BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Charles Wesley “Wes” Strader, the “Voice of the Hilltoppers” as
the radio play-by-play broadcaster for Western Kentucky University football and
men’s basketball for 36 seasons and one of the most prominent figures in the
commonwealth of Kentucky’s sports broadcasting history, passed away Tuesday evening.
He was 79.
J.C. Kirby and Son on Lovers Lane in Bowling Green will handle the arrangements
which are still in the process of being finalized.
Inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002, Strader earned a
reputation as one of the outstanding radio sports broadcasters in the state through
his work covering Hilltopper basketball and football, and his longtime involvement
with the broadcast of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association “Sweet Sixteen”
boy’s state basketball championships.
“We are deeply saddened at Wes Strader’s passing,” said Director of Athletics Todd
Stewart. “He was an iconic broadcaster in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and a loyal
member of the WKU family, whose friendship and dedication to the Hilltoppers spanned
decades. His Hall of Fame broadcasting career was intertwined with generations of
our athletes, coaches, administration and fans and positively impacted all whom he
touched. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Sue, son Chuck, and daughter,
On February 21, 2013, Strader was accorded a unique honor from his alma mater when
WKU unveiled a banner bearing his name in the rafters of E.A. Diddle Arena,
alongside the great athletes and coaches in the history of Hilltopper and Lady
Topper basketball. To date, Strader’s banner remains the only banner hung across all
WKU sports for a non-player or former coach.
Over the years, Strader’s career coincided with so many of WKU’s all-time great
coaches, administrators, and student-athletes as evidenced by the fact that 47
members of the W-Club’s Hall of Fame inductees from football and men’s basketball
(88 total) played or coached during Strader’s time behind the microphone.
A native of nearby Barren County, he grew up on the family farm near Hiseville, Ky.,
and was a graduate of Hiseville High School, where he played both football and
His association with Hilltopper Athletics goes back to the late 1940s when, as a
10-year-old, he began regularly attending athletic events on The Hill with his
father, a season ticket holder.
His career in radio began at WKAY (now WGGC) in Glasgow in 1957 while he was in
college at WKU. He enrolled at Western Kentucky University in 1955 and spent three
years on The Hill before transferring to the University of Kentucky to obtain a
degree in radio arts. While in Lexington, he began his involvement with radio
play-by-play of athletics, first with the campus station and later as a back-up on
the UK network and doing high school games in nearby Frankfort.
Strader then returned to Hiseville to help with the family dairy business that also
served the Bowling Green area. It was then that Hank Brosche, the owner of WKCT
radio in Bowling Green, asked the young Strader if he would be interested in doing
the play-by-play if the station added game coverage of Hilltopper events.
That was in 1964 and Strader has been associated with Hilltopper football and
basketball ever since. His first game on the courtside on the air was the
Hilltoppers’ 1964 basketball opener, also John Oldham’s first game as the Topper
head coach and All-American Clem Haskins’ first varsity appearance.
Strader handled WKCT (and later WBLG) Hilltopper game broadcasts for the next 36
years until the conclusion of the 1999-00 season. In 2000, Strader began an
eight-year run doing a post-game call-in show following Kentucky basketball contests
while maintaining his regular sports talk show in Bowling Green. Then, in 2008, he
returned to The Hill to host Hilltopper pre-game and post-game call-in shows until
his health declined late in 2017. Strader is also the namesake of the local “Wes
Strader Schoolboy Classic” which enters its third year in 2018, a high school
basketball tournament which annually features eight top local, regional, and
Strader is survived by his wife, Sue, two children, daughter Kim and son Chuck, two
grandchildren, grandson Wes and granddaughter Kara, and a great granddaughter,