One of the more remarkable streaks in LSU sports history is coming to an end.
Longtime play-by-play announcer Jim Hawthorne will miss at least Saturday’s showdown between the No. 4 Tigers and No. 7 Alabama after undergoing what school officials termed a successful medical procedure Friday.
Hawthorne, 71, who announced earlier this year that this football season would be his last, is resting comfortably at home, LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette said.
Hawthorne has called 387 straight LSU football games since becoming the school’s play-by-play announcer in 1984. He also was part of two seasons on LSU’s radio team before that.
His plan has been to retire from broadcasting at the end of the basketball season this spring.
“I appreciate all of the wonderful thoughts, prayers and well-wishes from LSU fans,” Hawthorne said in an LSU statement. “The show of support has been overwhelming. It’s truly humbling to have so many people call, email and send text messages asking how I’m doing. I can’t respond to all of them, but they are very much appreciated.”
Longtime LSU women’s basketball play-by-play announcer Patrick Wright will call Saturday’s 7 p.m. game at Bryant-Denny Stadium but could be pressed into service for more games later this season. Wright has served as statistician for LSU’s football broadcast team since 1994.
LSU radio sideline reporter and former Tiger Gordy Rush is set to host Les Miles’ radio show in Hawthorne’s place at 7 p.m. Wednesday from T.J. Ribs.
Hawthorne’s replacement as LSU’s main play-by-play announcer, Chris Blair, is unable to fill in because he is wrapping up his season as the voice of Georgia Southern’s football broadcasts. Georgia Southern’s last game is scheduled for Dec. 5.
Blair is scheduled to begin his on-air duties in February with LSU baseball.
Wright, who began calling LSU women’s basketball games in 1991, has experience calling LSU spring games and high school contests, but this will be his first job calling the Tigers in a regular-season game.
“One of the things Jim talks about is we’re a team, the football/basketball/baseball crew,” Wright said. “I’m doing my part to step up and keep the team in order. My role is to help the team, and that’s what I’m doing.”
Knowing over the weekend he would likely be called on to fill in for Hawthorne, Wright said he spent LSU’s open date Saturday practicing while watching college games on TV.
“I’m excited and nervous all at once for the attention this game brings,” he said. “But I think I’m ready.”
Alabama play-by-play announcer Eli Gold expressed disappointment that his longtime friend won’t be making the trip.
“You’re not going to find a nicer guy,” Gold said. “I hate to hear that, but thank God his procedure was successful. That’s the most important thing.”
Gold said Hawthorne and legendary Tennessee broadcaster John Ward were two of the SEC broadcasters he first got to know when he began calling Alabama games in 1988.
“Jim and I have been friends for a long time,” he said. “I love listening to him. You’ll be coming back from a game, and I’d catch him and Doug (Moreau, LSU color analyst).”
Hawthorne’s case is the latest in a series of health issues that has marked LSU’s football season.
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron underwent treatment for prostate cancer in August but recovered and hasn’t missed any games.
Miles fell ill shortly before his first Monday media luncheon of the season in late August and was checked out at a local hospital before returning to practice that afternoon. Miles said he felt unwell after drinking too much coffee.
Hawthorne called his final LSU baseball season earlier this year, wrapping up with another trip to the College World Series. Hawthorne has called every game in the Tigers’ 17 trips to Omaha since 1986.
“They don’t make ’em like this anymore,” Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel wrote during this year’s CWS, “a broadcaster who does three major sports and has for more than 30 years. Amazing career. Interesting life.”
In football, Hawthorne has called 22 bowl games, including LSU’s victories in the 2004 Sugar Bowl over Oklahoma to win the BCS national championship and the Tigers’ win in the 2008 BCS National Championship Game over Ohio State in New Orleans.
In basketball, he called LSU’s trips to the 1981, 1986 and 2006 Final Fours.
Hawthorne is the recipient of the 2015 Chris Schenkel Award for excellence in broadcasting.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.