Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau (MCVB) President and CEO Kevin Kane is making a routine flight to London to promote the Bluff City. He’s stopped and asked, “Are you John Tesh?” Maybe it’s the defined jaw line he has in common with the musician/television broadcaster/radio host that sparks the inquiry. One thing is for sure, Kane, like the multi-talented Tesh, wears many hats.
On a Memphis morning in mid-October, Kevin Kane is meeting with corporate big wigs hoping someone will express an interest in sponsoring the Memphis Open Tennis Tournament and help keep the long standing tradition in the city. Professional tennis in Memphis began in 1976. That year also marks the start of a football constant at First Assembly Christian School (FACS). It was the year Kane became the voice of the Crusaders.
The school was founded in 1972 and by 1976 the athletics program was set to roll out its varsity teams. With a couple weeks left before the start of the football season, just about everything was set: the field, the players, the coaches. But something was missing. The athletics department realized they did not have anyone to announce the football games. “I said, 'I can do that,'” remembers Kane, who at the time was coaching the 7th and 8th grade boys’ basketball team at FACS. “I figured I do it one week.”
Kane has never been so wrong. This season was his 39th behind the radio microphone for Crusaders’ home games.
Kane was playing on the junior varsity team at what was then Memphis State when he started announcing games at FACS. He wanted to be a coach. In addition to heading up the Crusaders’ middle school boys’ basketball team for seven years, he also coached tennis and basketball for a year at Lausanne.
But the coaching bug gave way to other career ambitions. “Somewhere along the way I got it out of my head that I wanted to be a coach and decided to get into the hospitality industry,” says Kane. “I started in the airline business, then from there to the hotel industry to promoting Memphis.”
He started working with the MCVB in 1991 and his life would soon undergo major changes afterward. He got married. Then he and his wife became parents of two.
Through all the changes, the one thing that has remained consistent is his Friday night routine during the fall. “People have asked me if there was something else I would rather be doing on a Friday night,” says Kane. “There have been times I could have been doing other things, but I take my obligations seriously. I don’t know if I’ve ever missed a game when I’m in town. Maybe once or twice, but that’s because I was part of a wedding.”
Crusaders Athletics Director Philip Spain can vouch for Kane. Spain has been with the school for 32 of Kane’s 39 years, serving as the varsity football coach from ’83 to ’06. “He’ll come in from London, England just to do our game,” says Spain. “You know he’s busy, but come game time he’s always there. He has meant everything to our program.”
Spain says Kane is known for his classy touch in the booth. It is an area of pride for Kane. “I’ve tried to be fair and balanced for both schools,” says Kane. “Parents from opposing schools or opposing coaches have always told me that.”
Crusaders faithful enjoy his signature call. “When it’s a group tackle, I usually say, ‘met at the line and tackled by a host of Crusaders,’” says Kane. “Everybody in the press box gets a kick out of me saying it. When I say it, it’s usually five or six players on the tackle.”
Because of Kane’s dedication and longevity as the Crusaders’ announcer, he’s had the opportunity to do something very rare. “I’ve had the privilege of announcing father-sons,” he says. “I was the voice of the Crusaders when their fathers played and 20-something years later the fathers’ kids are playing there. That’s special. I’ve been doing this so long I’m announcing second generations.”
A third generation is unlikely. Kane says he plans to step away after the 2016 season, his 40th. “I’ve told (FACS administrators) that next year is probably it. Forty is a good number — 40 years as the voice of the Crusaders. Maybe it’s time for the voice of the Crusaders to pass the mantle on to someone else.
“I got married so late I probably won’t live long enough to be married for 40 years, so this may be the only 40-year tenure I’ve had for anything, being the voice of the Crusaders.”
Spain is saddened by the possibility of Kane retiring from behind the mic but understands. “He’s been very faithful to us,” says Spain. “But his kids are getting older and he wants to be able to spend more time with them.”
But Spain won't not have to look far if the Crusaders find themselves in a bind. “I will still do fill-in,” says Kane.
Meanwhile the MCVB will keep Kane busy. In addition to trying to help find a sponsor for the Memphis Open, Kane wants to oversee major renovation to the Memphis Cook Convention Center. “We have a multi-phased plan that will start with a facelift of the Convention Center,” he says. He believes the first stage will start in the spring of 2016 and will likely take two years to complete.
“The second phase we will actually expand the Convention Center going over Front Street, going over the trolley tracks and over Bass Pro Drive. That phase will probably take a decade.” So if Kane is still with the MCVB when it is projected to be finished, he would be three years shy of 40 years with the organization.
So Kane may get to fly to London on business many more times by then. He may hear the Tesh comparisons a few more times also. Or the ones comparing him to a certain business entrepreneur turned politician. “I’ve also heard I look like Donald Trump,” he says, “and that scares me.”