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Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first radio play-by-play broadcast

The Texas A&M vs. University of Texas football game was aired on campus wireless station 5XB, which the very next year would become WTAW.
Texas A&M student W.A. Tolson at A&M station 5XB, which would later become known as WTAW.
Texas A&M student W.A. Tolson at A&M station 5XB, which would later become known as WTAW.(WTAW)
Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 3:42 PM CST
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Wednesday, November 24, 2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the first ever play-by-play broadcast in the United States.

That broadcast was the 1921 Texas A&M vs. University of Texas Thanksgiving Day football game.

According to the Texas A&M University Amateur Radio Club’s website, transmission lines for the Thanksgiving Day 1921 game were run from the Kyle Field press box about a half mile to the station inside Texas A&M’s Electrical Engineering building. The only radio equipment at the press box was a key for transmitting and a pair of headphones for receiving. Licensed radio amateurs used a modified telegraphic code to transmit information. A list of abbreviations was developed to transmit the action. For instance, “TB A 45 Y” is “Texas ball on the Aggies 45 yard line”. On the receiving end, at the University of Texas, slips of paper with received abbreviations were passed over a long table to someone who relayed the decoded information over a horn speaker through an open window.

The outcome of the first game ever heard on radio was a scoreless tie.

Almost exactly one year after the Texas A&M vs. University of Texas football game was aired on campus wireless station 5XB, that station got the call letters “W-T-A-W.” WTAW/ Bryan Broadcasting General Manager Ben Downs said, “We were assigned the call letters WTAW. We’ve been WTAW ever since then. We’re still broadcasting the Aggie football games, and it still stands for ‘Watch The Aggies Win’.”

WTAW celebrates its centennial year in October of 2022.

A group of Texas A&M students preparing for their first radio play-by-play broadcast.
A group of Texas A&M students preparing for their first radio play-by-play broadcast.(WTAW)

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