Home ‘Voice of the Keydets’ Wade Branner retiring after 39 years with VMI Athletics

‘Voice of the Keydets’ Wade Branner retiring after 39 years with VMI Athletics

Chris Graham

chris graham wade branner vmiI’ve had the great fortune to have been able to work with Wade Branner, “the Voice of the Keydets,” for eight years, and I have to say, I was today years old when I realized he’s in his early 60s.

Branner is retiring today as the associate athletics director for communications at VMI, his alma mater, after 39 years on Post.

The 1983 VMI alum served as an intern in the sports information department, then became the school’s first-ever full-time assistant sports information director in 1984.

In 1986, Branner took on play-by-play broadcast duties for VMI football and basketball.

He was promoted to the SID position in 1992, and elevated to his current role in 2001, overseeing game operations, media relations, marketing and broadcast services, including serving as producer of VMI’s sports radio network and video streaming programming.

That’s how I got to know Branner. He recruited me in 2014 to help with radio and TV broadcasts of VMI football, baseball, some basketball, two seasons of soccer, even convinced me to fill in calling a water polo tournament.

To that point in my moonlighting career as a broadcaster, I’d already done six seasons of internet radio play-by-play for the Waynesboro Generals in the Valley Baseball League, and co-hosted, for four years, a weekly sports talk show, “ACC Nation.”

In other words, I felt like a veteran, but working alongside Wade, I came to realize that there was still plenty to learn.

vmi footballSitting beside him in the booth is an effort in trying to find a way to still be able to make eye contact through all the papers, some printed, some full of handwritten notes, with stats, basic and esoteric, and reams of biographical information about student-athletes and coaches.

I quickly learned that I’d need to step up my game, and I like to think that, over time, I was able to at least hold my own, most nights, anyway.

Branner will continue as the “Voice of the Keydets,” calling play-by-play of football and basketball games for ESPN+ broadcasts and the VMI Sports Radio Network.

“It’s been a rewarding 39-year run in the department – one that I will always cherish,” said Branner. “To be able to serve my alma mater and its athletics program has been truly gratifying, and I look forward to continuing to broadcast games to the VMI community in the coming years.”

No doubt, the coming years will number quite a few; Wade doesn’t look a day over 40.

That’s another thing I hope I can learn from him, how he does it.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].