For more than 50 years, the Vol Network has served as the main communications link between the University of Tennessee and its fans. As the broadcast rights holder to University of Tennessee athletics, IMG College/Vol Network manages UT radio and television programming, game day publications, on-line services, venue signage and various other marketing and promotional activities related to Big Orange athletics.
Vol Network Personnel
Bob Kesling, Director of Broadcasting/Play-by-Play
Bob Kesling was named lead announcer on the Vol Radio Network in 1999. He is the play-by-play voice for Tennessee football and basketball on the 70-plus stations that make up the Vol Network. Kesling also serves as the host for "Vol Calls", the weekly coaches call-in radio show and the "Big Orange Hotline" during the football season. He also hosts the "Butch Jones Show" and "Donnie Tyndall Show" on the Vol Television Network.
Kesling began his association with the University of Tennessee as a walk-on fullback on the 1972 freshman football team. His broadcasting career began in 1974 when he was hired by John Ward as a film editor for the "Bill Battle Show" on the Vol Television Network while he was a student at the University of Tennessee.
In 1976, Kesling was hired by John Ward to serve as his spotter for Vol Network radio broadcasts. He sat beside the legendary "Voice of the Vols" for 15 seasons in the Vol Network booth spotting and handling pre-game, halftime and post-game interviews.
Kesling also has a long history with the Lady Vol basketball team. He served as the radio play-by-play voice from 1978 through 1999 — calling Pat Summitt's first 6 NCAA National Championships.
WIVK Radio in Knoxville named Kesling its Sports Director in 1976. In 1980, Kesling was named Sports Director at WBIR-TV in Knoxville and was Channel 10's 6 PM and 11 PM anchor until leaving that position in 1999 to join the Vol Network.
During his time at WBIR-TV, Kesling also worked for Jefferson-Pilot Sports on its SEC Television package. He joined the basketball network serving as pre-game host and play-by-play announcer in 1989 and joined the football broadcasts as a sideline reporter and play-by-play announcer in 1992. He remained at Jefferson-Pilot Sports until he accepted the Vol Network position in 1999.
His other credits include play-by-play announcer for the SEC football and basketball championship games on the SEC radio network, NCAA Women's Basketball Final Four on CBS/Westwood One radio Network, NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament on CBS/Westwood One radio network, college baseball on Fox Sports and Tennessee baseball and Lady Vol basketball on the Vol Network package carried on Fox SportSouth.
Active in the community, Kesling serves on the board of directors for Goodwill, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame and was the 2013 United Way Campaign Chairman.
A 1977 graduate of the University of Tennessee, Kesling and his wife Tami have two children, Allison and Melissa.
Tim Priest, Football Color Analyst
Tim Priest, a former Vol All-SEC defensive back, will team with Kesling for his 10th year in the broadcast booth as the Network's color analyst. Priest was captain of UT's 11-1 1970 team and he is the Vols all-time career interceptions leader with 18.
A three-year letterman from 1968-70, Priest was a starter on the Vols 1969 SEC championship team. An outstanding student, he was a GTE Academic All-American, Academic All-SEC in 1969 and 1970 and a recipient of a NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship Award. On the broadcasting side, Priest was a longtime co-host of the syndicated Football Finals radio show and a color commentator for Tennessee pay-per-view games.
Bert Bertelkamp, Basketball Color Analyst
Former UT guard Bert Bertelkamp serves as color analyst for University of Tennessee basketball on the Vol Radio Network. Bertelkamp was a four-year letterman for the Vols from 1977-1980. He led the team in assists in 1980 and ranks ninth on UT's all-time assists list. He was a member of the 1976-1977 SEC championship team and the 1979 SEC Tournament championship squad.
The Vols amassed a record of 72-45 and participated in three NCAA tournaments during his playing days. Prior to being named color analyst for the Vol Radio Network, Bertelkamp had served as the color analyst for Tennessee basketball games broadcast by the Vol Television Network and FOX Sports Net South. Bertelkamp along with his father, 1953 Vol captain Hank Bertelkamp, operate Bertelkamp Automation in Knoxville.
