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Q&A with Mick Hubert, the voice of the Gators, whose retirement ends stellar 33-year run

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When Mick Hubert was 9 years old, long before becoming the iconic voice of the Florida Gators, he worked on Illinois farms, separating seeds for growers who rotated corn and bean crops. He baled hay, then mowed greens and raked sand traps at a golf course, and also worked at a vinyl flooring manufacturer.

“Always had a job,” he said.

This week, at age 68, he’ll be without a job for the first time in six decades. Hubert informed Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin that he intends to retire. That ends a 33-year run as the school’s play-by-play announcer, a stretch of 2,500 broadcasts and six national championships spanning football, basketball and baseball.

Hubert spoke with The Athletic about the circumstances that brought him to Gainesville and the introspection that has him at peace about leaving the booth as he and his wife relocate to Sarasota.

There are jobs you’re confident you can get, and then there are jobs you merely hope to get. What was your mindset when you applied at Florida in 1989?

I had a really good job at WHIO radio and TV in Dayton, Ohio — the No.1 station in Ohio. After three years there I wanted to go back to my alma mater, Illinois State, to do play-by-play for the Redbirds. I wanted that job badly. But the guy at the radio station there said, “Mick, you’re over-qualified. This is a little, small-town market, and you’d only be here a year or two and then you’d go somewhere bigger.” He wanted to hire someone he could have for 25 years, so he turned me down.

I kept trying and sending out tapes. I applied for many NBA jobs and failed to get any of them.

I had a three-year contract at WHIO, and then another three-year contract, and then I told them I didn’t want to sign yet another three-year deal, so they gave me a one-year deal. I ended up having four consecutive one-year contracts until I got to my 10th year and they were getting a little tired of that.

Then one day a buddy of mine brings in a broadcasting magazine — I don’t even know if they print those anymore — and in the back there are want ads. He says, “Mick, Mick, Mick — you’ve got to apply for this job. It’s the voice of the Florida Gators.” And I told him, “They ain’t going to hire me. I don’t know anybody there. I grew up in Illinois, and I’m working in Ohio, I’m not southern.” But he kept saying, “You’ve got to send them a tape.”

Danny Wuerffel and Chris Doering rallies the Gators at Kentucky (1993)


A fortuitous bit of prodding, for sure. Still, your tape was among 150 submitted by candidates seeking to replace Gators play-by-play announcer David Steele.

Yes, that was in early March, and I’m doing NCAA Tournament games for ESPN. And because I’m working an hour north of Cincinnati, we also always went to spring training with the Reds. so I was in Plant City, Fla., for two weeks. The month of March just zoomed by and I didn’t follow up with Florida. Next thing I know, it’s April, and David Steele calls to say, “Mick, I don’t know if you’re interested, but we’re interested in you.” I told him I was extremely interested but that I had just been busy doing my own job. He told me he was screening tapes and that I was in their top five and probably the primary guy they were looking at.

I went down to Gainesville on April 27, 1989, interviewed with (then-senior associate athletic director) Jeremy Foley and AD Bill Arnsparger, and it went well. I got back home on the 28th, around 2 or 3 in the morning, and my wife was a teacher, so after I sent her off to school around 7:45 am, I went back to bed. I was tired. I was used to doing television sports at night. I wasn’t a morning person. So then the phone rings, waking me up, and there’s this gravelly voice. “Hey, this is Coach Arnsparger. Well, do you want to be a Gator?” And I’m half-asleep thinking, “Who? Que?” Then I realized who I was speaking to, and the answer was, “Yes, sir.”


In April of 1989, Mick Hubert interviewed with Jeremy Foley and AD Bill Arnsparger. After receiving a job offer (and wakeup call) from Arnsparger, Hubert embarked on a fulfilling 33-year career as the play-by-play announcer for the Gators. (Piper Hansen/UAA Communication)

You paid homage to Dick Enberg with the “Oh my!” call. What other broadcasters did you emulate?

I grew up in tiny St. Anne, Ill. A town maybe the size of Waldo, Fla., with no stoplights, no chain restaurants. But my older sister briefly dated a boy from a nearby town like 15 miles away, and he became the voice of the Chicago Bulls — guy by the name of Jim Durham. He’s the greatest basketball play-by-play announcer I’ve ever heard. Most of my stuff about court descriptions, analysis and the game — I stole it from Jim Durham, who did Michael Jordan’s first championship in Chicago and later worked for the Dallas Mavericks.

Growing up in the Chicago area, I also listened to Jack Brickhouse going ‘Hey! Hey!’ every time the Cubs would hit a home run. Of course, Harry Caray would say, ‘Holy cow!’ So my family always said, “Mick if you’re going to be a sportscaster, you’ve got to come up with a catchphrase,” and I didn’t have one. Heck. I was still in school at the time.

