In Their Words is a weekly feature appearing Sundays in The Blade's sports section. Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg talked with Tom Guitteau, who played football at St. Francis de Sales and the University of Toledo and was a radio color commentator for UT games.
Tom Guitteau's experiences on the local sports scene cover more than five decades, ranging from his days as a player and coach to a long career as a football commentator on radio.
Guitteau was a member of the first four-year graduating class at St. Francis de Sales High School where he played football for Bob Recker and Dick Mattingly. He was recruited by the University of Toledo's Harry Larche and played three varsity seasons (1960-62) as a two-way lineman for Clive Rush.
He spent a couple years as an assistant coach under Mattingly at St. Francis before moving to Rogers in the mid-1960s.
He is the only person in Rogers' history, and one of few in modern City League history, to serve as head coach in both football and basketball.
UT fans will better remember him, though, as the color commentator on UT football broadcasts from 1975-93. More recently, he returned to the broadcast booth as the color man for high school football games, primarily Central Catholic's games.
Guitteau was out of teaching and coaching by the late 1970s, when he went to work for Savage & Associates, Inc. Later, he moved to central Ohio and became regional vice president for Columbus Life Insurance. That didn't stop him, though, from hitting the road on weekends to broadcast UT games.
"In '93, I got home one Friday night from a weeklong trip, got up the next morning and drove to Kent in a driving rain," he recalled. "I was missing my stepson's soccer game. I thought about it [broadcasting] being a hobby, but it was ceasing to be fun. I made up my mind over the next couple weeks; that season was going to be it."
Guitteau moved back to Toledo after retiring from the insurance business and he has worked the last couple years in the pro shop at Heather Downs Country Club.
Two days ago, however, he started a new job. White-ord Valley Golf Club has reopened its North Course, and Guitteau is coordinating a volunteer operation out of Whiteford's old pro shop that will make it possible for all profits to go to Central Catholic.
"It's a new challenge and it's a good cause," Guitteau said. "We'll give it a shot."
Tom and his wife, Lynn, were married in 1988. Each has three children, and the couple have 11 grandchildren.
"DURING MY SENIOR year at UT, coach Rush approached me about being a graduate assistant coach the following year. My plans then were to get into college coaching, so I jumped at the chance. At the end of the year, though, I started losing sight in my left eye. Those were the days before the big cages on helmets. There were only two bars and I'd taken a thumb in the eye during a scrimmage my junior year. Then I'd been knocked dingy a couple times with concussions. It all led to nerve damage in my eye. I was laying in the hospital bed, and coach Rush walks in. He broke the news that he was leaving the university to coach with the [New York] Jets. I'd been offered $1,500 and room, board and tuition, but all we had was a handshake agreement on the grad assistant job. I met with the new coach, Frank Lauterbur, but he'd already filled his staff. He'd found a grad assistant who I learned later was going to work for nothing. Who? Carty Finkbeiner. It worked out OK, because coach Mattingly, God love him, hired me as an assistant, and I was the first St. Francis grad to return as a coach." [Because of further complications, doctors removed Guitteau's left eye in 1972.]
"TOM LYONS GOT the head football job at
Rogers in '65, and he asked me to be his top assistant. So I made that move. Will Collins was the basketball coach and he needed a JV coach, so I did that too. In September of '68, coach Collins had a bad ulcer, and the doctors said he shouldn't coach. So they called me in and asked if I'd be head basketball coach. It was a terrific experience. The only returning starter was Bill Brown, a junior, but if you're only going to have one starter back he was a pretty good one.
"The principal, Bob Schultz, was a former basketball coach and he told me that under the circumstances if we won five games the season would be a success. Oddly enough, we started 5-0. We beat Sylvania, coached by Jim McDonald, in OT when Bill scored 33 points and had 20 rebounds. We beat Macomber with Wardell Jackson at home. Of course, they came back and got us in the sectional tournament by about 40 points. But we wound up 10-10 without a senior in the lineup.
"Tommy retired after the 1970 football season, so I became head coach in that sport in '71. I had the job for three years. You know how they say losing builds character? We built a lot of character. But I was lucky to coach some neat kids and watching them grow into adults and become parents and seeing how well they've done has been a big thrill.
"AFTER I GOT out of coaching, I still went to a lot of games and often ran into Jerry Keil, who was sports director at WSPD. In the summer of '75 he said he needed some help on the broadcasts. So I started doing both high school and UT games that fall. We had a three-man booth at UT games for a couple years with Jerry, Bert Warrick, and me. Starting in '77, it was just the two of us, and we did it together through the '93 season. Jerry was a great guy, a terrific individual, very caring, and he's a wonderful friend to this day. We had a heck of a run.
"The game is so technical, and there's always going to be technical jargon. It was funny to look around the Glass Bowl during games and see how many fans had radios with them. But the thing I always tried to do was make it understandable for the listener who wasn't there, so they could close their eyes and envision what was happening.
"THE BEST PART of the job was the chance I got to spend time with the coaches. At UT, Jack Murphy, Chuck Stobart, Dan Simrell, Nick Saban and Gary Pinkel all gave me access to meetings and tapes and scouting reports. I knew all the things the opponent would try and how the Rockets would counter. I did a lot of preparation that way because it would make the broadcast so much better.
"The toughest thing I dealt with was when Danny Simrell was fired after the '89 season. Like Tom Amstutz, Dan embodied what being a Rocket football player and coach was all about. He was two years behind me at UT, and we were good friends. It was really tough when he was let go. The timing was terrible. He'd done as much as anybody to raise money for the renovation of the Glass Bowl, and he was let go before he could field a team in the new stadium.
"It wasn't right and, in retrospect, it may have been the beginning of the end for me doing games."