John Wilkerson, Studio Game Day Host
John Wilkerson returns for his eighth season on the network as studio and game day host from the Vol Network Studios. He is joined in the studio by Chip Kain and former Vol Mark Hovanic for postgame coverage. Wilkerson also serves as the studio host for University of Tennessee basketball game broadcasts on the Vol Radio Network and is also the voice of Tennessee baseball.
Brent Hubbs, Reporter and Spotter
Brent Hubbs, who serves a myriad of tasks, enters his 13th season with the Vol Network. He serves as host for the "Spotlight on the SEC" pre-game show and co-hosts halftime programming with Wilkerson. Hubbs provides the halftime statistics from the game site and retrieves opponent coach and player quotes.
Additional Support Staff
- Tim Berry, entering his 22nd year on staff, serves as chief engineer of the Vol Network.
- Network producer Dave Jeffries, in his 13th season, oversees everything from Vol Network Control.
- "The Kickoff Call-In Show" crew for home games include engineer T. Edwards (18th year) and stage manager Ellen Liston (21st year) who also assist with operations during the game.
John Ward - "Voice of the Vols" Emeritus
Few men have meant as much to the University of Tennessee as John Ward. For more than three decades Ward served as the main communications link between the University of Tennessee and its fans as the undisputed "Voice of the Vols." Ward's mellifluous tones, flawless diction and precise descriptions painted a lifelike word picture of Vol football and basketball games that made him a living legend in the state of Tennessee. His unique phrases, style and delivery earned him countless honors and awards, national recognition and a devout following by millions of Big Orange fans.
Ward announced June 3, 1998, that the 1998-1999 season would be his last. The drama of Ward's final campaign behind the microphone was only heightened when the Vols captured the 1998 football national championship and the SEC Eastern Division basketball title. A scriptwriter could not have written a better swan song to his illustrious 35-year career.
Ward's first taste at broadcasting came when he began providing play-by-play commentary for his fraternity's intramural games on a tape recorder. As a University of Tennessee student, Ward picked up extra cash by moonlighting as a radio play-by-play announcer while covering high school basketball and football games for The Knoxville Journal. He received his law degree from the University of Tennessee in 1954 and went into radio and advertising. Ward's first broadcast of a UT basketball game came in 1958. Soon after that came service in the Army. After he returned to Knoxville, Ward went to work at an advertising agency. In 1964 he began handling the duties as announcer-host-coordinator for UT coaches television shows in football and basketball. His broadcasting career blossomed when he became the Vols radio play-by-play voice, first, for basketball in 1965 and three years later for football (1968). In addition to his duties with the Vol Network, he covered events for ABC-TV and ESPN.
Ward, whose understated humor enlivened his broadcasts and helped keep the games in perspective, was named Tennessee sportscaster of the year 28 times. He was named Best College Announcer in the country in 1976. Ward was a multi-term president of the Southeastern Conference Broadcasters Association and was awarded the Amateur Football Award by the East Tennessee Chapter of the National Football Foundation. Ward is a member of both the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame.
In 1994 Ward and his wife Barbara made the then-largest financial gift ever to the UT athletic department. The gift, at the time, was estimated at over $2 million. In 1995, level four of the press box at Neyland Stadium was named the John Ward Broadcast Center. In 1998 the senior class named a pedestrian greenway on the UT campus in honor of Ward and retiring UT president Joseph E. Johnson.
Ward always described his radio and television duties with the Vol Network as a hobby. Professionally, he has been in the advertising business since graduating from UT with a law degree. His hobbies include maintaining a stunning and extensive Garden-of-Eden-like three-acre garden containing thousands of azalea, rhododendron, iris and rare wildflowers. Ward, who lives in Knoxville, also enjoys golf and travel.