So one of my mentors at Illinois State gets a job in Ventura, Calif., goes out to the West Coast and starts listening to Dick Enberg call the Rams game on KNBC in LA. He sends back these cassette tapes and I’m listing to Enberg go “Oh my” and immediately I’m thinking, “That’s it! That’s it. I can use that.” So I started using “Oh my” when I got a job in Peoria doing Bradley Braves basketball and I went on to use it with the Dayton Flyers and then here at Florida. Dick was primarily using it as a TV guy. TV is called a cool medium and radio’s a hot medium because you have to talk more and describe more, and I have a different inflection of it. So I’m a blend of those Midwestern voices I grew up listening to as a 7-, 8- and 9-year-old kid with a transistor radio by my ear laying on the pillow. Every night I’d go to sleep listening to a game.

Jarvis Moss blocks South Carolina FG in The Swamp (2006)

You referenced a spiritual pull associated with opting to retire at this time. I think many of us sense those types of urgencies, though it’s difficult to leave jobs that are comfortable.

I don’t want to give the pandemic any credit at all for this. COVID did not enter into Mick Hubert’s decision to get out. I wasn’t part of the Great Resignation and all that. But I will say this: When I wasn’t working during the pandemic, I’d go out walking the neighborhood and I’d listen to the podcasts of my pastor in Sarasota, Brother Keith Moore. He’s a tremendous Bible teacher, and when I’m out walking, I’m listening to him preach sermons for an hour-and-a-half every singe day. I started to get to where I could hear the Holy Spirit, and you have to understand it’s not an audible voice. God speaks to you in your heart and your gut. I kept praying about this over many, many months.

I’m just being obedient to the Holy Spirit. This is the greatest, most exciting journey of faith that I’ve ever embarked upon. The Bible says it’s impossible to please God without faith. I’m stepping out in faith and relying on Him to tell me what the next step is because I have no clue what I’m going to do. But I’m not worried about it. I’m at great peace with this.

As many have told me, “You’re going to find out that there’s a whole lot of people in the world that couldn’t give a flip about college football on a Saturday afternoon.” I’m excited about the next phase and being able to serve the Lord a little bit more than I have.

Now that your wife, Judi, has been retired from teaching for a year, you’ve absorbed what that step meant to her. What was her input and guidance from her as you made this decision?

My wife has sacrificed her whole life. We met in high school and there have been so many family reunions, anniversaries and weddings where I wasn’t around. Mick wasn’t there because the Gators had me here, there and everywhere. I enjoyed that career, but I missed out on so much stuff. Now it’s important I don’t miss out on any more.

There are the people on the verge of retiring who tell me, “I’m so happy for you.” And there’s the other camp of people who have been retired for three or four years and they tell me, “You’re going to love it.” Not one person I talked to said they made a mistake or they should’ve kept on working. Everyone has been enthusiastic.

Chris Leak to Dallas Baker helps Gators beat Ohio State for the 2006 BCS title

Was there anything to be learned from a legend like Larry Munson, who kept working in the booth until health problems forced him out at age 86? You’re relatively young and haven’t lost a step.

I think I’ve still got my fastball, but I wanted to go out on my own terms. I didn’t want to be called in five years from now and be told that “you’ve lost a little and we’re going to go in a different direction.” I thought I might work into my Larry Munson years and my Jack Cristil years, but that changed. Only God can change your heart on that.

For years Judi and I would go to the beach at Siesta Key down by Sarasota, enjoying our off time in the summer. I always said, when Aug. 1 rolls around and I’m not chomping at the bit to go back and get ready for football season, then something is wrong. And I’ll know it. I told myself that when I was 50, and 55, 60 and 65. Coming back last August, I had to get over the hurdle. For the first time, it was a struggle. I still had fun doing the games, and I had no clue that we were going to crash and burn, but there was a hurdle. I can’t be dishonest with myself.

What advice would you give your successor?

You have to be willing to do the grunt work, the minute stuff, that helps you prepare. Everything I did Monday through Friday in the football season, I was building something that might materialize in Saturday’s broadest or it might not. You have to want to prepare. It’s not about the red light coming on and getting to perform on Saturday. You’ve got to bust it every single day and get ready.

I also would say the next person has to have the “it” factor. If I listen to 100 tapes, I could get rid of 90 of them in 90 minutes because you either have the talent or you don’t. I can either hear that ability or I can’t.

You’ve got to be entertaining, you’ve got to have credibility, voice, command, pacing and diction. And you’ve got to intertwine your personality.

Tyree Cleveland catches a 63-yard Hail Mary to stun Tennessee in 2017

Is there a Mick’s man cave in Sarasota suitable for watching football and basketball games?

We have a pool setup with an outdoor TV. And there are a lot of Gator fans in Sarasota, so I can know as much about the Gators as I need to, or as little. I’ll always be a Gators fan, but I might miss some games because I have the right to miss them now.

(Top photo: Courtney Mims/UAA Communications)

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