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September 18, 2012

Roth and Burnop honored, surprised at halftime of Georgia Tech game

By: Jimmy Robertson

Commemorative print to be used as a way of raising money for an endowment in the names of their two loved ones who passed away this summer

Bill Roth and Mike Burnop are best known to Virginia Tech fans for using their voices to call the Hokies’ football games over the airwaves for the past 25 years.

Yet, for maybe the first time in their lives, they found themselves speechless after what transpired at halftime of the Hokies’ season-opening football game with Georgia Tech.

The Tech athletics department honored the duo’s silver anniversary of calling football games by presenting them with a specially made print by noted local artist George Wills. Then, the department shocked the tandem by saying that they were giving away the commemorative print to anyone who makes a contribution of at least $25 to a Virginia Tech Athletic Fund endowment, which funds student-athlete scholarships. The ultimate goal is to get enough contributions to establish an endowment in the name of Ellen Burnop and Lynda Roth.

For those who don’t know, Ellen Burnop, Mike’s wife and business partner at New River Office Supply, passed away this past May after a long battle with lung cancer, leaving behind Mike and their three children. Almost a month later, Lynda Roth, Bill’s sister, passed away from the same illness. They were practically the same age, too, with Lynda Roth, a composer and performer in Laguna Beach, Calif., being older by a few months.

“Lynda and Ellen were both so vibrant, active and healthy,” Roth said. “They were passionate about their lives, families and friends, and it was heartbreaking to see them go through this together. They shared notes on doctors and treatments and strategies, and like all of us, they shared a lot of tears, too. They both fought so doggone hard, too. They are the two most courageous women I've ever met.”

Burnop shared similar thoughts.

“Obviously, I’m touched that the athletics department would do all this,” Burnop said. “I thought George Wills really captured the essence of mine and Bill’s 25 years of broadcasting, and then to see it used to put together the endowment in Ellen’s and Lynda’s names is just an incredibly generous gesture by the athletics department. Ellen and I always considered the athletics department and this university our second family, and this is just the perfect way to honor two people who had such zest for life and who were always willing to help others.

“I want to thank, in advance, those who will be contributing to this for your generous support. I know Ellen and Lynda would look forward to seeing a deserving student continue his or her education at such a great university.”

Roth and Burnop became a broadcasting tandem in 1988. Burnop actually began broadcasting five years earlier with former Tech play-by-play voice Jeff Charles, and Roth later took over for Charles when Charles left to take a job at East Carolina. The Roth and Burnop run started with the 1988 season opener at Clemson, and they haven’t missed a football game since.

In addition to commissioning the print, the athletics department also is conducting a contest entitled “Bill and Mike’s 25th Season Countdown Presented by The Legends of Blacksburg.” The contest started Aug. 13, with Roth and Burnop releasing two of their top-25 favorite football moments on the athletics department’s website, Each week, they will release two until Oct. 23 when they start releasing one a week. The top moment will be released the Tuesday before the Tech-UVa game.

After that, fans can register and vote to pick their own top moment, with the grand prizewinner of a drawing getting a free dinner with the duo at the Virginia Tech athletics sponsor recognition dinner next spring, along with an assortment of other prizes.