Jerry Romig – Voice of the Sugar Bowl
Jerry Romig Called the Action for Many of the Sugar Bowl Legends
by Trey Iles for the Allstate Sugar Bowl
[This story originally appeared in the Official Game Program for the 2016 Allstate Sugar Bowl.]
What a way to start a 40-year career.
Jerry Romig’s tenure as the Allstate Sugar Bowl public address announcer began with one of the best college football games of all time.
On a cold, rainy New Year’s Eve night in New Orleans, third-ranked Notre Dame and top-rated Alabama met at Tulane Stadium for the 40th edition of the Sugar Bowl. Though there was no designated title game then, it would be for the national championship.
It featured two of the greatest programs and two of the sport’s coaching icons, Notre Dame’s Ara Parseghian and Alabama’s Bear Bryant.
The game lived up to the billing as Notre Dame came away with a 24-23 victory that went down to the end.
“He sensed that being able to call Bear Bryant versus Ara Parseghian, two titans of football, was special,” said Mark Romig, Jerry’s son who inherited his father’s PA duties in 2014 (the two are pictured). “Two great teams, a great finish, it was as exciting as any football game and it was all for New Orleans. To be on the ground floor of something as important as that, I know he deeply appreciated it and understood the importance.”
It was the beginning of a long, wonderful relationship for Jerry Romig and his family. Not only was he the voice of the Sugar Bowl football game for 40 years, he also was one of the Sugar Bowl Committee’s most active members.
Romig, 86, served as president of the Sugar Bowl in 1987-88 and was part of the executive committee for many years.
It was a duty the New Orleans native relished. Though Romig was active in many civic organizations around the city, he loved his Sugar Bowl work, said his sons Mark and Jay, who are also members of the Sugar Bowl Committee.
“He was involved in many things,” Mark Romig said. “But the Sugar Bowl was his outward expression of civic involvement. The Sugar Bowl members wore their jackets, there were meetings throughout the year. But between Christmas and New Year’s Day, it was all Sugar Bowl 24/7.
“It meant a lot to dad and mom (Janice, Jerry Romig’s wife of 63 years). It was a regular family affair. As a child, I volunteered down at the Sugar Bowl office along with my brothers and sisters, counting tickets and other assignments.”
Though his voice boomed on the PA for all those years, he quietly went about his business on the Sugar Bowl committee.
As president in 1987-88, Romig oversaw the famous Auburn-Syracuse game that ended in a 16-16 tie.
But he had a dual role that year. Mickey Holmes was the Sugar Bowl’s executive director at the time. Holmes had a serious illness and had to take a six-month sabbatical, Mark Romig said.
“So dad served as president but he also was in the office every day basically being the senior leader,” Mark Romig said. “He was in the middle of the Sugar Bowl leadership for many, many years and set the bar for a lot of the presidents who succeeded him.”
Though Jerry Romig was involved heavily in most facets of the Sugar Bowl, it was his voice that made the biggest impression on those who attended the annual game.
He was a natural at it. The Sugar Bowl wasn’t his only PA gig. He was the New Orleans Saints PA announcer for 44 years, from 1969 until 2013. He called 446 straight Saints home games in addition to the Sugar Bowl, Bayou Classic and other sporting events in New Orleans.
He was the voice of sporting events at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome until his retirement in August of 2013. Mark Romig took his place not only for the Sugar Bowl but also as the Saints PA announcer.
So revered was his work in the stadium that the house booth where he called so many games was named in his honor.
Doug Thornton, executive vice president for SMG, which operates the Superdome, called Romig, “an institution.” Thornton, along with the New Orleans Saints, was instrumental in having the booth named for Romig.
“Jerry is an important part of the Superdome’s rich and colorful history and as the long-time voice of the ‘Dome, we hold a special place in our hearts for him,” Thornton said. “He has had the opportunity to witness a lot of special things that have taken place here – from the many Saints games, Sugar Bowl classics, BCS Championships and other memorable moments.
“It was important to us that his contributions to the facility be formally recognized and that is why we chose to have the Superdome announcer’s booth named in his honor.”
Romig called 13 Sugar Bowl games where the national championship was decided, including four during the BCS era.
He witnessed some of the great coaches in the game ply their trade, including Bryant, Parseghian, Ohio State’s Woody Hayes, Penn State’s Joe Paterno and LSU and Alabama’s Nick Saban.
But unlike when he called Saints games, where he leaned toward the hometown team, Romig had to keep it neutral in the Sugar Bowl.
“Any time we had nationally ranked teams at the game where the title was on the line would have been a special time for him,” Mark Romig said. “Here you were truly neutral. It wasn’t as if he was announcing a Saints game. So he brought his enthusiasm to both teams. He was very much a professional about that.”
A serious fall after the LSU-Alabama BCS Championship game in 2012 eventually forced Jerry Romig to relinquish his PA duties and Mark Romig took the microphone, keeping it in the family.
New Orleans Saints fans hold Jerry Romig in high regard for his years of service and familiar nasally voice that would belt out such phrases as “Firrsssst dooowwwwn.”
Romig, too, loved the Saints. But he equally loved the Sugar Bowl, his oldest son, Jay, said.
“Those games, I know he looked forward to them,” Jay Romig said. “In Tulane Stadium then in Superdome. That time of the year was always his favorite time because of the Sugar Bowl.”