The Our Lady of the Lake University's (OLLU) intercollegiate athletic teams continue to grow in popularity among the OLLU community and throughout San Antonio and beyond. The University's cross-country and tennis teams have become valid competitors against conference and NAIA opponents. Men's golf is one of the best in the nation, finishing seventh in the NAIA championship tournament two consecutive years. The Saints' other teams -- soccer, volleyball, basketball and softball -- are successful, as well, and their popularity can be partly attributed to two men who have been a part of the athletics program since 2009. The two are known as the "Voices of the Saints." Jay Tope provides in-game announcing for the four sports' (six teams) home competitions. He also participates in pep rallies and other special events for the University throughout the year. Michael Thompson provides play-by-play announcing for live broadcasts of Saints' volleyball matches, as well as for men and women's basketball games. Both Jay and Michael bring an enthusiastic element to Saints' competitions. Sports Information Interns Sera Quiroga and Allie Guzman took some time to talk to Jay and Michael. Here is what they discovered about OLLU's Voices of the Saints:
Jay Tope by Sera Quiroga
Jay Tope is known to many as the "Voice of the Saints" here at OLLU. What people may not know about Tope is that he is a husband, a father and a sports advocate. Five years ago, Tope made the switch from St. Mary's University to OLLU, and he could not be happier. The switch came when Tope found out OLLU was adding an athletics program. He could not resist the opportunity that was right in front of him. The deciding factor came when he realized that OLLU supports wholeheartedly its athletics programs without favoring one over another. When Tope came to OLLU, he discovered an enthusiastic crowd excited to cheer for its teams. Tope made the switch and has not looked back. "I really thought that OLLU was a better fit," Tope said.
According to Tope, being "the Voice" of an athletics program can be tough at times, but it can also be rewarding. Tope loves what he does and he would not have it any other way. "I have a big mouth," Tope joked. In other words, he loves to announce the athletes and give them all of the recognition that they deserve. He loves being able to give not only the players the recognition that they deserve, but he also wants the crowd to enjoy attending the games.
Tope took 2012 off from being the "Voice of the Saints." The University was sad to learn this news, but the staff still kept in touch with him in hopes he would return. Tope cites his reason for taking a leave of absence as family priorities. He and his wife, Linda, are parents to 19-year-old Selina. "Sel," who suffers from Dextrocardia, underwent two crucial heart surgeries last year – 21 total surgeries so far. Dextrocardia is a condition in which a person is born with his/her heart on the right side instead of the left. Many surgeries are often needed to correct any complications from this rare disease. Selina has made a complete recovery from her recent surgeries and is doing well, but she will eventually have to undergo more surgeries in the near future. "She is my miracle girl," Tope said.
Tope and Linda also have a 24-year-old son, Brad, who is married and whose wife is expecting a child. Tope and Linda had another son, Michael, who passed away at eight-months old from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). SIDS is the unexplainable and sudden death of a child who is younger than one year old, and it usually occurs while the child is asleep. There are no known causes, and SIDS can happen to a perfectly healthy baby.
Playing music and speaking on the microphone is nothing new to Tope. He actually used to have his own radio station. He gave up the radio station due to the amount of time it was taking away from his website/magazine publication SASports.com. When talking about whether or not he misses being a radio personality, Tope mentioned, "I love music, so in that way I miss it." He also went on to say that high school sports are more fun.
Tope is the owner and senior editor/magazine publisher of SASports.com, which is the place to go when one needs or wants information about high school athletics in the surrounding area. The SA in SASports.com does not stand for what might be obvious. SA stands for Student Athlete and not San Antonio. Tope wanted to make sure that Student Athletes in high school receive the recognition they deserved, so 12 years ago, he created the company. Tope is currently working on expanding SASports.com to other markets such as: Corpus Christi, Austin, Dallas and Houston. "We are looking for interns (with a background in) Journalism, Marketing/Sales and Communications," Tope mentioned. All those interested should contact him at 210-419-1212 or [email protected].
OLLU is happy that Tope returned this year. His presence and enthusiasm were surely missed last season. "He's part of our OLLU family," said Sports Information Director Patty Constantin.
Michael Thompson by Allie Guzman
Michael Thompson started working as the play-by-play announcer for OLLU in 2009, when the men's basketball team played its first-ever game against the University of St. Thomas. During that time, Thompson was pursuing a degree in history at OLLU.
"The sports information office and TLTC (Teaching Learning Technology Center) wanted to broadcast Saints athletic events," said Thompson. "When I found out about that, I offered my services."
Thompson had spent a few years in radio, so he had the proper experience for the play-by-play position. He sent Constantin a copy of his demo, and soon after that, he was hired. "I hosted a sports talk radio show and did play-by-play for high school football and basketball," Thompson said.
Thompson's broadcasting gigs have included those with KIMP, Star 96.9 and K-Lake with East Texas Broadcasting in northeast Texas.
As part of his Air Force family, Thompson moved to various Air Force bases before arriving in San Antonio. He then attended John Jay High School, where he graduated, and then he joined the U.S. Army. Thompson was a combat engineer in the Army, but he continued to pursue television and radio opportunities.
After graduating from OLLU, Thompson was hired as an academic success counselor for the athletic department at the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kan. The position was eliminated after a year, and Thompson returned to San Antonio. OLLU gladly gave Thompson his announcing job back, and he also was hired as the new Television Studio Technician at OLLU. One of his main duties in this position is to help produce the "Lake Front Live" newscast, the only local live newscast among all universities in San Antonio.
Thompson jumped right back into the play-by-play announcing for the Saints. Even though his announcing is limited to volleyball and basketball at OLLU, he supports all of the teams, and he wishes he could do announcing for softball and soccer, as well. However, connection to the network is required for broadcasting, and at this time, signals do not expand to the outdoor facilities. The University plans to explore constructing a network drop in these areas during the summer so that live broadcasting can occur. "I hope that happens, because I would love to do play-by-play for soccer and softball, too."
Thompson explained that, "Volleyball is a lot of fun to watch because you can tell the women are having fun." He notices a stronger connection in this year's volleyball team compared to previous ones.
"Women's basketball should be as good if not better than last year," stated Thompson. He believes the team will be in the top 25 in the preseason rankings that come out in October.
As for the men, Thompson described the team as, "Scary good." He said this year's team could be the most talented OLLU has ever had.
Along his journey with the athletes, the most memorable game he called for the Saints was the men's basketball game on Jan. 22, 2011, against the then NAIA No. 1-ranked team and undefeated LSU-Shreveport.
"Lo Ron Smith hit the game-winning 3-three pointer at the buzzer and the Saints won 94-91," described Thompson. "I went a little crazy, and the video on YouTube made it on WOAI, KSAT, KABB and KENS television that evening." The video had more than 5,000 views.
However, announcing is not the end for Michael Thompson. "I want to work on my master's degree, so I can start teaching." In the meantime, Thompson says, "Sitting up on top of the gym bleachers calling the games is like a sanctuary for me. While games are going on, there is nothing else happening in the world to me. It's kind of peaceful."
Saints fans everywhere are encouraged to attend the volleyball and soccer games at home through the end of October, then basketball from November through March 2014 and finally softball from February to late April 2014 to catch Jay Tope in action behind the microphone. Or, tune in to Saints athletics on Ustream to listen to Michael Thompson excitingly call volleyball matches and basketball games. They both bring the Saints Blue Nation alive for fans near and far.