When Chet Sullwold began working at the scorer’s table at University of Toledo basketball games, Harry Truman was the U.S. president, the Korean War had not yet begun, computers were unheard of, and almost no one owned a television set.The year was 1949, and Chet made his debut as the scorekeeper at UT (“TU” back then) basketball games in the Memorial Field House. The court rested on a dirt floor. Halftime was indicated by the crack of Athletic Director Barney Francis’ starter’s pistol. And on Toledo’s roster was a smallish but scrappy guard by the name of Bob Nichols, who later served as head coach for the Rockets for 22 seasons from 1965 to 1987. Nichols’ final season as head coach of the Rockets was Sullwold’s 38th working UT basketball games. A long time, sure, but as it turns out, he was just getting started.
Now at the age 86, Sullwold is in his 55th season working UT football games and still going strong. He will begin his 62nd season working UT basketball games later this month when the Rockets open their season with an exhibition game Saturday, Oct. 30. At football, Sullwold serves as the golden-throated voice of the internal public address system in the Gerber Media Center. At hoops, he keeps track of points and fouls for the stats crew.
Several years ago, UT honored Sullwold with a plaque for his many years of service. “I hope this doesn’t mean you think I’m retiring,” Sullwold cracked at the time. Not a chance.
Sullwold was honored again, this time as the “12th Man” for the Rockets’ football team. During a first-half timeout in Saturday night’s game against Kent State, he stepped away from the microphone long enough to wave to a camera, then went right back to work. True to his nature, Sullwold deflected the attention away himself.
“I truly cherish the opportunity to be named the ’12th Man,’ but I feel it is an honor that must be shared,” he said. “I feel we should expand the ’12th Man’ roster, at least this week. It should include the rest of the stats crew, the ticket takers, the ushers, the elevator operators and the personnel who greet you at the various points of entry, and all of the personnel it takes to put on a home game at the Glass Bowl. They are all loyal to the core and unshaken in their support, as they play their key roles in the UT athletic family.”
During his years at UT, Sullwold has worked all home football and basketball games, except when his professional work duties conflicted or for the occasional sick day — like when he had heart bypass surgery two years ago. He has slowed down some, using a pair of canes to amble along to his seat in the press box. But his passion for the Rockets has never wavered. In addition to his game-day duties, he and his family recently set up an endowment at UT to help fund student help in the Athletic Media Relations Office.
“I’ve watched The University of Toledo grow from that single building on Bancroft Street to the wonderful campus it is today,” Sullwold said. “In that time, I’ve seen so many wonderful students come out of UT. I just wanted to help provide an opportunity to some of the young people who do such a great job working at the games.”
Born in 1924 in Toledo to Oscar and Christine Fischer Sullwold, Chet’s family owned a grocery and meat market on Monroe Street at Aldringham Road. He attended Burroughs Elementary School and Libbey High School, graduating in 1942. He initially enrolled at UT out of high school, completing two semesters, but halted his education to join military service. Discharged in 1946, Chet enrolled at Ohio State, graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism in 1948.
Sullwold actually began his career in journalism in high school, where he was sports editor and co-editor. He served on the staff of The Campus Collegian at UT, and then as a senior was the sports editor of the Ohio State Lantern. He moved back to Toledo to join the sports staff at The Blade in 1949 and has been employed there since. In his time at The Blade, he has served as executive sports editor, regional editor, Neighbors and Peach sections editor, as well as working on the city desk, features desk and copy desk, where he now works.
He is married to the former Dolores Todd of Grandview Heights, Ohio. They have three children and five grandchildren.