Jon Laaser is no longer the voice of the Hokies.
Laaser, who has been the radio play-by-play announcer for Virginia Tech football and men’s basketball broadcasts since 2015, announced Monday on Twitter that he was “stepping aside” from his job.
“Hokies, this will come as a shock and I hate that,” his tweet began.
Laaser tweeted that his exit was effective Monday. So his final Tech broadcast turned out to be the Pinstripe Bowl last week.
He refused to comment Monday when contacted by The Roanoke Times after his tweet.
“I can’t talk publicly,” he said.
Laaser did explain his departure in his tweet, though.
“When my dad passed, I started to think about wanting to do more to help people,” he tweeted. “Primarily through mental health advocacy. His dream. Over the last few months that urge has grown. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I feel at peace knowing all the good we can do. I will be focusing on mental health initiatives in the short term, but I will be back in the booth at some point soon.”
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Tech radio analyst Mike Burnop said Laaser broke the news to him in a phone call Monday morning. He said Laaser gave him the same explanation that Laaser later tweeted.
“It takes a lot of courage to leave a job like this to focus on what your passion is, so I applaud him for that,” Burnop said.
Laaser had tweeted Sunday that he would be launching Monday a new, Tech-licensed line of “Nothing But Clean Mountain Air” merchandise to benefit student-athlete mental wellness.
Last year, Laaser started selling T-shirts with his signature “Nothing But Clean Mountain Air” touchdown call on them, with the proceeds benefiting a mental health organization.
“That went well and I think it kind of opened up his eyes to another avenue of something he could do to help people,” Burnop said.
Laaser told WSLS (Channel 10) in an interview last year that he had struggled with anxiety and depression at different points in his life. WSLS reported in that story that Laaser’s mother was a psychologist, as was his late father, who died in 2019.
“He had an unbelievably close relationship with his father,” Burnop said. “That is still something he thinks about every day, that relationship and how tough it was to lose his father.”
The Tech radio network is run locally by Virginia Tech Sports Properties on behalf of Learfield, which holds the athletic multimedia rights of Tech and many other colleges.
Virginia Tech Sports Properties general manager Kyler Pilling declined an interview request about Laaser on Monday, referring The Roanoke Times in an email to Learfield spokesperson Jennifer Duncan. But she did not respond to an interview request from The Roanoke Times.
Burnop said Adam Witten from the Learfield-run Appalachian State radio network will handle the play-by-play for the Tech men’s basketball broadcast Tuesday, as well as for some other Tech men’s basketball games. Burnop said there will be a meeting Tuesday about the rest of the season. Witten is the voice of Appalachian State football but does not handle Appalachian State men’s basketball, so he could be free this winter.
Laaser, formerly the radio play-by-play voice for the Richmond Flying Squirrels minor league baseball team, was hired as Tech’s football and men’s basketball radio play-by-play announcer in the summer of 2015.
“We had a great working relationship,” Burnop said. “He was a first-class professional.”
Laaser succeeded Bill Roth, who left to become UCLA’s radio voice but who is now back at Tech as a professor in the School of Communication.
Laaser also co-hosted Tech’s weekly radio show, “Tech Talk Live.”
“My lifelong passion has been sportscasting and representing you has been the joy and privilege of a lifetime,” Laaser said in his tweet Monday. “Know that I love y’all and will always appreciate the faith you put in me and the respect you always treated me with. I will always be a Hokie!”