Come this fall, Cal football will have a new voice. Justin Allegri, a northern California local, brings experience from a decade-long role as the San Jose State football and basketball radio play-by-play announcer to Berkeley.
Though the field of potential successors to the legendary Joe Starkey after a 48-year career on the mic was packed with competition, Allegri separated himself from the pack during the hiring process.
“It’s always ultra-competitive when a job like this opens,” Allegri said. “I felt like I had a good opportunity, (a) good shot being in the Bay Area.”
It seems much of Allegri’s appeal comes from his expertise beyond calling football and basketball. Allegri has done work for Sony PlayStation’s “MLB The Show,” as well as Minor League Baseball’s San Jose Giants.
Prior to his 11 years at San Jose State, he had already broken into the play-by-play world in a variety of sports. Following his first journalism classes in college and a self-proclaimed instant love for the mic, Allegri got his first gig in hockey.
In years to come, he went on to diversify his portfolio in sports media.
“You have to be diverse … so I was in the production side,” Allegri said. “I was in the photojournalism side. I was writing for a while just to try and make (myself) all the more attractive to the next position.”
Continuing to make himself unique, he will also serve as the host of “Bear In Mind” for Cal, a podcast centered around student athletes and coaches during their respective seasons that highlights unspoken storylines.
When Allegri takes the mic for Cal football’s season opener Sept. 2, it will mark the first time in nearly a half century that Starkey is not calling a game. Allegri is aware of the change he brings to many fans that tune into the radio, and wants to embrace both his uniqueness and the challenge that filling Starkey’s shoes brings.
“You can’t replace knowledge and context from over four plus decades. It’s just not possible. So his recall was tremendous. His descriptions are tremendous,” Allegri said. “His loyalty to the university was unparalleled. So you look at all those factors and you say, my gosh, I can’t take over for him. There’s no replacing that.”
“Part of the hard part for me is to come into this role. And be myself, but also respect what he’s done. And it’s gonna take time with the fan base. And I understand that I get it if I was listening to somebody for 40 years. I wouldn’t like the new guy either. But it’s what it’s going to be and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
The new guy has a great opportunity to make an impression on fans this season. In addition to calling all Cal football games this season, Allegri will also be the new voice of Cal men’s basketball. And in a year with a new basketball head coach and several new faces on the football field — including a new quarterback— the year to come is full of mystery.
Allegri and fans alike share a layer of understanding that there is an unknown factor with two of Cal’s most popular sports. And for Allegri, the camaraderie shared from starting new is what he is most looking forward to in his first year at Berkeley.
“I want to meet a lot of fans and the fans that are the most engaged because they’re going to be the ones that I’m going to talk to and I might learn something from,” Allegri said. “So when you transition over to a new program, I want all of that (history), but I understand it’s going to take time … And that’s what I’m most looking forward to.”