By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider
Much like Vin Scully with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Marty Brennaman with the Cincinnati Reds or Eric Nadel with the Texas Rangers, Lori Fogleman is “synonymous with the (Baylor) women’s basketball program.”
“When I got here as a student, she had been doing it for a few years,” current play-by-play announcer Derek Smith says of Fogleman’s color analyst role for the radio broadcasts. “Of course, from then on, I heard her for about the next 15 years whenever I would tune into a game on the radio. Obviously, she was great on the air. She loves the program, and that comes through.
“Not many people love Baylor and love the women’s basketball program more than Lori.”
After a five-year hiatus, Lori returned this season to the broadcast booth she shared with Rick May for 20 years (1998-2018), the highlights being the 2005 and 2012 national championships, four-consecutive Elite Eights (2014-17) and the first eight of what turned out to be 12-straight Big 12 regular-season championships.
“One of my favorite moments is after we won that game in 2005, the national championship,” Lori said of the Bears’ 84-62 rout of Michigan State in the title matchup. “Richard and Emilie were standing over there in the front row. I ran over, and we just hugged each other, because it was like, ‘What just happened?”’
Lori’s favorite snapshot from that previous 20-year run was later that night at the hotel in Indianapolis, when she was cheesing with her husband and daughter, Richard and Emilie, along with Rick May and his wife, Connie.
“We’re all wearing these grins that are just huge, and we’re holding up our fingers (showing No. 1),” she said. “I don’t think I’ll ever have that same feeling.”
Much like the previous 30-plus years of opportunities, it was “Voice of the Bears” John Morris that called to ask Lori about her interest in rejoining the radio broadcast team this year.
“When Rick decided he was going to step away (in 2018), I think Lori felt like they should go out together,” said Morris, Baylor Assistant AD for Broadcasting. “This is going back to her roots. She was at the games, anyway. I’m just glad that she was willing to come back and work the women’s games again.”
Instead of jumping at the chance, Lori said she kept “throwing up all these roadblocks.” How could she travel? Could she afford to be away from work?
“Plus, I had finally transitioned over to being a fan, and I enjoyed that,” she said. “Season ticket-holder, Bear Foundation member. I made sure I had really good seats for women’s basketball, because that’s what I love. I have men’s basketball season tickets. I bought football season tickets for the first time. Emilie and I enjoyed that.”
But it was a conversation with Jason Cook, Baylor Vice President for Marketing and Communications, that convinced her to step back in the broadcasting booth. Transitioning from the media side with KWTX-TV, Lori has worked at Baylor for the last 25 years and has been in her role as Assistant VP of Media and Public Relations since June 2013.
“I was throwing up roadblocks,” Lori said. “And Jason said, ‘Do you want my uninvited personal opinion that you didn’t ask for?’ And he said, ‘because I think you should do it.’ I was so startled, because all I could think of were the reasons why I shouldn’t do it. I think what’s going to help me is, yes there was COVID, but I really isolated myself like a cocoon. And I need to step out of that cocoon and get back into something that I really love in a different way.”
Maybe the toughest part is that she’s doing it without Richard this time. Her husband of 34 years died on September 17, 2020, after a short but courageous battle with cancer.
“It rocked our world,” Lori said of Richard’s cancer diagnosis just two months before he died. “And to be honest, it still does. It hits me the hardest when I leave the Ferrell Center and walk to my car.”
Initially, Lori and Richard met at a football game at SFA, where they were both majoring in radio/TV/journalism. The connections didn’t end there, though. They were Central Texans from Marlin and Mexia, respectively, and both were passionate about sports.
Early in their marriage, Richard’s mother sat the couple down and told them, “One of you has to get a real job!” Lori was making $3 an hour at a radio station in Lufkin, and Richard was working at the TV station in master control. “I don’t remember how much he was making, but not much,” Lori said.
While Lori stayed on the media side, working at KWTX radio and then the TV station before coming to Baylor, Richard spent 30 years with the State of Texas at Mexia State School and then Adult Protective Services.
Even after Richard retired in 2016, he continued to “impact people who were the most vulnerable,” serving as a buddy in the Challenger League, delivering food to the elderly for Meals on Wheels and partnering with the ABC Clinic in the Treasured Tails program that transports homebound seniors’ pets to and from the clinic.
“He had such an affinity for people who were the most vulnerable,” Lori said. “We loved delivering Meals on Wheels together, but he just made friends with everybody.”
Keeping it in the family, Richard worked on the stats crew for football and men’s and women’s basketball from 2000 to 2019, while Emilie was an Athletics Communications student intern during her four years at Baylor.
“That’s one of the things I really enjoyed so much about the women’s basketball program is that it was family,” Lori said. “Emilie sat between us in some really soul-crushing losses. I would have to lean over and say, ‘Emilie, you can’t cry. We want to cry, too, but you can’t cry right now and right here.’ Bless her heart. But she was also there for some extraordinary moments.”
