Mike Hayes has seen several generations of athletes and coaches come and go in a four-decade career as public address announcer for Owensboro High School football and boys’ basketball.
Now 62, Hayes is still at it.
“I think it’s the best seat in the house,” said Hayes, a 1976 graduate of OHS. “Doing the PA has allowed me to stay involved in two sports I love and with the school I love. It’s never gotten old to me and I enjoy it now as much as I ever did.”
And, make no mistake, Hayes is a Red Devil through and through.
His father, the late Adrian Hayes, played for legendary coach Ed Diddle at Western Kentucky in the mid-1950s and landed in Owensboro after meeting his future wife, Nita, on campus in Bowling Green.
Adrian Hayes became legendary in his own right as an assistant coach for Bobby Watson, who directed OHS to the 1972 and 1980 KHSAA state championships, and Randy Embry, who also enjoyed a storied coaching career with the red and black.
“My affiliation with Owensboro High School runs pretty deep,” Hayes said, “and it’s really been a privilege and a joy to remain a part of OHS athletics through all these years.
“I don’t recall what led me to the PA job. Bill Van Winkle was principal at the time and I grew up close to him, knew all the Van Winkles, so I would say I probably approached him at some point — but it’s been so long ago, I’m not entirely sure how that started.”
Hayes, himself, was part of one of Owensboro’s greatest athletic achievements, as a starting offensive lineman on the undefeated 1974 team that won the KHSAA Class 2-A state championship over Middlesboro at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond.
“I was fortunate to play under Gerald Poynter, a man who meant a lot to everyone who knew him,” Hayes recalled. “I was part of teams that won 29 straight football games during the ‘70s — it was a very special time.”
As has been his run as PA announcer.
“It’s fun, but it can also be challenging,” Hayes said. “Football is harder than basketball because you’re not only announcing what happened on offense, but who made the tackle on defense, as well. I work without a spotter in the booth, but I look around for help in the press box at Rash Stadium whenever I need it.”
Hayes, who became PA announcer in his 20s, approached the job professionally from the outset.
“Number one, the fans in attendance are not there to hear me talk all the time — they’re there to watch a game,” he said. “You say what happened on a play and you move on.
“I think it’s essential to be impartial. It’s not my role to stir up the crowd — that’s what cheerleaders are for — and I’m just not a rah-rah guy to begin with. In this position, it’s as important to know when to shut up as it is to know when to speak.”
Some nights are more challenging than others.
“Homecoming is more hectic than a regular home game, of course, but Senior Night is probably the most hectic of all, because it’s for all of our fall sports,” Hayes said. “It’s just a matter of getting into a rhythm, keeping things moving, and getting it done — some nights there is a lot of activity and my plate can be pretty full.”
His role also allows him to promote other OHS sports teams, and he doesn’t take this lightly.
“I try to keep a schedule with me in the fall and the winter and let our fans know when our other sports teams are playing in town,” Hayes said. “It never hurts to let folks know what’s coming up on the sports calendar — in my view, that’s always a good thing.”
Hayes has seen a lot since he began announcing for OHS.
Head basketball coaches have included Embry, Michael Stinnett, Jimmy Voight, Wayne Breeden and Rod Drake. Head football coaches have included Larry Moore, Poynter, Gordon Powers, Joe Prince and Jay Fallin.
Hayes watched Owensboro win the 1986 KHSAA Class 3-A football championship, and he watched the Red Devils win the 2015 KHSAA State Basketball championship.
“Legendary coaches, legendary teams, legendary players,” Hayes said. “There have been a lot of them since I first started.”
And legendary rivalries.
“When I played, Owensboro Catholic was a big rival in town, but we also had Henderson County and even Henderson City,” Hayes said. “Since I’ve been PA announcer, the rivalry with Bowling Green has really become something special — when a team like that comes into Rash Stadium, you know it’s going to be a great game, and everybody’s a little more excited than usual.”
Hayes, who runs Logo Pros, a screen printer and embroidery business, has been married to wife Becky for 38 years. They have a daughter, Kelsey, and a son, Ben.
Hayes hopes to continue his PA role at OHS for as long as possible.
“I have no end date in mind,” Hayes said. “As long as I can still do it, and as long as the school still wants me to do it, I’ll be there — I still enjoy everything about it, all these years later.”