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Jeff Culhane’s career in radio started when he was 14 years old, working behind the scenes for KORN radio in Mitchell. Twenty-five years later, he’s headed to the highest levels of college athletics, as Culhane was announced Tuesday as the new voice of Florida State Seminoles athletics.
Culhane, 39, will replace legendary Seminole voice Gene Deckerhoff, who announced his retirement in March. It marks the second job in a row in which Culhane has faced the daunting task of replacing a legend, as he heads to Tallahassee after a six-year stint at North Dakota State, where he replaced the beloved Scott Miller, who died of cancer in 2016.
A former Dakota Wesleyan football player and later the voice of USD Coyote women’s basketball, Culhane’s arrival in the Sunshine State marks the realization of a dream, one that began all those years ago when he was learning the ropes in Mitchell under Steve Morgan, Tom Maxwell, his father, Steve Culhane, and his uncle Kevin, one of the most well-known names and voices in South Dakota sports radio.
“Radio has always kind of been in my blood,” Jeff said. “We always had the radio on in the house, for me there was always a fascination in listening to different legendary play-by-play announcers in South Dakota and how they called high school and college games. It really lit a spark in me. Everybody around the South Dakota radio scene has their fingerprints on my journey.”
Experience includes stints at USD, Nebraska, West Virginia and NDSU
Culhane first began to move up the ladder after leaving USD in 2007. He spent six years in various roles at Nebraska, including serving as in-studio host for football and basketball, then spent three years at West Virginia, where he was the play-by-play man for Mountaineer baseball and women’s basketball.
Then came his tenure at NDSU, where he ended up calling four football national championships and two men’s basketball NCAA tournament appearances for the Bison. Replacing Miller wasn’t easy, but Culhane’s respectful approach quickly won over NDSU fans.
“It’s tough to leave,” Culhane admitted. “When (wife) Sarah and I got to Fargo we didn’t know a soul. You weren’t sure what your time was gonna be like when you don’t have any connections. But we made so many friends and worked with so many good people. The people there didn’t have to be as good to me as they were, because it was a bittersweet time for them after Scott passed. I always wanted to do the job the right way and honor Scott the way he deserved to be honored. I hope the fans know how serious I took that.”
While Culhane says getting behind the mic for one of the biggest college athletic programs in the country was always his ultimate goal, Florida State was an especially attractive post. Back when Culhane was working at Nebraska, he had Deckerhoff as a guest on his radio show, and the conversation left an impression on Culhane.
“He told me a story about his relationship with (former Seminole football coach) Bobby Bowden, and how he and Coach had just had a great weekend together at the lake, having drinks, and just how they had such a great relationship,” Culhane remembers. “He told me that story on the air, and at that point Florida State just always kind of stayed in my mind. I mean, I’ve always wanted to be at a Power Five place like that, but that also made me realize it’s about relationships and people and sharing experiences. Florida State really stayed internally connected to me after that.”
Culhane will call Florida State football and men's basketball
Culhane hopes to keep the 77-year-old Deckerhoff involved in FSU athletics somehow. He plans to meet with his predecessor as soon as he can for advice and tutelage on all things Seminoles. Once on the job, Culhane will be the play-by-play voice for football and men’s basketball, and has plans for other content ranging from podcasts to video segments and other creative content.
The Seminoles are members of the ACC and one of the most decorated football programs in America, having won national championships in 1993, 1999 and 2013. Among their NFL alumni are Deion Sanders, Anquan Boldin, Brad Johnson, LeRoy Butler and Derrick Brooks.
“It’s always been a dream to do this at a big school where it really matters, where the team is ingrained in people’s DNA,” Culhane said. “Where people live and die with the games. This is a rabid fan base and we want to provide them with great content.”
The interview and hiring process lasted about two months. The Culhanes recently had a family reunion on Lake Michigan, and Jeff couldn’t be there because he was in Tallahassee finalizing the details of his new job. He ended up announcing the news to the entire family via Facetime.
“That was a very special moment,” he said.
As if that weren’t enough, Sarah is expecting the couple’s second child any day. Soon after that, Jeff, Sarah, their son Alexander and their newborn will head for Florida, and no, the Culhane’s are not sad about leaving behind Dakota winters.
“Growing up in South Dakota,” Culhane says with a chuckle, “I’ll take every percentage of humidity the Gulf of Mexico can throw at me.”
This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Florida State Seminoles name Jeff Culhane as play-by-play voice