Wednesday Is The 100th Anniversary Of The Nation’s First Radio Play By Play Broadcast, Heard On What Would Become WTAW

Wednesday, November 24, 2021, marks the 100th anniversary of the first play by play broadcast in the United States.

The Texas A&M-Texas football game was aired on campus wireless station 5XB, which the next year would become WTAW.

Those call letters still stand for “Watch The Aggies Win!” as the flagship of the Texas A&M radio network.

WTAW/Bryan Broadcasting vice president and general manager Ben Downs says “While a lot has changed in 100 years, we’re proud that one thing remains the same. You can still hear every Aggie football game on the station that broadcast the first one all those years ago. Here’s to another 100 years of ‘Watching The Aggies Win’.

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 heard on radio, was a scoreless tie.

And WTAW celebrates its centennial year in 2022.

1919 photo showing Texas A&M students preparing for their first radio play by play broadcast.
Texas A&M student W.A. Tolson at A&M station 5XB, which would become WTAW.
Texas A&M student W.A. Tolson at A&M station 5XB, which would become WTAW.