WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Former University of North Alabama broadcaster J.D. Byars has been named Alabama Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sports Media Association, the association announced Monday.
Byars currently is the Director of Broadcasting at the University of South Alabama. Byars worked at UNA from 2010 until 2014 before joining South Alabama.
Byars was a finalist for the award along with longtime Alabama broadcaster Eli Gold.
It marks the first time in Byars' career he has been honored with the award. The awards banquet will be held June 29 in Winston-Salem, N.C.
"When I saw who had previously won and to now be in that group, I initially thought there had to be an error in the ballot counting," Byars said. "It is definitely humbling to be in the same breath as Eli Gold; to be a finalist was an honor itself. I really didn't expect to win, and when I got a call that that was the case, I was really shocked.”
Byars, who is from Hartselle, is the voice of Jaguar athletics and handles play-by-play duties for Jaguar football and baseball games, as well as play-by-play coverage for ESPN+ for men's and women's basketball games. Additionally, Byars handles the 11-station statewide network for Jaguar Sports Properties, which covers the major cities reaching 3.35 million people per game day.
“When I reviewed the list of past winners, the honor really hit home,” Byars said. “To now be on a list with greats like Jim Fyffe, John Forney, Rod Bramblett, Chris Stewart and Eli Gold, I can't help but think there was an error in the ballot count.”
Ikey Fowler, a veteran football coach who also worked with Byars on UNA broadcasts, called his former partner “a true professional.”
“To me, a professional is a person who is always prepared, studies his or her craft, has a passion for what they do and never has a day they don’t give 100%,” Fowler said. “J.D. checks all the boxes. Working alongside J.D. all those years pushed me to be better at my role. I knew I’d better come prepared or I would be embarrassed on air. Not that J.D. would have embarrassed me, but it would have been evident to the listeners that he was prepared and I wasn’t.”
Byars said his first broadcast was a Coffee High School football game around 1994.
“Then-principal Gerald Johnson took a chance on me. In 1998,” Byars said. “I got a shot at the collegiate game when UNA took on Carson Newman in a neutral-site game in Rome, Georgia - a game won on a last second field goal by Kevin Pearce. Since that time, I've worked with some super Shoals people like Ikey and Jimmy Oliver. I owe those fine gentlemen a ton.”
The NSMA annually recognizes a National Sportscaster and National Sportswriter of the Year, as well as a sportscaster and sportswriter in each state. Four individuals are usually selected for the NSMA Hall of Fame each year as well. Among this year's Hall of Fame inductees will be Dan Patrick.