The voice of the Gophers hasn’t quite hung up the headset for good.

Ray Christensen, the legendary 50-year radio voice of Gopher football, has agreed to be part of the play-by-play broadcast for the University of Minnesota’s inaugural game at TCF Bank Stadium on September 12, 2009, as announced today by Athletics Director Joel Maturi, in collaboration with Learfield Sports, University of Minnesota’s exclusive athletics partner and multimedia rights holder.

Christensen, a member of the Minnesota Broadcast Hall of Fame, will call the first Gopher offensive series of the second half of the game against the visiting Air Force Academy.

“I’m thrilled to be a part of this historic evening,” said Christensen. “It will be a treat to slip in alongside Darrell Thompson and Dave Mona, with whom I had the privilege to work with in my final three years of play-by-play. I’m sure that one series will bring back scores of memories from my years calling the action for the Gophers and I’ll be happy to turn the microphone back over to Dave Lee.”

“It’s flattering to be remembered this way, and I appreciate the opportunity to be included in the inaugural broadcast from TCF Bank Stadium. Like others, I can’t wait to see the Gophers back on campus again in their beautiful new venue,” he added.

“We couldn’t be more pleased that Ray reacted so positively to our invitation to be part of our first radio broadcast from TCF Bank Stadium,” said Greg Gerlach, general manager of Gopher Sports Properties, the locally based property of Learfield Sports which manages the U of M radio rights and oversees the Gopher Radio Network. “Ray is so closely identified with the sound of Gopher football. Having broadcast the last game in Memorial Stadium and the first game in the Metrodome, it only made sense to see if he might be willing to take part in this broadcast milestone as well.”

Christensen began his broadcast career at KUOM on the University of Minnesota campus. He was program director and sports director at WLOL Radio and joined WCCO Radio in 1963, when his duties included news, interviewing, fine music and sportscasting.

He retired from full-time broadcasting in 1993, but continued doing Gopher football and basketball until 2001. He called approximately 510 Gopher football games and 1,309 basketball games. Thompson and Mona joined Christensen in the broadcast booth in 1998, and Lee took over play-by-play duties in 2001. The three of them will return for their ninth season of Gopher football together in 2009.

“As expected, our stadium opener will be sold out, and we anticipate a huge statewide and upper Midwest radio audience to tune in that evening,” said Maturi. “This is a memorable day in the history of Minnesota Athletics, and it will be great to once again hear Ray’s voice call the game as we usher in this new tradition of playing Gopher Football at TCF Bank Stadium. We’re grateful to the Gopher Sports Properties team for piecing this together for the enjoyment of our fans and alumni everywhere.”

In addition to Minnesota, Learfield Sports manages the multimedia rights for more than 50 collegiate institutions and associations including the Big Ten, and five other Big Ten member institutions (Indiana, Iowa, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin). In addition, it is the title partner for the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup, oversees marketing partnerships for the Black Coaches & Administrators (BCA) and provides exclusive sports programming to more than 1,000 radio stations nationwide.

Learfield Sports is an operating unit of Jefferson City, Mo.-based Learfield Communications, Inc., which made its initial foray into the world of sports marketing in 1975 as the radio rights holder for the University of Missouri, a client still today. Additionally, Team Services, LLC, a Learfield Sports company, specializes in venue naming rights, marketing research and sales consultation. To learn more about the company and its complete collegiate portfolio, visit www.learfieldsports.com.

If only he could do the first few minutes of a Gopher basketball game. I wouldn’t be ashamed to wear some headphones in The Barn if that ever happened.

As an eight year old sitting by the radio, I never knew how good we had it, listening to a legend twice each during those cold winter months. Now another generation will get to hear him, if only for a few minutes.