Last December, just on the verge of Christmas, the great minds at Clear Channel decided to dump several of the talent and voices heard on 790 KBME and the 740 KTRH sports segments. One of those so unceremoniously dumped was longtime Houston sportscaster Tom Franklin. But Franklin hasn't entirely left the Houston airwaves as he's still the voice of Houston Cougar sports. And will be until the end of this sports season.
But come June, things are up in the air.
"Usually," Franklin said, "what ISP [the company that broadcasts the Cougar games] does, is look at the matter when the contract -- technically I'm employed through June the 1st -- although I won't be doing any events after the basketball games. The early indications are that there won't be any problems and [a new contract] will be done."
There are, however, no indications or feelers of any new positions on any of Houston's other, numerous, sports stations. But Franklin's not worried about that, yet. In fact, he's been in preliminary discussions with Mack Rhoades and the University of Houston for an expanded role with the school.
Rhoades has "got bigger fish to fry right now than worrying about me," Franklin said. "So my timetable is not necessarily his timetable for getting something done. But we've had some nice, initial talks."
Franklin's a Cougar alum, and he got his broadcast beginnings at KUHF back when KUHF actually allowed students to work at the station. So being the voice of the football team as it has reentered the national conscious has been one of the high points of his career.
"Traveling around with Bum Philips for four years [Philips' was Franklin's analyst on Oiler radio broadcasts] , I can't put a price tag on all that stuff. I never thought I would have an experience that would top that. But being back here, being at my alma mater, where I got my start in radio...coming back here, and the way I've been received here over the past six years, I can't put words to that."
Franklin has had to make adjustments in play-by-play work in that ISP and the Cougars now have him working solo on the team's basketball broadcasts. Luckily, he finds it easy to handle.
"It's not very hard to do basketball," he said. "Because the pace of the game, especially with the way Tom [Penders] plays it, with more tempo involved, basketball is pretty easy to do that way. I would like to have a second pair of eyes because I tend to be ball-focused, and where the ball is where most of my attention lies. And I'd like to have a second pair of eyes to see all 10 players at one time. And lend that kind of perspective to it. But with basketball, you can do very easily. And if you look around the NBA, you see a lot of NBA teams going to single broadcasters. So it seems to be the norm, rather than the abnorm as far as basketball is going nowadays. Basketball, of all the sports, is the easiest to do by yourself."
But Franklin's play-by-play expertise extends to more than just the Cougars. In his work with the Houston Oilers, Franklin was behind the microphone for one of the most infamous games in NFL playoff history. The game known as The Comeback, where Buffalo came back from a 35-3 deficit to defeat the Oilers 41-38 in overtime.
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"I hate January the 3rd every year because I see it no matter where I go," Franklin said. (The game does seem to be in constant rotation on the NFL Network.)
And Franklin can still remember that moment when he first realized that everything was going wrong. That moment when he first thought the Oilers would blow the game.
"I think the onside kick that Steve Christie recovered," Franklin said. "That really was the one that first made me go, uh oh, this one really could slip away. Until that point in time, that thought never entered my mind."
The lights might have been turned off on the Oilers after that game, but they're not yet out on Franklin and his radio career in Houston. If ISP comes through, he'll be returning next season as the voice of the Cougars, and hopefully, he'll have an even bigger role with the teams and his school than he's ever had before.