John Hittle addresses 20-years of sports excitement in the Rabbit Den

John Andrews

John Andrews

“Ladies and gentleman, heeeeere’s your Jackrabbits!”

Every time you go to a home Jackrabbits basketball game, you hear public address announcer John Hittle emphatically say these words. His excitement is the result of nearly 20 years of sports announcing.

A native of Huron, S.D., Hittle got his start in announcing by calling sporting events for Huron High School. He’s also done some semi-professional baseball but for the last five years, he has been the announcer for men’s and women’s basketball games at South Dakota State University.

Over Hittle’s career as an announcer, he says he has picked up a few things here and there, but his style is basically his own.

“Some people say ‘you sound like so-and-so,'” Hittle said. “Well, no, I don’t sound like so-and-so because I do my own announcing.”

Hittle’s originality can be seen in some of the phrases he uses while announcing a game.

“When I’m doing the starting lineups,” Hittle said, “the first thing I’ll say is ‘Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give a warm Jackrabbit welcome to the Huskies’ starting five.’ That’s something I started.”

Hittle is also credited with calling Frost Arena the world’s largest rabbit den.

“When I started calling Frost Arena the rabbit den, I wanted to come up with a tag that would relate to Frost Arena besides Frost Arena,” Hittle said.

So one night, Hittle started the game by saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the world’s largest rabbit den.”

Oddly enough, that single catchphrase aroused controversy.

“We had a few people say ‘rabbits don’t live in a den, they live in a hutch.'”

After some research, they found that a hutch and a den are basically the same thing. All the while, Hittle remained confident in his choice of words.

“Hutch just doesn’t go,” Hittle said.

Hittle also brings enthusiasm to the game through his announcing. That’s important to have because at the collegiate level, Hittle said, it’s more than just a game.

“When you get to this level, it all becomes a show,” Hittle said. “If our players are hitting shots and making fantastic plays, it’s going to get louder.”

Sometimes, however, that enthusiasm can lead to embarrassing moments. One in particular stands out in Hittle’s mind. Earlier this season, Hittle started to announce a basket made by center Adam Robinson, but Robinson missed the shot.

“I was looking up at the basket and I thought it was going in,” Hittle says.

He looked down to turn on his microphone and say “Robinson for two,” when one of his colleagues hit him on the back and told him it didn’t go in.

“I got ‘Rob-‘ and turned it (the microphone) off,” Hittle says.

While announcing is something Hittle loves to do, it’s only a hobby. Hittle has a technical degree in radio, television and film, a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and theater and a master’s degree in sports administration. He is currently a videographer/editor for Today’s Ag.

While Hittle doesn’t have any immediate plans to leave SDSU, he does have one dream.

“Before I die, I’d love to do one basketball game in L.A. I’d love to announce one game for the Lakers.”

Hittle says no matter where he ends up, he will always try to get into announcing.