Bill Marcroft, who served as the “voice of the Utes” for almost four decades, died Sunday morning at age 89, but not without leaving a positive effect on the Salt Lake City-area sports broadcasters who came after him.
In the late 1970s, Wesley Ruff was a political science major at BYU. One night, while Ruff was at home watching sports on television, longtime KUTV sports broadcaster Bill Marcroft appeared on the screen, and Ruff had a thought.
“It dawned on me that this is his job,” Ruff, the longtime sports director at Salt Lake City’s ABC affiliate, KTVX, laughingly told The Salt Lake Tribune on Sunday morning. “I thought people on TV had real jobs during the day and did that for fun at night. I would’ve done it for fun.”
Ruff followed up that revelation by looking to see if there was a sportscasting major at BYU. There wasn’t, but he was pleased to find a broadcasting major. Ruff changed his major the very next day.
While working to complete his BYU broadcasting major, Ruff wrote a letter to Marcroft in an effort to learn more about the profession. Ruff heard nothing back at first, but later he learned that the day he wrote the letter coincided with Marcroft going on vacation for two weeks. Marcroft did eventually call Ruff. At this time, it was 1980 and Ruff was freshly married. Marcroft invited Ruff to the station, showed him around, hung out, and answered his questions.
As Ruff built his career in this market, and as Marcroft morphed into a face of Utah athletics, that relationship stood the test of time.
“Bill was just always great to me,” Ruff said. “He was just one of those guys, a legend.”
Marcroft called Utah’s football games from 1968-2004. A 1952 University of Utah graduate, Marcroft called 440 Utah football games and 1,088 men’s basketball games, including the 1998 NCAA Championship game. The home radio broadcast booth at Rice-Eccles Stadium is named the Bill Marcroft Radio Booth in his honor. Marcroft also called Utah’s gymnastics meets on television for a number of years on KUTV and KJZZ.
A graduate of Salt Lake City’s now-defunct South High School, Marcroft joined the Air Force after graduating from Utah with a degree in theater in 1952 and got a job with Armed Forces radio and television in Tripoli, Libya. There, he called his first sporting event, the Air Force Championship, which was a football game played by military athletes.
After his military service, Marcroft began his career in local media at Salt Lake City’s ABC affiliate station, reporting on news, weather and sports. He then moved to KUTV as the station’s first weatherman and did play-by-play coverage for delayed broadcasts of local high school football and basketball games during the mid-1960s.
Marcroft began work on Utah athletics broadcasts in 1966, first as color commentator and eventually moved to the play-by-play seat. His first game as play-by-play voice for men’s basketball was Dec. 1, 1969, the first game played at the Huntsman Center, then known as the Sports and Special Events Center. Marcroft received the University of Utah’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2005 at the U’s Founder’s Day, and the Distinguished Service Award in 2014 from the Utah Sports Hall of Fame Foundation.
“I feel so blessed that I had the opportunity to visit with Bill on occasion, at a Utah event or at a charity function, where he never said no to being the emcee,” Utah athletic director Mark Harlan said in a statement. “He loved the Red Rocks, he was so kind, and just loved everything about Utah Athletics. Extending my condolences and wishing the best to his family during this difficult time.”
Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham and and men’s basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak also weighed in on Marcroft’s passing.
“So sad to hear the news of my good friend Bill Marcroft’s passing,” Whittingham said on Twitter. “He was an icon of Utah Athletics for so many years and leaves an incredible legacy behind. Sending love to his family. He will be greatly missed."
Krystkowiak tweeted: “We lost a great man with a great voice! RIP Bill Marcroft. You were a gentleman and a great sportsman. Thoughts and [prayers].”