The players may graduate or transfer. Sometimes the coaches get fired or move on. But if fans ever got disoriented, they could count on Dick Jonckowski to set them straight with his trademark opening line: "This is Golden Gopher basketball!"
The University of Minnesota's public address announcer has been one of the few sure things in sports. To mark his 30th year behind the microphone at Williams Arena, the U of M paid tribute to Jonckowski at halftime of Thursday night's game.
The Pioneer Press notes that in the 88 years of Williams Arena – affectionately known as "the Barn" – there have been only two announcers: Jules Perlt (who is in the M Club Hall of Fame) and Jonckowski.
Jonckowski told the Star Tribune several years ago that while growing up in New Prague he would imitate Perlt as he announced driveway basketball games, never dreaming that in 1986 he would be chosen as Perlt's successor.
Jonckowski soon added football and baseball games to his Gopher schedule. As the years drifted by, he became synonymous with Gopher sports for many Minnesotans.
His popularity as an emcee of events and reputation for being ready with a joke helped him land his Gopher job and have only grown since then, as he hosts events ranging from a Brainerd fishing tournament to a State Fair wrestling demo.
A couple of years ago Jonckowski wasn't sure he'd make it to his 30-year milestone with the Gophers. He was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
Jonckowski tells the Pioneer Press he was in a feeling-sorry-for-himself mode until Fox Sports' Joe Buck (who is married to Jonckowski's niece) gave him a shout-out during the telecast of the 2014 baseball All-Star Game in Minneapolis and well-wishes came flooding in.
Jonckowski also has a collection of sports memorabilia that's legendary among those who've visited his home. While giving a tour to a Minnesota Daily reporter a few years ago, he explained the origin of his nickname, the Polish Eagle.
It seems that between stints doing public relations work for Minnesota's ABA basketball teams, Jonckowski sold cars for awhile in 1968. His manager insisted on everyone having a nickname. Finding that Jonckowski lacked one, he combined his new hire's ethnicity with one of his favorite sports teams, the Philadelphia Eagles.
Presto! a nickname was born. And it's lasted even longer than Dick Jonckowski's been announcing Golden Gopher basketball.