David Shumate knows he can’t replicate what Bob Harris did in 41 years at Duke in one season. Instead, he’ll just take it one game at a time.
On Monday Pat Streko, general manager of Duke’s IMG property, announced Shumate as the director of broadcasting for the Blue Devil IMG Sports Network. Shumate will serve as the play-by-play voice for Duke football and men’s basketball games, taking over for the legendary Harris, who had been involved with Duke athletics longer than Mike Krzyzewski.
In fact, one of Shumate’s first stops on campus Monday after a sitdown with Duke athletic director Kevin White, was a visit with Krzyzewski and Blue Devils football coach David Cutcliffe.
“It’s been kind of a surreal, but great day,” Shumate said from the Club Level of Blue Devil Tower. “It was great to hear from Dr. White and Coach Krzyzewski and Coach Cutcliffe, and hear what they want for these programs moving forward.”
As he toured the campus Shumate thought about what it would be like to take over for Harris, who called his last game for Duke in the third round of the NCAA Tournament in March. Shumate won’t try to fill the huge shoes left by Harris, but rather established a niche of his own over the airwaves.
“There is no replacing Bob Harris,” Shumate said. “He is and always will be the voice of the Blue Devils. It’s just an honor and very humbling to be chosen to follow in his footsteps.”
A self-proclaimed Army brat, Shumate went to high school in Fayetteville, then attended Appalachian State where he started his career in broadcasting, first covering the Lady Mountaineers basketball team. Shumate spent the last five years as IMG’s director of audio operations. Shumate’s broadcasting experience includes play-by-play duties for the Mid-American Conference championship football game (2010-16), SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament (2011-17) and SEC Baseball Tournament (2013-17). Shumate has also done basketball play-by-play for Auburn, Connecticut, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt, Washington, West Virginia and Duke. Shumate said his meeting with Krzyzewski was more like catching up than it was an interview during the hiring process.
“I was fortunate enough to work with Coach Krzyzewski in the fall, filling in for Bob,” Shumate said. “When I came in for an interview we played catch up. We just sat down and it was more like ‘hey good to see you again.’”
Shumate, of course, will be heard, not seen when he starts calling games this fall. As a broadcaster Shumate said his responsibility is to take the message out to the fans, giving the best descriptions he can, telling stories with the same integrity as Harris did for so long. Growing up in North Carolina and having lived in Winston-Salem for the last seven years, Shumate listened to Harris call games many times over the airwaves. The style in which Harris called games always felt like he was on the edge of his seat, Shumate said, and he hopes his voice and energy paints that same picture. Shumate said he’s never been accused of “not being excited” and can sometimes be over the top.
“You’re telling the story and you’re telling it with energy and passion,” Shumate said. “That’s something I want to do everyday.”
When asked if he had a favorite radio call from Harris or anyone else in the business, Shumate immediately brought up the famous Christian Laettner call, when the Duke senior hit the game-winning shot to defeat Kentucky in the 1992 East Regional Final, saying that call from Harris was “hard to top.”
The landscape of radio broadcasting has certainly changed since Harris made the legendary call 25 years ago. Shumate said the job of a play-by-play man has gotten broader, in a good way.
“There was a time where your outlet to the fans was confined to the broadcast or the radio station they could pick it up on,” Shumate said. “Now you can pick it up where ever you can. Now you can connect with the fanbase 24-7, really.”
But to be clear, he understands his job isn’t to step in on day one and instantly become the next Bob Harris. Not in one season, at least.
“I tend to come in and focus on the work and that stuff will take care of itself,” Shumate said. “My job is to go out and tell the story and call the games. Bob built that, but he built that over 41 years. That’s not something you’re going to do on day one. In 40 years I hope somebody looks back at me in that same respect, but right now I just want to get to work and call the games.”
Shumate will begin his duties on July 1. The Blue Devils open the 2017 season September 2 at home versus North Carolina Central.