"I remember the first game we ever did," recalls Rondeau. "I was terrified. The Huskies played UCLA in the 1978 conference opener and Bruce spent half the week trying to learn how to pronounce Tuiasosopo because Manu was playing for UCLA then. But we somehow managed to get through it, and the buzz I felt afterward was remarkable and still one of the best feelings I've had professionally."
After two seasons under King's tutelage, Rondeau was more than prepared to tackle the play-by-play when King left for WABC radio in New York. Over the next few years, Rondeau spent countless hours with defensive coordinator Jim Lambright watching game film, asking questions and taking notes in an effort to improve his understanding of the game. It was there in the bowels of Husky Stadium that he truly learned the ins and outs of college football.
"I was impressed as a coach that he would want to come in and study the game with us," says Lambright, who developed a close relationship with Rondeau during their time together. "There's an awful lot of reporters out there who don't take the time to get to know the game, but Bob had a great curiosity about him and always asked a lot of good questions."
Rondeau's enthusiasm for the job and willingness to learn helped him hone his skills throughout the Don James era. And as the football team improved, so did Rondeau. He eventually caught on as play-by-play announcer for the men's basketball games too, and swapped Lambright's guidance for that of legendary Husky hoops Coach Marv Harshman. As Lambright had done for his knowledge of football, Harshman was able to do for his grasp of basketball. "Marv was a genius," says Rondeau. "And in this business, there's always room to learn. I've never stopped that process, which is part of what keeps me fresh."
Staying fresh is essential to staying on top, which wasn't always clear to Rondeau as a young and seemingly invincible journalist. "I smoked cigarettes when I first started," he says. "I even used to smoke during the games, which was awful. I really needed that cough switch on the microphone to clear my throat, and that's not exactly conducive to doing good work on the radio. In the end, that was one of the main reasons I quit smoking."
Despite the smoker's cough, Rondeau never lost his voice during a broadcast. In fact, he's never even missed a game due to illness or injury ("Knock on wood," he says). His perfect attendance record over the past two decades has allowed him to take part in many of the Huskies' highs and lowsfrom national championship football and Sweet Sixteen basketball to NCAA sanctions and perpetual last-place finishes.
Unfortunately, it's been the hardships that have struck a chord in Rondeau despite the thrill of Washington's successes. "The most difficult time I can recall is when Don [James] resigned. He was just an unbelievably gifted football coach and I will always have tremendous respect for him. But to see his character questioned was really difficult. I could understand it, but I hated to see it.