UD Arena PA announcer living a dream in 21 seasons at the mic

Jeff Stevens kept bringing energy in empty arena this season

Fans of the Dayton Flyers can’t see the name Scoochie Smith without hearing “Scoooochie Smith!” in their heads.

The same goes for the name Obi Toppin. “Obiiiii Toppppin!” will echo off the walls of UD Arena for years.

Jeff Stevens has immortalized those two memorable names — and many more — in 21 seasons as the public address announcer at UD Arena. He took over for Charlie Robinson, who had the job for 29 seasons (1971-2000). Robinson replaced John Marschall, who had called games since the days of the UD Fieldhouse, in UD Arena’s second season.

That makes Stevens only third PA announcer for Dayton men’s basketball games in the history of UD Arena. He will announce the Atlantic 10 Conference championship game on Sunday at UD Arena, and while Virginia Commonwealth and St. Bonaventure will be playing instead of Dayton, he looks forward to being back on the microphone for Dayton games next season — and hopefully in front of sold-out crowds.

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In his day job, Stevens works as a radio host for iHeartMedia stations. He hosts “The 80′s Show,” which airs on Saturday nights and is syndicated across the country. Stevens got his start in public-address announcing with the Dayton Dragons, and that experience led to the job at UD Arena.

A Tippecanoe High School graduate who still lives in Tipp City, Stevens spoke to the Dayton Daily News late last month about his experiences at UD Arena over the years. Here are some highlights from the interview:

On how he got the job before the 2000-01 season: I remember going into the arena, and I was sitting there with a VCR and probably a 13-inch TV monitor. They’re like, “We’re going to watch some video, and we want you to announce.” I hadn’t really followed the Flyers much. I didn’t know any of the players. Quite honestly, the screen was so bad, if it had been LeBron James, I wouldn’t have been able to tell. They said, “That’s Tony Stanley.” I said, “Tony Stanley for 3!” They said, “OK, Tony Stanley’s going to foul this guy.” I said, “Flyer foul is on Tony Stanley. His first, team fifth.” It was about 45 seconds, and they said, “Thanks for coming by.”

I walked out of the arena, and I was like, “There’s a job I will never have to worry about in my future.” This was a terrible audition. It was almost humorous. Then they called me a week later and said, “Hey, would you be the next PA voice of the Flyers?” I said, “Are you sure you called the right person? My audition wasn’t great.” They said, “We love what you do with the Dragons. We heard enough potential.” I was shocked.

On what the opportunity meant to him: I was a Flyer fan. I had grown up watching them. I wasn’t at games all the time, and I went to Bowling Green for college, so I was away for a while. I had gotten out of college and gone right into radio. I would always follow the Flyers, but I wasn’t a die-hard. I just always had an appreciation for what was going on with the program. To be asked was a crazy, amazing honor. I thought, “Holy cow, one guy’s been doing this for 30 years. Now they’re asking me. I do not want to mess this up.” So I dove in headfirst on the Flyer Faithful. I got there really quickly as far as living and breathing and bleeding Dayton basketball, and I’ve loved it ever since.

On the 29-2 season of 2019-20: There have been some incredibly special moments the last 21 years, but there’s never been anything close to the to the electricity of last year.

On how the job changed in a mostly empty arena this season: I do find there are times when there’s a really big 3 and we’ve pulled out in front by one toward the end of the game and my adrenaline’s going crazy and I’m hitting it just as hard and then I realize that I really can only hear my voice. Usually, that rush of the crowd comes right after that or during it. The crowd is so loud that I can’t even hear myself by the end of the end of the name. That’s definitely missing. I don’t push it any less. At least, I don’t think I do. But I thought I’m just going to go at it like the place is full and like it’s March Madness every day. I’m going to give it all that I can and and try to keep my energy up because honestly I think the players deserve that. They have so few things in a game that I think probably feels like last year. I did realize that I’m one of the few things that is part of what hopefully energizes them. I don’t want to let them down.

On his favorite story from 21 seasons: LeBron James is playing (at UD in 2003) his senior year of high school. The game’s over, and I announced the final score and that’s the game. LeBron comes right over to me and says, “Give me the mic.” I go, “I can’t just give you the mic.” I don’t know what he’s going to say, right? There’s 13,000 people in there. He goes, “Bro, give me the mic.” LeBron’s mom is sitting behind me, and she says, “Give him the mic.”

A UD official gave Stevens permission to give the microphone to James, who used the opportunity to thank the crowd and give the MVP trophy awarded to him to teammate Corey Jones instead.

I didn’t want to get in trouble. But It was totally fine. It was cool.

On his career goals: My dream was always to have some sort of syndicated radio show or be in a big market, and with technology, it’s kind of been able to happen without having to leave my home base. I thought I was going to have to move to Chicago or do something like that. Dayton is my home. This is where I want to be and to be able to be on the radio in other cities but not have to leave my hometown is is the coolest thing ever.

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