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(From right to left) Paul Loeffler broadcasting with former Fresno State football head coaches Tim DeRuyter and Pat Hill. (Christian Ortuno/The Collegian)

From Los Banos to the limelight: Paul Loeffler’s journey to being the voice of the Bulldogs

Paul Loeffler, the melodious voice of the Bulldogs, remembers a time when his voice was not so smooth. In fact, it may have been a little high-pitched when he was a young rookie announcing youth football.

“The story I always tell is I’m 12 years old, I’m announcing a game, and, in between, somebody walks up to this press box, opens the door,” Loeffler said. “He looks inside. He looks all the way around at five, six people in there. He looks all confused, and he says, ‘Well I don’t know where she went, but when that girl comes back, tell her she’s doing a great job announcing the game.’”

Loeffler, 40, got his start in announcing when he was watching a 49ers game with his father at their home in Los Banos and could not keep quiet. The announcer said something that Loeffler knew was wrong.

Loeffler told his father, “That guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” His father laughed at him, and responded, “Well, if you think you can do better, maybe you should be a sports announcer.”

His father told him to get on his bike, and they rode a few blocks to the home of a man who did all of the sports announcing in Los Banos. Loeffler’s father asked if Paul could follow him around and help out.

Loeffler started by acting as a spotter, looking through binoculars to see which players were involved in a play. Within a few weeks, Loeffler was already announcing Pop Warner football games.

When it came time for Loeffler to go to college, he only applied to one school, Syracuse, because he heard it was the best school for broadcast journalism. He graduated in 1998 with a dual major in broadcast journalism and policy studies. After he graduated, he applied for a job at a TV station in Syracuse, but did not get it.

“I was kind of bummed,” Loeffler said. “I graduated, don’t have a job, coming back here, but I tell everybody that God’s plans are always better than mine, and I see that reflected in a lot of things that have happened in my life.”

Not getting the job was a blessing in disguise. Loeffler returned to Los Banos, and his father passed away three months later. If he had stayed in Syracuse, he would not have had those last three months with his dad.

After returning home, Loeffler was hired in Fresno at CBS 47, where he worked for 10 years. On the side, he hosted a cable show called the “Bulldog Wire.” Fresno State students in what was then called the mass communications and journalism department worked on the show’s production, which is how Loeffler met his wife, Tonia, a Fresno State student at the time.

While at Channel 47, Loeffler started to air segments telling veterans’ stories. His interest in veterans comes from his grandfather, a World War II veteran. His grandfather never told his story before, which got Loeffler thinking about all the other veterans who had never told their stories. 

Loeffler started broadcasting Fresno State baseball games in 2001 in addition to his television job. In 2008, Loeffler wanted to quit his job at CBS and turn what he started to do with veterans on TV into a syndicated TV show, but he had to finish the baseball season on radio first. It turned out to be a very special season.

“That’s when they won the College World Series, which they had no business doing,” Loeffler said.

Unbeknownst to Loeffler, Fresno State was searching for the next football and basketball voice to take over for longtime broadcaster Bill Woodward, who was retiring.

When the Bulldogs won the College World Series, everything changed. Fresno State offered Loeffler the position of voice of the Bulldogs after hearing his call of the championship season.

“To me, that was God’s plan being better than mine, where I got to do all three sports, keep interviewing veterans — just do it on the radio — and have a lot more time with my family than I had when I was in TV,” Loeffler said.

He took over Fresno State basketball in 2008 and started calling football for the 2009 season. Along with his “Hometown Heroes” radio show, Loeffler helped start the Central Valley Honor Flight, which sent its first group of veterans to Washington in 2013.

Loeffler has worked with many color analysts for football, basketball and baseball. Some of them were former coaches, some of them players and some of them longtime broadcasters. Loeffler said he has learned a lot from all of them.

Marc Q. Jones, commonly known as Coach Q, joined Loeffler as the color analyst for the 2016-17 basketball season.

Jones considers Loeffler a “bona fide genius,” and said this is the most fun he has had in his over 20 years of being around organized basketball.

