Veteran IU broadcaster Joe Smith taking year off after fall

The word “patience” is written in every room of Joe Smith’s Bloomington apartment.

He sees it while sitting in his living room and again while brusing his teeth.

Right now, Smith knows he needs it.

Smith, a veteran Bloomington radio voice and longtime member of the IU Radio Network, is taking a year off from broadcasting while he recovers from a nearly-fatal fall that left him with fractures to his C6 and C7 vertebrae.

The 69-year-old, who suffers from arthritis in his knee and hip, fell backwards down 12 steps at his complex, forcing him into emergency surgery at IU Health Bloomington Hospital during the early hours of May 4.

Smith was hospitalized for 23 days and continues to recover. That recovery process will keep him away from the microphone for the upcoming school year.

“It’s been hell,” Smith said. “It literally turned my whole life upside down in a split second. It happened so quick.”

Smith has already endured two major surgeries on his neck and he continues to work on regaining strength in his right quadriceps. Smith is also dealing with weakness in his hands and relies on a cane to help him walk around.

Doctors say his recovery could take nine months to a year.

With that in mind, Smith is taking time to himself. His WGCL colleague Mike Glasscott will join the IU football broadcast team of Don Fischer and Buck Suhr and handle Smith’s usual pregame, halftime and postgame duties. Glasscott will also join Fischer and his partner Errek Suhr for basketball coverage until Smith is ready to return.

“The road back is paved,” Smith said. “I’ve had more good days than bad, but Fisch and I talked about things and he’s been very good. He’s with me at least one day a week when he’s down. We made an early decision that I wasn’t going to be ready to do everything that I do, especially in football.

“I spot, I chart plays, I hand in commercial cards. I do the pregame, halftime, postgame. There’s so much there. There was no way that I could meet the whistle. So I’m taking what amounts to the year off so I can get back mentally.”

That’s where Smith is leaning on patience. He’s thankful both to be alive and to be able to walk after his accident.

Nearly four months later, Smith is beginning to see results from his physical training and occupational therapy. It’s a slow, day-to-day process.

But Smith remains patient. And appreciative.

“I’m thankful to the lord and my family and the battery of doctors I’ve had and the therapists that have been just incredible,” Smith said. “The outpouring from people in the community has been incredible.”

So much so that Smith is already eyeing a return. It’s in the distance, but he can visualize it.

Having spent 48 years on Bloomington airwaves, the Indiana Sportswriters/Sportscasters Hall of Famer wants to try to work at least two more years.

With a little patience, Smith believes he’ll get there.

“I’ll be back,” Smith said. “I’ll be back. Every time I look around, someone’s telling me they’ve retired. I’m not ready to retire yet. So I’ll be back.”