The marriage of Woody and Carolina was just perfect.
Woody Durham would often say he was a lucky guy who led a blessed life. He grew up loving Carolina athletics, and followed that love to his graduation from UNC. At 29, he followed legendary Bill Currie — the “Mouth of the South” — as the voice of the Tar Heels.
It could not have been easy to succeed Currie, known for his outrageously candid calls of Carolina football and basketball. But Woody took over at just the right time. Bill Dooley was getting his program rolling with a run of bowl teams, and Dean Smith took his Tar Heels to their fourth Final Four in Woody’s first season of 40 behind the mike.
Woody called games for Dooley’s two ACC football championships and a second Final Four team in his sixth year. Before that was an epic ACC tournament title led by fabulous Phil Ford, the first freshman to ever win the tourney MVP. He was among the pantheon of stars Smith recruited to win six ACC regular seasons in the 1970s — Woody’s first decade.
You can’t have a chance to be a legend unless a lot of people are listening, and listening closely, to see how their team is doing in the days when every game wasn’t on TV. Ol’ Woody made dramatic calls of heart-stopping finishes with home-cooked expressions that became a part of Carolina lore.
In those days, the Tar Heel Sports Network was as good as any, and in his fourth year UNC got powerful Charlotte AM WBT back as an affiliate. Smith wanted that station before the advent of cable TV because WBT had a strong North-South signal that allowed his recruits and their families in New York to hear the games on a clear night. So Woody became the connection, the bridge that stretched from his home state across the Eastern seaboard — and beyond.
When he wasn’t calling games, Woody was the university’s best-known ambassador, introducing Smith and eventually Roy Williams and Dooley, Dick Crum and Mack Brown at Rams Club meetings that were standing-room throughout the South. His was a magical, resonating voice and he was the perfect front man for coaches who were an even bigger draw than Woody.
He called Walter D’s shot to tie Duke, Matt Kupec’s TD pass that beat Michigan in the Gator Bowl, Michael’s jumper from the left side and many, many more. The Tar Heels gave him so much to say, and Woody delivered like the legend he became.