“And Paul really helped settle me down and say, ‘Hey man, I’m going to work with you. Don’t worry about anything. We’re going to make it.’ He just reassured me,” Jones said. “When he figured out how to help me, he stepped in and did that.”

Jones said that Loeffler is now a close friend and considers him a teammate. He said Loeffler has a very strong moral compass. During broadcasts, he sometimes wonders how Loeffler thought of the words to describe what they just saw, which shows how talented Loeffler is.

“He always says ‘God’s plans are better than ours,’” Jones said. “That’s his thing. God’s plans are better than ours. And that story on how he ended up becoming the voice of Fresno State, I think he had no idea that was coming his way. Even if you don’t believe in God, you’ve got to admire someone who walks the walk that he talks.”

Before working with Jones, Loeffler worked basketball with longtime broadcaster Randy Rosenbloom.

“He’s a consummate professional,” Rosenbloom said. “He’s very solid. He’s unbelievably well-prepared. He’s as smart as anyone I’ve ever worked with. I’ve been in the business a lot of years, and I’ve worked with the best in the business. He’s as good an interviewer as I’ve ever been around.”

Rosenbloom said that Loeffler was a model of consistency, was prepared for the job from Day One and never had a weakness or a hole in his broadcasting.

“It’s not all about just calling the games on the air,” Rosenbloom said. “You want the right image, and Paul gives you a great image. He’s the perfect image for any university.”

It is not uncommon for former athletes to move into the broadcast booth. However, Loeffler competed in the national spelling bee as a child, and may be the only former competitor who is broadcasting the event for ESPN. His mom encouraged him and his sister to compete, and in 1990 he tied for 13th place in the nation.

In 2006, Loeffler received a call from a producer from ABC Sports asking if he would be interested in joining the broadcast team for the spelling bee.

“I don’t know how long I was silent, but I’m thinking, ‘OK, which one of my college roommates is this trying to prank me?’” Loeffler said.

It was a legitimate call, and Loeffler said his theory as to why he was chosen is because he must have been the only ex-spelling bee competitor who was broadcasting on television somewhere.

Along with the College World Series, Loeffler has had many great moments as the voice of the Bulldogs. One of his favorite moments was during the 2009 football season when Fresno State played at Illinois.

The Bulldogs were attempting a 2-point conversion at the end to win a back-and-forth game. Loeffler was also broadcasting basketball at the same time, and he had a cold, so his voice was getting hoarse. The play broke down and went horribly wrong, but an offensive lineman caught a tipped pass to score the game-winning two points, which made Loeffler very excited. His excitement led to his voice cracking during the call.

“It was so awesome the way they won the game,” Loeffler said. “So then Sports Center takes my call of that [2-point conversion] and blasts it all over the place, so all of my old college buddies are texting me and calling me and making fun of me for my voice cracking all over the place.”

Although his job requires much traveling, he has built up many frequent flier miles and is sometimes able to take his family on trips, or just one of his daughters.  

“Obviously, being away from your family is the downside of the job,” Loeffler said. “In the summer, I’m not away at all. They’re off from school, and I’m home, and I don’t have any games. But if I can turn a weekend where I’m supposed to be away from the family into taking them or one of them with me, then to me that’s like a win-win.”

Loeffler said that if his priorities are not in the order of God, wife, kids and then job, something is out of order. The travel can be a burden on Tonia, and he wishes people knew the great job she does with keeping the family stable when he’s on the road.

“A lot of times, people will come up and say nice things to me and compliment my work or something like that,” Loeffler said. “And if I could, I would pass all those off to her.”

Loeffler is very happy with where he is now and said he does not think there is a better job for him in the country.

“I believe that God has a plan, and his plan’s better than mine, that his timing is perfect,” Loeffler said. “So if things stay the way they are right now, I’m perfectly content to stay here and do this as long as they trust me to do this. It’s a great privilege to be trusted by the school, by the fans, by the radio station to do that job. I don’t take that responsibility lightly.”