who that person was going to be.
"Andy is a consummate professional who puts great preparation, execution and passion into his work. Most importantly, Andy is a man of great character who loves and cares deeply for Auburn and what it represents," Davis said. “He is well-respected not only in his profession, but by his coworkers, Auburn Athletics coaches and administration, and in the community. He understands the importance of this role."
It's one that Burcham honestly never expected to have at Auburn. He arrived on Sept. 17, 1988, rolling into town at halftime of the Tigers’ 57-6 dismantling of Kansas — Burcham remembers this because he got caught in the traffic caused by fans leaving Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The plan, at the time, was to spend no more than two years on the Plains. Burcham has since spent 31. He spent all of those years as the voice of the women’s basketball program. He spent the last 25 in the booth at Plainsman Park calling baseball games with Bramblett.
When Davis officially offered him the job as Voice of the Auburn Tigers this past Wednesday, Burcham said he was overwhelmed. “I probably had to pick my chin off the floor,” he said.
“I’ve lived longer in Auburn/Opelika than I’ve lived anywhere in my life including Nashville, Illinois, and I was there for about 11 years before I went off to college. So this is now my new home,” Burcham said. “You learn to appreciate it. I had never been to a venue as large as Jordan-Hare Stadium until I came to my first game, which was Auburn-Tennessee in 1988. Never been in a stadium that had 87,000 crazy football fans, and I quickly learned the passion, the grandeur of a Saturday afternoon or Saturday evening in the Southeastern Conference, and that’s something I certainly will not take for granted.”
Burcham said he will draw from all of his experiences as he takes on a new challenge in broadcasting — the influence of legends such as Caray, Buck and St. Louis Blues announcer Dan Kelly; the work ethic learned from his first boss in the business, Mike Reis, who is the voice for the Southern Illinois Salukis; the ability to set a scene on a football Saturday the way Fyffe did; and the combination of incredible preparation and passion showcased by Bramblett during all their years working together.
As to whether he will carry on the tradition of calling out, “Touchdown, Auburn!” during football games the way Bramblett and Fyffe did, however, Burcham couldn’t say for sure on Monday.
“That’s a good question. I’ve gotten that a lot today,” Burcham said. “You know, when Rod took the helm for Jim, I don’t think he intended for that to be part of his call. Of course, Rod didn’t get to call an Auburn touchdown for three games his first year. It was into that Vanderbilt game before he got the opportunity. I can’t tell you exactly if I will or not. I’m not ruling it out of the question at this point, but if I do it, it’s going to be something that is organic, so to speak. I’m not going to do it just because Jim and Rod did it. It’ll be something that I feel is needed at that point.”
While Burcham doesn’t know that, he does know the enormity of the position he is now in, and the importance it holds to Auburn University athletics and the community as a whole. And in case he had forgotten, his mother made sure to remind him Sunday night, telling him, “Oh, the pressure is on you.”
Burcham understands. He’s been working toward this since he was 6 years old. And with the final words of his introductory statement Monday, he promised Greene, Davis and everyone else in Auburn that, “I will not let you down.”
“Auburn means a great deal to me, and I understand that this job is not just the voice of Auburn football, men’s basketball and baseball. It’s a voice for Auburn,” Burcham said. “It’s something that I’ve never taken for granted in 31 years, and it’s something that I will not take for granted in the future. I am ecstatic about this. I get more excited about this position with every passing day.
“I’m ready for this job. I’m ready to take the reins from Rod and Jim.”