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Dick Harmon: Pioneer sportscaster Jay Monsen dies at 79

Published: Monday, Feb. 11 2013 1:05 p.m. MST

Jay Monson, keeping tabs on a game, says he has received lots of positive feedback. His foray into the relatively new medium follows 26 years of calling Cougar games on KBYU-TV.

Jaren Wilkey, BYU

MT. PLEASANT — Jay Monsen, 79, a sportscasting pioneer in Utah and member of the BYU Athletic Hall of Fame, died Sunday from complications related to a battle with cancer. Monsen had been living at his family’s homestead in Mt. Pleasant at the time of his death.

Monsen most recently did play-by-play of BYU women’s basketball games, but his career included the first major foray into broadcasting of high school basketball games in Utah. While hired as a talent at KBYU-TV, Monsen helped create the Blue and White Network, a preamble to regional sports broadcasting network. His work at KBYU-TV and establishment of satellite broadcasts of Cougar sports helped lead to current sports programming which are now available worldwide on BYUtv.

Monsen began his broadcasting career in 1956 at KSUB Radio doing games for SUU, which was then a junior college. He also took on high school basketball games and built a network of stations that aired regular season and tournament games from Montpelier, Idaho, to St. George. Back in the day of the A and B state high school tournaments, Monsen once did 22 of 26 games for different radio stations.

Doing those high school games, Monsen did play-by-play announcing for games involving players like Gary Hill, Neil Roberts and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who played for Dixie.

Along the way, Monsen was instrumental in launching the broadcast careers of NFL Hall of Famer Steve Young (ESPN), Gifford Nielsen (KHOU-TV), Dave McCann (KSL-TV anchor), Blain Fowler (BYUtv) and current KSL radio voice of BYU Greg Wrubell. He also worked for Utah Democratic Rep. Gunn McKay.

Monsen, a humble, gentle man, was known for his professionalism and attention to detail. He was a tireless worker and his passion for his craft stood out among peers and those whom he taught the trade.

Monsen graduated from BYU in 1957 and became heavily involved in doing play-by-play of Cougar sports on KBYU-TV in the early 70s. He later became the broadcast media specialist for the university’s sports information department as associate sports information director. He retired from BYU in 1998 but continued doing broadcasts, his latest in 2007.

Wrubell called Monsen’s style as “even and mellow.”

In a tribute to Monsen, Wrubell said, "In Jay Monsen and Paul James, I had two of the best examples and tutors for which a young broadcaster could wish. Countless BYU fans are equally fortunate to have grown up with both of them. I am blessed to now do what they did; I can only hope to one day be as good as they were.”

McCann remembers Monsen’s broadcast of BYU’s win over Texas A&M in 1979 when he was just 12.

“The Cougars won the game with a two-point conversion. BYU football and BYU broadcasting was never the same from that moment forward. I started working as a sideline reporter with Jay and Blaine Fowler in the late 80s and today, because of his talent and contributions and his mentoring, I get to sit where he sat for all those years and call play-by-play for BYU sports around the world,” McCann said.

“I am convinced that BYUTV is where it is today because of pioneers like Jay Monsen and I am forever grateful that I share a friendship with him, along with his sons Dave and Jim — all first class people."

Monsen’s wife, Lauretta, passed away in April of 2012; he is survived by seven children and grandchildren whom he tended to until the day he passed.

Specifics on Monsen’s funeral services are pending and will be announced by the family.

Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at dharmon@desnews.com.

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