Growing up as a “military brat,” the daughter of an Air Force B-52 pilot and Colonel, Lori was born in Rapid City, South Dakota and moved around between Bossier City, La., and Hawaii before settling in Marlin in 1975.
“Any Midwestern hardiness I may have had from being born in South Dakota was gone after four years in Hawaii,” she said. “I recall we were supposed to be transferred to either Alaska or Hawaii. And legend has it, my mother said, ‘I just spent six years in South Dakota, we are not going to Alaska!’ Everyone I know who ever went to Alaska loved it, but Hawaii was wonderful.”
While Lori would try to beat her father to the sports page in the newspaper every morning, her love for radio began one Christmas when she received a record player from the Sears catalogue.
“It was like a radio station that you would set up,” she said. “You had your music and your playlist and a clock. I just always knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
She worked as a high school intern at KLMT in Marlin on weekends, and even replayed some Little League baseball games on Saturday mornings that she did play-by-play on a small tape recorder.
That was also the first time she heard Hall of Fame broadcaster Frank Fallon’s voice, “because we played the Southwest Conference Game of the Week.”
“I always thought his voice was so unique,” Lori said of the original “Voice of the Bears.” “It was so delightful to cross paths with him. I would always think about his voice and the impact that he had.”
“Voice of the Bears” since 1995, Morris has certainly impacted Lori’s career, working with her on the “Live at Five” newscasts; using her as a reporter for KWTX-TV’s Friday night high school football coverage; and helping her with the transition from media to her first job at Baylor in the university marketing and communications division.
“Early on, I discovered that she had a great love and knowledge of sports,” Morris said. “So, we plugged her in on our Friday night high school football coverage. She was the person who would go out and do the big game of the week and do live shots for us.
“It never really occurred to me that we were putting her in a position where she could trailblaze for women in sports. Lori was just so good at it and worked so hard that she was the best choice for those jobs.”
That partnership carried over from KWTX to Baylor, where Lori served as the sideline reporter for Baylor Football in 1998-99 and was John’s co-host for “Inside Baylor Sports” for 14 years.
“I think it was an opportunity to just get beyond that maybe four minutes of highlights you get in a local newscast,” Lori said. “You tell your own story, and you are your own media organization, really. But it was an opportunity for us from an institution to be able to put together a 30-minute program of highlights, of course, of football and basketball, but also the Olympic sports. And then to shoot it from different venues and on campus. It was a lot of fun.”
Beginning with the 1998-99 season, Lori started working alongside Rick May with the Baylor women’s basketball radio broadcasts and was a fixture for the next 20 years.
“There’s just a comfort level when she’s sitting there beside me,” May said. “And it’s a big hole when she’s not there. I’ve worked with Jim Haller and Phyllis Gamble, and I love working with both of them, but it’s not like working with Lori. It’s just not Lori.”
Lori says Rick and Derek Smith both have “an innate ability to do play-by-play.”
“Did I know what I was doing (when I first started)? I did not,” she said.
Maybe not, but she certainly learned how to do it.
“Her knowledge about the program and the game really comes through,” Smith said. “And I think her warmth and the side of her that is so good with people comes through on the radio, too. She just has the ability that you feel like you’re with a friend, whether you know her or not. I just think the world of her, anyway, so to get to work with her is a lot of fun.”
Thinking back on that fateful day in early July 2020, when Lori and Richard – sitting in their car in a Temple parking lot – got the news of his cancer diagnosis, “it was a difficult and emotional conversation.”
“But as soon as that call (with the doctor) ended, I looked down at the floorboard of the car, and there was the ‘worry stone’ I lost nearly three years ago,” she said. “It read: ‘Let not your hearts be troubled. John 14:1.’ That was a message that was so very needed at that exact moment.
“I still carry that worry stone with me. When we are troubled – and I confess that it’s often – we lean on our faith in God and give thanks. We gave thanks for each other, our beautiful daughter, our wonderful family, great friends and colleagues, lots of love, laughter, music, whatever sports we could find to watch (yes, even cricket). And we gave thanks to God for the gift of time. It was only two months, but we made those final days together count.”
As a Baylor Family, we give thanks for Lori Fogleman. What a blessing she has been on a journey filled with championships, lots of love, peaks and valleys and life.
“Everybody loves Lori,” Morris said. “There is nobody that doesn’t appreciate and truly love Lori.”
Emilie, who received her bachelor’s degree in journalism and public relations from Baylor in 2015, lives in Dallas and works as a digital marketing specialist with Century 21 Judge Fite Company in Rockwall.
“I’m just so proud of her, she’s so creative,” Lori said. “We were FaceTiming during Game 5 of the World Series. And I was very nervous, because she and I were on the phone together during Game 6 in 2011 (when the Texas Rangers lost). I said, ‘Emilie, are we tempting fate?’ But we were not tempting fate. It was so much fun. And I’m still celebrating.
“Anytime I feel bad about something, I just think, ‘You know what, the Texas Rangers won the World Series!’ And I’ll be happy again.”