Don Fischer: Voice of the Indiana Hoosiers

Don Fischer with announcer headphones on
Don Fischer has been calling IU football and men's basketball games, more than 2,000 in total, since 1973. He was inducted into the IU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2022. Photo courtesy of IU Athletics.

Don Fischer remembers the 1979 IU vs. Michigan football game as a particularly wild one. A sport coat on fire. A fist through the wall. And that’s not even mentioning the dramatic action on the field.

In the broadcast booth high above, Fischer saw it all. It was his jacket that caught on fire from loose cigarette ash as he was calling the final plays for radio listeners across Indiana.

IU had climbed back to within seven after a major deficit at halftime. Leaving less than a minute on the clock, the Hoosiers scored a touchdown and an extra point to tie the game; however, a Michigan Hail Mary—and, Fischer says, an illegal pass that sent an IU Athletics official’s fist through the wall—quickly dashed the Hoosier’s hopes of an upset.

“We could’ve very easily won that ballgame but did not,” Fischer remembers. “This is the crazy stuff that happens sometimes.”

Don Fischer at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall
Don Fischer at Assembly Hall in February 1984. Photo courtesy of IU Archives.

Hoosier nation has few voices quite as recognizable as Fischer’s. He’s been calling IU football and men’s basketball games for more than 50 years as the school’s official radio play-by-play announcer.

In February 2023, Fischer was awarded the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Lifetime Achievement Award and was honored during halftime at the Indiana vs. Purdue game at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Over the years, he’s won the National Sports Media Association’s Indiana Sportscaster of the Year 27 times, and he’s announced more than 2,000 IU games—including 12 bowl games, five Final Fours, four NCAA championship games, and two NIT championship games.

Fischer says he got into broadcasting on a lark. He was working for the railroad after high school in northern Illinois when he started a correspondence course for sportscasting. He got a job at a radio station in Terre Haute, Ind., doing play-by-play for 175 high school and college games a year. Fischer started looking for a new job after the station was sold and cut its sports programming, and heard IU was looking for an official broadcaster in partnership with WIRE-Radio in Indianapolis.

He sent in his tape and a resume, traveled to Bloomington for an interview, and eventually landed the job.

“When I got here, I was awed by the situation because you’re in a major city, you’re doing work for a major radio station,” Fischer says. “I was a little nervous to say the least.”

Those nerves got the best of him during his first Hoosier football game against Illinois at the start of the 1973 season. He was convinced he wouldn’t last long after getting a stern call from his new boss at halftime. Throughout the first half, he had referred to IU as the “University of Indiana.”

“I wasn’t thinking, I guess,” Fischer said. “I’ve never done that since. It was a one-game thing.”

Don Fischer poses for photo with group of people
Don Fischer, middle, with IU Athletics Director Scott Dolson, BS’88, and IU President Pamela Whitten, both to Fischer’s left, at the announcer’s Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony. Photo courtesy of IU Athletics.

Fischer has broadcasted every football and men’s basketball season since. During his first year at the microphone, Hoosier men’s basketball head coach Bob Knight’s team tied for the Big 10 championship. The following year, they made the NCAA Elite Eight after Scott May, BS’76, broke his arm. Fischer then had a front-row seat for what would be an undefeated road to the 1976 NCAA Championship.

“It was awe-inspiring, to be quite honest,” Fischer says. “I’ve swept right along with all that popularity. When you’re part of a winner, people love you.”

Today, Fischer’s knowledge of the Hoosiers is encyclopedic. Mention a specific team or a specific game and he’ll start rattling off details—just like he’s calling it on the radio—for instance, the 1979 IU vs. Michigan football game.

“We literally were down to the final seconds of that ballgame,” Fischer remembers. “Tim Clifford,’82, threw a pass to Nate Lundy, BS’84, who caught it about three yards from the goal line. We lined up, ran two plays, I think it was, and didn’t get it in. Then we got it in on the third play. We score the touchdown, and we tie the ballgame. [Hoosier head coach Lee Corso] did not go for two, he went for the tie. So, we tie the ballgame, and there’s like 35 seconds left in the game. We kick off, they get the football. They’ve got a couple of timeouts left. So, it’s third down and seven, I believe it was, and a ball was right around the 35-yard line. John Wangler is the quarterback from Michigan. He pitches the ball out to the running back …”

Don Fischer speaking into a microphone
“You are definitely trying to entertain people, but you’re also trying to inform them. You want them to be able to see in their mind what’s going on on the floor,” Fischer says. Photo courtesy of IU Athletics.

Fischer’s voice is synonymous with IU Athletics, but he’s not employed by the university or its athletics department. He’s an independent contractor, and broadcasts for the IU Radio Network, part of Learfield Communications, which broadcasts throughout the state and online for Hoosier fans around the world; however, he says he couldn’t do his job without working closely with coaches, staff, and administrators at IU.

“Everyone in the athletics department has been so kind to me over the years,” he says.

Fischer strives to be an impartial voice when interviewing and broadcasting. Still, though, after a half-century with the football and men’s basketball teams, he says he can’t help it: He’s a Hoosier fan.

“You don’t do this for 50 years and not become a Hoosier fan,” Fischer says. “But I think I’m an objective one. I think I’m a realist.”

Fischer has only considered leaving IU once—when he was offered a job broadcasting for the Indiana Pacers. It wasn’t a good fit for his family at the time, he says, and he hasn’t looked back. At 77, he says he has plenty of years left in the Hoosiers’ broadcast booth.

“I’m not going to leave Indiana University,” Fischer says. “I’ve still got good health. I work out, I keep myself in shape. I’ve still got some good years left.”

Written By
Charles Scudder
Charles Scudder, BAJ '14, is past-president of the IU Student Publications Alumni Association board. He is a freelance writer and editor, and an adjunct professor at Southern Methodist University and the University of North Texas.