Gary Bender

Gary Bender spent more than 40 years in sports broadcasting, covering nearly 30 sports, including college football and basketball, the 1988 Olympics, and professional league football, basketball and baseball. Throughout his career in sportscasting, Bender was known for his research, preparedness and accuracy in his commentary.  

 A coach’s son, his passion for sports began on his family’s farm near Ulysses, Kansas, where he spent long hours on the tractor. He used his vivid imagination to create and narrate play-by-play for games. Bender attended the University of Wichita on a football scholarship, and played fullback and defensive back positions until a shoulder injury took him off the field. Apart from sports, he acted in or worked as a crew member for several campus plays. He was also a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, where he participated in Hippodrome and served as treasurer. He eventually worked for KMUW, the university’s radio station, and covered Shocker football games.  

Bender attended graduate school at the University of Kansas, and served as the Voice of the Jayhawks before working for radio stations in Hutchinson and Topeka. In 1969, Bender moved to Wisconsin, having accepted a role as the sports director of a Madison television station. His big break came a year later when he was hired as the voice of the Green Bay Packers.  

 Over the course of his national broadcasting career Bender worked with many industry greats including John Madden, Johnny Unitas, Sonny Jurgensen, Bill Russell, Reggie Jackson, Dick Vermeil, Al Michaels and Billy Packer. In 1975, Bender joined CBS doing play-by-play for the professional sports leagues and college sports. Two of his most memorable broadcasted games include the 1975 Cowboys vs. Vikings “Hail Mary” football game won on Cowboy Roger Staubach’s completed pass, and the 1982 NCAA Final Four basketball championship game decided by freshman Michael Jordan’s winning shot for the North Carolina Tarheels.  

 After 12 years at CBS, Bender began broadcasting for ABC, calling professional football and baseball games. In 1991, he became the lead announcer for TNT Sunday Night Football and NBA basketball. Bender soon moved on to Fox Sports Network, where he called play-by-play for the Phoenix Suns for 18 years, and covered his last game for the team in 2011. For many years in the Suns’ offseason, he called radio play-by-play for the St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears. 

Bender won three Emmys for his work in sportscasting. His book “Call of the Game,” shares broadcasting tips he learned firsthand. In 2008, Bender was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, and in 2012, the Kansas Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. He received the President's Medal from Wichita State University in 2013. 

Bender is a 1962 graduate of the University of Wichita with a bachelor’s degree in speech. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Kansas in radio-television-film studies.