On game days, the fans, players, coaches, officials and other staff members all contribute to the atmosphere during sporting events. One of those factors that might be overlooked is the person whose voice rings in the air the most throughout the game — the public address announcer.
JP Kyhn works for KX96.9, a country radio station serving the Lincoln area. He’s got another job too; he’s the public address announcer for Nebraska soccer and men’s basketball, though he started with women’s basketball in 2013.
“A friend of mine worked as the PA announcer for women’s basketball and said that I would be a good fit to replace him when he left,” Kyhn said. “I just worked up the ranks and went from women’s to men’s.”
That shift occurred following the 2017 season, at which point Connor Happer took over PA duties for Nebraska women’s basketball. Happer said he heard about the opening after receiving an email from the university. He went to a tryout and ended up receiving the job.
Happer also has a radio background, working for the Lincoln sports station, 93.7 The Ticket. He said the biggest difference between his duties on air and his duties as a PA announcer is that the latter is more straightforward.
“What I do is sports talk, and that’s a little more free-flowing,” he said. “You get to bring in your own ideas, a personality to the table. I think there’s a little bit of that with the PA stuff, but not a whole lot.”
Kyhn said he found the biggest difference between his role at the station and his PA duties is that much of what he says as the PA is scripted.
“With the radio station, we come up with all of our original content, telling a story and having a conversation about it,” he said.
On game days, Happer usually arrives an hour-and-a-half ahead of time, while Kyhn typically gets there two hours early. Happer said the first thing he does is check for game notes, specifically pronunciation guides for the visiting team, which he goes over before taking a break for food.
If there are any special activities — for example, one of the players recently cracked the 1,000-point milestone and was recognized for that — he’ll look over that, too.
Kyhn’s preparation begins earlier in the week, when the director of fan experience sends over a rough draft of the script for the upcoming game. The final script usually comes the day before the game or the day of, and Kyhn looks over the final script to check for any last-minute changes.
Around 45 minutes before tipoff, members from the scorer’s table, including the PA announcer, scoreboard operators, score and time keepers and replay operators, meet with officials to make sure everyone is on the same page.
From there, they handle starting lineups as well as any announcements or sponsor reads throughout the game. Other duties during the game include following along with the action as it unfolds and announcing fan games or giveaways like the dash for cash or half-court shot.
Happer said PA announcers don’t work with the team in any capacity during road games, but he pays attention to them when they hit the road. He also said he pays more attention to women’s basketball in general than he did before becoming the PA announcer.
Despite working two jobs, Happer and Kyhn both said there’s not much conflict between their on-air duties and PA announcer responsibilities. Happer said a big reason for this is the team often plays during the weekend, which doesn’t really affect his job at the radio station.
“There are a couple of times during the week where I’ll have to leave my show a little bit early and get down there,” he said. “Then there’s a couple postgame shows that I’ve missed with Nebraska football, but outside of that they don’t necessarily interfere a whole lot. It’s kind of nice.”
Kyhn said he’s able to avoid conflict because he serves as the program director for his station during the mornings.
“I get up at 4 a.m. every day to do the morning show from 5-10,” he said. “Then on game days I’d be able to cut out of work early and go home, have some downtime, take a nap, get a workout in and then get myself down there. My job leaves plenty of room for me to do both and not have myself be hampered.”
Both said an aspect of their roles as PA announcers they enjoy is helping set the tone and contribute to the atmosphere on game days.
Kyhn said he would encourage people interested in becoming a PA announcer to be willing to step out of their comfort zone. He also noted it’s important for them to be able to read aloud and think on the fly.
“Improv is a big thing,” he said. “I think being able to speak on the fly is important, especially in broadcasting and radio. You want to find your own character. You want to bring your own energy into any situation, whether it’s acting on stage or doing a radio show or being a PA announcer. You have to be willing to be a performer.”
Happer’s advice for people interested in becoming a PA announcer is to be energetic and make sure you don’t mess up on the basics, like pronouncing a name incorrectly.
“That’s your primary job, getting everything straightened out as far as the names are concerned,” he said. “It’s an important part to the player experience and the fan experience as well. Make sure you have everything nailed down and get it all right, and most of all make sure you bring enthusiasm to the table and I think it will all work out.”