From the University of Missouri
It began as a favor to a friend, and was supposed to last for just one game, then one season. But the radio career of John Kadlec spanned 16 seasons in all in the Tiger Radio Network booth, until yesterday, as the man known affectionately as "Mr. Mizzou" has decided to hang up the microphone, effective immediately.
Kadlec, who has been associated with Mizzou Athletics for the majority of the last 60-plus years, will no longer call Tiger Football games alongside The Voice of the Tigers Mike Kelly, but he'll still remain a vital member of Mizzou Athletics in his other role as Special Assistant to the Athletic Director.
His career as a broadcaster was never supposed to be. Just two days prior to the 1995 football season opener against North Texas, the color commentator spot for MU broadcasts came open unexpectedly. Kadlec was asked by then-MU Athletic Director Joe Castiglione to fill the spot for the first game as a favor.
"Joe asked me if I'd do it, and I didn't really want to," Kadlec remembered. "So I told him I'd think about it, figuring he'd maybe move on to somebody else. But sure enough, an hour later he came back to ask me what I thought. I could tell he wasn't going to take no for an answer, so I said I'd do it for one game to help out a friend," Kadlec said.
Kadlec, who said he'd never envisioned being part of the broadcasting industry, fully expected his stint to last the prescribed one game, and that he was planning on helping Castiglione find the permanent solution for the spot. Those plans didn't last long, however.
"After that game, Joe came up and said, ‘Say, I've got the guy who will do it,' and I said ‘Good, who?' He says, ‘It's you,'" Kadlec recalled. "On Monday I went into his office and said I'd do it for one year, and here we are 16 seasons into it," he said.
Kadlec said that enjoyed his time in the booth.
"Oh, I had a lot of fun doing the games," he said. "For a guy with no background in it, things sure worked out well. I always tried to be well-prepared and I certainly feel like I know football, so I think I added something to the broadcast. I know I really enjoyed working with Mike Kelly and Chris Gervino and all the people behind the scenes who helped out so much, that's for sure," he said.
Kelly said that he'll miss having the coach around in the booth going forward.
"It has been an absolute joy and pleasure to spend the last 16 seasons working with John Kadlec," Kelly said. "I can't imagine any other student-athlete that's ever attended the University of Missouri who has been more passionately committed to his University and his athletic department and the football program than Coach Kadlec. The passion and the love that he has for the institution is so evident any time that you're around him. He's taught me so much about football, but more importantly he's been such a great friend, and I'm going to miss having him with," he said.
Kelly recounted a couple of special moments that stood out in the booth – a Tiger win at Colorado in 1997 which guaranteed MU's first bowl game since 1983, and Mizzou's dominating win over Arkansas in the 2008 Cotton Bowl to cap one of the best seasons in school history.
"After the game on both of those occasions, I looked over and saw a tear in the eye of John Kadlec because he was so proud of his football program. That just epitomizes to me what Mizzou means to him," Kelly said.
Kadlec said he was actually prepared to retire his microphone following Mizzou's 2009 season, but after a conversation with MU Director of Athletics Mike Alden, where Alden asked him to reconsider staying on for another year, Kadlec acquiesced.
"I really appreciated Mike saying that, his support has been just outstanding," Kadlec said. "I said ‘okay' and am glad I did, but now that I gave it one more year, it just gave me even more assurance that I'm doing the right thing. I just think it's time. Plus, I like the idea of there being a fresh start with the new Big 12 Conference, and we'll have a new era in the booth," he said.
"We're certainly sad to see Coach Kadlec step away from the microphone, but we're excited that he's still going to be a big part of our team overall," said Director of Athletics Mike Alden. "He's so important to Mizzou Athletics, I can't go anywhere in our state without someone asking about him. I think his genuine love for Mizzou really helped him connect with our fans over the years, and his great knowledge of football helped give him a unique perspective that will be missed on the broadcasts," Alden said.
Kadlec said he has a lot of people to thank for his 16-year run.
"There's too many people to list, but of course I want to thank Joe Castiglione for getting me into it, or maybe I should blame him maybe," he joked. "Certainly Mike Alden has been so supportive and that's meant a lot to me, as has the support I've gotten over the years with our coaching staffs of Gary Pinkel and Larry Smith. I also really enjoyed working for Jeff Shoultz of Mizzou Sports Properties and Laird Veatch (formerly of MSP), as well as Learfield Communications and Clyde Lear, I've always thought it was a great outfit to work for," he said.
Now that the decision is made, that begs the question: What will Kadlec be doing on fall Saturdays now that he doesn't have job responsibilities in the radio booth?
"You can bet your bottom dollar that I'm going to be upstairs watching the game in the press box," he said. "I'll be seeing a lot of people and a lot of friends in the suites and in the Tiger Lounge, and I plan on being able to enjoy myself walking around in the tailgating lots and just having a good time," he said.
"And who knows, maybe I might sneak into the booth now and then to give everyone a hard time," he said.
Kadlec has been a Mizzou icon for well over a half century. He first came to Mizzou from his native St. Louis, Mo. to play football for Hall of Fame Coach Don Faurot in 1947. After earning his degree from MU, he stayed on as a graduate assistant coach for Faurot, and he coached the freshman team until 1954 when he moved up to varsity, where he served through 1959. After a stint at Kansas State from 1960-66, Kadlec returned to Mizzou to serve on the staffs of Dan Devine and Al Onofrio, coaching from 1966-77 on the Tiger sideline.
After his coaching days ended, Kadlec returned to Kansas State as Director of Development, before returning to Mizzou in 1986 as Director of the Tiger Scholarship Fund, and he's been a fixture in Columbia ever since in numerous roles most closely associated with fundraising. He was a 1996 inductee into the MU Athletics Hall of Fame, and in 2005, the grass practice fields behind the Mizzou Athletic Training Complex were named in his honor.
In association with his role as an integral part of MU's fundraising office, Kadlec will continue his active role in the philanthropic efforts associated with the John and Dolly Kadlec Society, a newly created society in honor of Coach and his wife of 60 years that promotes planned and estate giving back to Mizzou Athletics. For more information the Kadlec Society, please call the Tiger Scholarship Fund at 573-882-0704.