Alabama May Have Missed Its Soul In 2022, But The Voice Of The Tide, Eli Gold, Is Back After Beating Cancer

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Through the cellular phone, his voice still booms at age 69 and battle torn – literally.

You can hear Eli Gold’s same crystal clear vocal chords that beamed across the land on January 8, 2018:

“Here’s Tua stepping back, loads up, looks long, throws, end zone, TOUCHDOWN, ALABAMA! DeVonta Smith, Touchdown Alabama. And the Crimson Tide has once again ascended the top of the college football mountain. The fifth national championship in nine years (26-23 over Georgia in overtime). Their 17th overall. And for Coach Nick Saban, a career sixth national championship – a number matched only by the legendary Paul Bear Bryant. Alabama is back as the champions of college football. How about that?”

Gold’s voice grew more tired in recent months, but he never lost it. He lost the use of his legs temporarily in 2022 after the 2021 football season, and doctors thought he had orthopedic issues. But a violent case of the hiccups revealed the discovery of a growth in the esophagus in his throat.

Alabama Voice Eli Gold Diagnosed With Cancer Last Dec. 23

That led to the accurate diagnosis on Dec. 23, 2022, after Gold had missed announcing Alabama football play-by-play for the first time in 35 years. He had Large B Cell Lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that is a cancer of the lymphatic system. 

At this time last year, the Voice of Alabama Football, Eli Gold, was out for the 2022 season.

“This never did affect my voice,” Eli Gold told OutKick from his home in Birmingham Wednesday when told his voice sounds as mighty as ever. A voice that called the last seven Alabama’s national championships, beginning in on Jan. 1, 1993, after he became the Voice of Alabama Football for the 1988 season.

“Yeah, it really does sound as good as ever, if I say so myself,” he said.

Alabama Opens Season Sept. 2 With Eli Gold At The Mic

So, when Alabama hosts Middle Tennessee on Saturday, Sept. 2, at 7:30 p.m. on the SEC Network, Gold will be in the booth. He will call Alabama’s two Saturday scrimmages before that for practice – not for broadcast. And two talk shows on the two Thursday nights before the opener on the Alabama Radio Network.

Eli Gold (center) before Alabama game with former analyst Phil Savage (left) and Chris Stewart, who replaced Gold as football play-by-play in 2022 when Gold was ill. Gold returns this season. (Photo Courtesy of University of Alabama).

“If you’ve had anybody in your family who’s had cancer, man, it was not fun,” Gold said. “I guarantee you that. You’ve got to fight and put every ounce of your being into beating the disease. It’s not easy. It was very difficult missing football after 35 years, too. It’s not good when you have to listen to somebody else do your job, you know?”

Gold underwent his first round of chemotherapy on Dec. 31, 2022, and was recently given the “all clear” call by doctors.

“Of course, you’re holding your breath and waiting for what the news is going to be like,” he said, describing what radio listeners go through as Gold makes a dramatic call. “And it comes, ‘You’re free and clear. There’s not a bit of cancer left in you.'”

Missing games was one thing. Gold realized cold and hard that he may not see 70.

Eli Gold’s Wife Told He May Not Make It

“There are millions going through exactly what happened to me,” he said. “When I was lying there, and they’re putting this poison into my veins, which is what chemo is basically, when they’re dripping that into your veins, you just realize what life is about.”

During the ordeal, doctors told Gold’s wife Claudette that he might not make it through the night multiple times.

“There was a stretch there where everything just kind of came down on me,” he said. “Thank God, I made it back. And here I am ready to start.”

Gold missed football, but he was not ready to miss his daughter Elise’s wedding in January of 2024.

“I wanted to beat this damn disease so I can walk her down the aisle,” Gold said.

Eli Gold speaks with Alabama coach Nick Saban before a game in the 2021 season.

Gold also wanted to come back for the throngs of Alabama fans and fans of him in general who sent him letters and notes during his illness.

“Some came to me. Some came to the university,” he said. “A lot of them came to our radio stations. Ryan Fowler, a talk show host in Tuscaloosa (100.9 FM), sent me cartons of stuff from fans who had dropped letters to them. You just don’t realize. They were coming from everywhere, and I read these. I said to myself, ‘I’ve got to get back to work on behalf of these people.’ I owe it to them, whether they had cancer, or their family member or loved one has cancer. I had to work hard to do that.”

Alabama Crimson Tide’s 2023 Opener Kept Gold Motivated

Knowing Sept. 2 was out there kept Gold driving.

“I had that date, as they always say, circled on my calendar,” he said. “I’ll tell you, knowing I could be doing the Alabama games was one of THE biggest things that kept me going during my recovery. Looking forward to the season and getting back behind the microphone was one of the things that absolutely kept me going. My family obviously, and so many others, too. But getting back behind the mic and continuing as the Voice of the Tide was it.”

In all, before and after the cancer diagnosis, Gold did 243 days in various hospitals.

He prefers the often cramped and hot broadcast booths throughout the country, and perhaps he will enjoy no game he has ever done as much as his first post-cancer game on Sept. 2.

“I will enjoy the hell out of it, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “When I walk into that stadium, even after all these years, I’ll still get psyched and ready to do my job for all our listeners. That’s who I work for. I work for our fans. I work for our listeners. That never goes out of my mind.”

Now, it’s just about getting the Voice stronger. Listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd (Sweet Home Alabama), 38 Special and fellow Brooklyn native Barry Manilow is part of the training.

“You just don’t sit down and talk for seven or eight hours,” he said. “That’s what I’m working on now, getting my air. That’s how we reference it in our business. You’ve got to be ready to do that. You’ve got to have the stamina.”

Gold is also singing to strengthen The Voice.

“I will sing in the car with the music going. I’ll have to start singing in the shower again a little bit,” he said. “I’m not a good singer. I found that out very quickly, but it is a way to strengthen your vocal chords and your diaphragm to push the air through and be ready to go. That’s what I’m working on now. But I’m ready to go.”

Without Gold in 2022, Alabama missed the College Football Playoff for just the second time since that started in 2014.

I can hear him now:

Turn it up

Big wheels keep on turnin’

Carry me home to see my kin

Singin’ songs about the Southland

I miss Alabama once again, and I think it’s a sin

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau joined OutKick as an SEC columnist in September of 2021 after covering LSU and the Saints for 17 years at USA TODAY Louisiana. He has been a national columnist/feature writer since the summer of 2022, covering college football, basketball and baseball with some NFL, NBA, MLB, TV and Movies and general assignment, including hot dog taste tests.

A New Orleans native and Mizzou graduate, he has consistently won Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) awards since covering Alabama and Auburn at the Mobile Press-Register (1993-98) and LSU and the Saints at the Baton Rouge Advocate (1998-2004). In 2021, Guilbeau won an FWAA 1st for a game feature, placed in APSE Beat Writing, Breaking News and Explanatory, and won Beat Writer of the Year from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA). He won an FWAA columnist 1st in 2017 and was FWAA's top overall winner in 2016 with 1st in game story, 2nd in columns, and features honorable mention.

Guilbeau completed a book in 2022 about LSU's five-time national champion coach - "Everything Matters In Baseball: The Skip Bertman Story" - that is available at, and Barnes & Noble outlets. He lives in Baton Rouge with his wife, the former Michelle Millhollon of Thibodaux who previously covered politics for the Baton Rouge Advocate and is a communications director.

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