A new era for Sam Houston State athletics began last August, as Rob Hipp took over for longtime local fixture Kooter Roberson as the Bearkats’ radio voice.
With his first year on the job in the books, Hipp — who calls SHSU football and men’s basketball games on the radio dial — is still grateful for the opportunity.
“Once I stepped into that role, I understood it's my job as a broadcaster to tell a story, and to be respectful and mindful of those that came before us — because they really set the foundation,” Hipp said. “We can never get to where we are at without someone else. ... I didn't know the magnitude of the situation when I stepped in, but for me, it was to relay a story, talk about these kids and let Huntsville know that I'm thankful for the opportunity and privilege of being able to step into that role.”
It’s difficult for Hipp to narrow down a favorite moment from his first year with the football team, but one in particular that stands out was the Bearkats’ 17-0 home win over No. 9 Nicholls — the program’s first shutout against a Division I opponent in five seasons.
“There were some high points and some low points, but you go back to games — specifically the homecoming game against Nicholls,” Hipp said. “Nicholls was No. 9 in the nation ... but Sam Houston State shut them out, and that's where I started calling them the 'Orange Storm' defense.”
Another game that stands out is Sam Houston State’s 28-17 comeback win at McNeese.
Starting quarterback Eric Schmid went down with a broken hand on the second drive of the game, thrusting Ty Brock — who hadn’t practiced all week due to an ankle injury suffered seven days earlier — into action. After falling behind by a touchdown in the first half, the Kats rallied to outscore McNeese 21-3 the rest of the way.
“Just the tenacity of those guys and those quarterbacks,” Hipp said of what he remembered most from the game. “You're talking about a quarterback in Ty Brock that was literally on his last leg, and was able to hobble through that game and still secure a victory.”
While Hipp always had dreams of becoming a broadcaster, it wasn’t until recently that he took a leap of faith and dove headfirst into the industry.
After more than a decade running an IT business, Hipp founded his own broadcasting company — SHN Sports — in 2015 with his close friend Karl Schoening.
“I had an IT company in Georgetown for almost 15 years, but what I always felt that God placed on my heart was to be in broadcasting,” he added. “That's what I wanted to pursue when I was growing up. When I was in elementary school, I'd walk around and pretend like I was broadcasting sports or on the news or the radio.
“Then I started tinkering with computers in high school, and that suddenly turned into an IT job that I never got away from. ... It was a 14-year journey of running and growing that business, but when your fiance is looking at you saying, 'You have to find a way to be happy or this ain't gonna work out,' I knew it was time to do something.”
Hipp is the first to admit that he is still learning and evolving as a broadcaster with each game he calls. However, he appears to have already found a favorite part of the job.
“For me, it's interacting with the players and hearing their stories,” Hipp said. “That's so much more important to me than calling the game. I love calling the game. That's what we do as play-by-play sports broadcasters, but we also tell a story — especially over the radio.
“It's just being involved with the team, learning their stories, going to team dinners and getting to know those guys. ... You get to sit down and talk, and learn their stories and where they came from. Then unexpectedly, sometimes you make friends with people.”