Paul Irving Eells (1935–2006)
Paul Irving Eells was a radio and television broadcaster for University of Arkansas (UA) Razorback sports from 1978 until his death in 2006. Throughout his career, he became an iconic “voice of the Razorbacks.”
Paul Eells was born in Iowa City, Iowa, on September 24, 1935 to Norval and Shirley Eells. He grew up in Mechanicsville, Iowa, graduating from the University of Iowa (UI) in 1959. He had a baseball scholarship to UI but decided that sports broadcasting was his real interest. Soon, he was working in radio and television in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, beginning with coverage of high-school sports and then as a radio play-by-play announcer for UI basketball and football. From Iowa, Eells moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he spent ten years as sports director at WSM-TV and did play-by-play for Vanderbilt University sports.
Eells married Vickie Crow; they had two daughters and a son.
In 1978, UA athletic director Frank Broyles contacted Eells about becoming the play-by-play announcer for the Razorbacks. In accepting that job, he also became sports director for KATV in Little Rock (Pulaski County), a station that prided itself on its close connection to Razorback sports.
Although Eells had no previous connection to Arkansas, within a few years he had endeared himself to Razorback fans and had become an iconic figure in the state. Through his regular appearances on KATV, which could be seen in much of the state through cable television, Eells was recognized almost everywhere he went.
Besides his play-by-play radio broadcasts of Razorback football, which reached all corners of the state, he also did television play-by-play for a selection of basketball games carried by the Razorback Sports Network and was the host for the seasonal television football and basketball coaches’ shows, seen statewide.
His signature calls—“Oh My,” usually when the Razorbacks made a big play, and “Touchdown Arkansas!” when the Arkansas team scored—came to be treasured by Arkansas fans. Those trademark phrases and Eells’s familiar voice are associated with highlights of Arkansas football history such as the “Miracle on Markham,” a late-game Razorback victory over Louisiana State University in 2002; the 58–56 win over University of Mississippi in 2001 after seven overtimes; and the 28–24 triumph over University of Tennessee in 1999 after a heart-breaking loss to the number-one-ranked Vols the year before.
During his time in Arkansas, he covered the Razorbacks in nineteen football bowl games as the play-by-play voice, as well as fifty-two National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament basketball games as the radio voice of the Razorbacks and/or reporting for KATV. Radio sports shows in Arkansas continue to replay recordings of Eells describing those great moments in Razorback history, and “Paul’s Calls” are treasured by Razorback fans.
On July 31, 2006, Eells was preparing for another season broadcasting Razorback football. He was driving from Fayetteville (Washington County), where he had played in UA head football coach Houston Nutt’s golf tournament and had done a sportscast for KATV, when his car crossed the median line on Interstate 40 near Russellville (Pope County) and hit a car driven by Billie J. Burton of Dover (Pope County), killing them both.
News of Eells’s death sent shockwaves across the state. As the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorialized after Eells died, “Being the voice of the Razorbacks is a title in Arkansas only a little less significant than head coach and slightly more elevated than governor.”
Eells, who was named Arkansas Sportscaster of the Year eleven times, was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.
For additional information:
Booras, Tommy George. “The Evolution of Television Sportscasts: Personal Histories.” MA thesis, University of Arkansas, 1993.
Henry, Clay. “Eells Simply Special.” Morning News (Springdale, Arkansas), August 4, 2006, p. 1 B.
Kreth, Ellen. “Paul Irving Eells.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 15, 1992, pp. 1, 4.
“Paul Eells: Arkansas Loses Its Voice.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 2, 2006, p. B5.
Purvis, Hoyt, and Stanley Sharp. Voices of the Razorbacks. Little Rock: Butler Center Books, 2013.
Last Updated: 09/08/2021