The New Voice of the Oklahoma Sooners

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Toby Rowland interviewing Coach Bob Stoops.
Toby and his wife, Jenni.
Toby prepping in the booth.
The Rowlands

by Robbie Robertson

On March 22, 2011, the University of Oklahoma announced Toby Rowland, 37, would become the new play-by-play man of the Sooners. It was a life changing announcement, not only for the Sooner Nation, but for the Rowland family.

“The publicity for the first few weeks after the announcement knocked our worlds upside down, in a good way,” said Rowland. “I had tons of email, people were stopping me in the grocery store, I did interview after interview. It was pretty crazy, but at the same time, it was awesome,” Rowland added.

Make no mistake. Being the voice of the Sooners is a big deal! There are thousands of listeners for each broadcast. Some critics said Rowland didn’t have enough play-by-play experience. Other critics said he didn’t have a big enough name. OU officials disagreed. End of discussion. Rowland was an Emmy award winning sportscaster during his days at News 9. He also hosts the “T-Row in the Morning Show” on KREF-AM 1400 radio. 

Whether you like it or not, Rowland is part of the Sooner family. And family is important to the new voice of the Sooners. 

Rowland, his wife Jennifer, their two boys, Trevor, 13, and Payton, 11, and their three year old daughter, Chloe, have spent some discussing what is about to happen to their family. The boys both agreed, going to the games and sitting in the press box is going to be the most fun. I’m sure Chloe will have fun, too. 

Jennifer loves her husband’s new job as much as the kids, but for different reasons.  “This job is great because we can be with him and he will have more time at home,” Jennifer said. From the time they were dating as students at Southern Nazarene University, in Bethany, Oklahoma, Jennifer saw her best friend evolve into this position. “In college, when we were engaged, the Oklahoma City bombing happened. It took him away a great amount of time. It was the first time I got a sense of his responsibility for his job and the passion he had for his job. He has been preparing for this. He has asked God to help him use his gift,” Jennifer said.

The life of a sports broadcaster is a little different than other professions. It is no more important than other lines of work, but it is different. It is not a 9 to 5 job. It is not a Monday through Friday job. You work weekends. It is not for everybody and it is not for every family. This new journey for the Rowland family is exciting. They feel good about the direction they are going. The Rowlands have been married for 16 years. “This is going to grow our marriage. This is a gift from God and we would never take that for granted. We are thankful for the opportunity,” Jennifer said.

So far, Sooner fans have been supportive of Rowland’s appointment.  People are getting to know him and have made him feel welcome. Jennifer is able to keep all that in perspective. With Chloe in her lap and her two boys at the opposite ends of the dining room table, Jennifer said, “It is hard to share him all the time, because I love him so much, but I know where his heart is. His heart has always been right here. This is good for our family. This is something we can do together. We always make decisions together and we are going to do this new job together.”

 

If you dig a little deeper into the man’s background than his play-by-play experience, or the size of his name, it would appear OU has hit a home run.

“I have a passion for OU and OU broadcasting,” Rowland said. “There can’t be a person alive who this job would have meant more to than me.” Even if his beloved Indianapolis Colts called him with a play-by-play job, it would be no deal. “I can’t think of any other job I would want,” Rowland said. “The University of Oklahoma, for me, is as big as it gets. This is as good as it gets. If they will have me, I will be there for the rest of my life.” 

Rowland understands, with privilege comes responsibility. Rowland said, “There is a tremendous amount of responsibility to represent the University in a professional manner. I don’t take that lightly, at all. I plan on doing that.” According to Rowland, there is more to this job than just talking out loud. He said, “This is a great opportunity for us to share our faith. If we can be a Christian example in this field, a lot of times that will stick out like a sore thumb.”

When it was suggested this new “gig” could be the start of his legacy, Rowland was quick to respond. “I’m not thinking about legacy. I’ve got to get a play board ready for Tulsa.  I’ve got to get my daughter to gymnastics today and the yard needs to be mowed. I just hope this is the start of a long term relationship and is the start of living the dream of doing what we want to do.”

And, his family will be right there living that dream with him.

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