Basketball was a game changer in Mike Blake’s life. In high school, the Munster, Indiana, native played the sport, though he admits he saw more time on the bench than on the floor. When his career in news broadcasting began, it would be in the Evansville high school sports scene, including basketball, where he would make his name. Now his work covering local athletics has earned him a spot in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame with the Indiana Pacers Silver Medal award.
Each year, the Hall of Fame committee selects an individual who has contributed significantly to Indiana basketball in some way other than being a player or a coach. The honor was established in 1962 and past winners include former Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight, University of Evansville Hall of Famer Arad McCutchan, and former Evansville Courier and Press writer Dan Scism.
“I think for anyone who grows up in Indiana … basketball is, I don’t know if you’d call it a religion, but it’s more than just another game,” says Blake, who is a graduate of Loras College, Dubuque, Iowa, and the University of Iowa, Iowa City
Blake made his start at 14 WFIE-TV in 1970 as a nightly weatherman and in 1971 began his duties as sports director at the station. Over the 41 years he had covered sports — Blake’s 46-year-plus career still continues at WFIE — he has covered numerous sporting events in the Tri-State, including the tragedy of the UE men’s basketball team plane crash in December 1977. It has been a career that surprises even Blake.
“Ironically, shortly after my wife Jenny and I got married, I said, ‘Honey, we’re probably going to have to leave Evansville.’ Career-wise I wanted to get to Chicago or New York,” he says. “Fortunately that never happened because if it had, I would have never had the opportunity and privilege to cover so many wonderful athletes, coaches, school officials, athletic directors, referees, fans, and parents. All the people that make up this basketball-crazy state.”
Blake and his wife traveled to Indianapolis March 23 to accept his award in front of a sell-out crowd of 1,150. It was a truly wonderful, overwhelming, and humbling day, says Blake, but one he was honored to be a part of. In his three-minute acceptance speech — keeping to three minutes was the challenge Blake says with a laugh — he thanked his family and his co-workers at WFIE through the years.
“I had said, ‘They never made a movie about high school basketball in North Carolina or Kentucky. But they did about Indiana, because Indiana basketball is special.’ Hoosiers are special,” says Blake. “This truly is a once-in-a-lifetime honor and I’m so grateful to have been recognized for it.”
For more information about the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, call 765-529-1891 or visit hoopshall.com.