The scene at the Thomas & Mack Center for the UNLV basketball team’s season opener Nov. 12 seemed a flashback from 20 years ago: carloads of Rebel supporters navigating the parking lot in search of a vacant space, fans outside the arena trying desperately to find a ticket to the nearly sold-out game, the stands packed with red-clad zealots cheering for their nationally ranked team. And Bob Blum would have loved every bit of it.
Blum was the godfather of Nevada broadcasters, calling more than 3,500 sporting events in a 70-year career that ended in July when he died at the age of 91. (He was especially devoted to the Lady Rebels, announcing their basketball games on radio for 27 seasons, including last year after he took it upon himself to raise the funds to finance the broadcasts.)
To honor Blum, who lived in Southern Nevada for nearly 40 years, UNLV is renaming the Thomas & Mack media room as the Bob Blum Media Center. It is a fitting tribute to a man who lived an amazing life that revolved around sports. Blum grew up down the street from legendary Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne in South Bend, Ind.; visited the set of the 1940 film Knute Rockne, All-American, which starred Ronald Reagan as George “The Gipper” Gipp; helped former high school English teacher John Wooden land the basketball coaching job at UCLA; recommended future NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle for his first job with the league, a public relations position with the Los Angeles Rams; won the first fantasy football league in 1963; and was a longtime friend of Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, who kept Blum on staff after becoming the team’s coach and general manager in 1963.
A 2007 inductee into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame, Blum was always interested in lending a helping hand, whether it was providing insight to a young journalist or giving guidance to a student-athlete. He rarely boasted about his fascinating life, although in 2009 he told the tales in his memoir, Started Talking at 11 Months … Still Talking.
UNLV sports information director Andy Grossman says the university wanted to establish a fitting, permanent tribute to Blum. “The people who will utilize that room during our games as members of the media really appreciate what Bob meant, in addition to the coaches and student-athletes and all the administration and staff that he worked with throughout the years,” Grossman says. “It’s the one place all of these people will come through at some point.”
Being around UNLV’s student-athletes helped keep Blum young at heart during his years in Southern Nevada. And it’s only fitting that he is being honored during a season in which the Rebels are back in the national spotlight.