Basketball, 1945-47; Broadcaster, 1950-85
Inducted March 1, 1986
Vern Hawkins was a basketball letterman for the Bears of Coach Andy McDonald in the 1945-46 and 1946-47 seasons and played on the 47 team which posted an 18-4 record and finished as the MIAA runnerup. The Buffalo native started at guard on the 1946 team and injured a knee which forced him to miss much of the following campaign. He jokingly refers to himself as “probably the worst regular starting player in the history of the University.” Hawkins’ accomplishments were certainly not limited to on-the-court performance, as he began, in 1950, a career in sports play-by-play broadcasting that would rank in longevity with virtually any in the profession. Starting with the Bob Vanatta era in basketball, Hawkins was the “Voice of the Bears” through the years of Eddie Matthews, Bill Thomas, Bob Cleeland, and to the present with Charlie Spoonhour and he has been at the microphone for more than half of all the basketball games SMSU has played in its history, more than 800 altogether. Working for radio station KWTO through most of those years and doing the games by himself, Hawkins was at courtside for the Bears’ back-to-back NAIA national championship triumphs in 1952 and 1953; into the days of the first Division II excellence in the late 1950’s and then again in the 1960’s and 1970’s; and into the Division I transition. He also broadcast SMSU football for many seasons over a 35-year period, doing games for eight SMSU coaches, including Fred Thomsen, Bill Dellastatious, Harold Stratton, Aldo Sebben, Orville Pottenger, Jim Mentis, Don Cross and Rich Johanningmeier. Hawkins was at the microphone for the first SMSU football game ever televised, aired on KYTV in 1953. He was the news director at KWTO for many years, presenting a nightly sports show, “Spotlight on Sports.” He stepped aside from the play-by-play chores after the 1984-85 year after having himself been the subject of countless interviews, articles and inquiries about his years of broadcasting the Bears.