Chet Coppock, the legendary and flamboyant sportscaster who changed the landscape of broadcasting in Indianapolis, wearing a signature full-length fur coat and injecting his sometimes-controversial opinion into every story, has died.
Coppock was in a car crash last week outside Hilton Head, South Carolina, and died Wednesday due to the injuries he sustained, his daughter confirmed in a post on Facebook. He was 70 years old.
“His passing is untimely, unexpected and painfully sad,” Lyndsey Coppock wrote, “but all we can do at this time is remember how lucky we were to have such a unique and creative trailblazer help shape (us) into the adults we know he was so incredibly proud of.”
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In Indianapolis, Coppock was known as the first loudmouth sportscaster, a former roller derby announcer who joined WISH-TV (Channel 8) in 1974 and left as sports director in 1981 for Chicago.
“Chet Coppock used to wear a big fur coat, go to sporting events and prance around. He did things to attract attention,” said Mark Montieth, a writer for the Indiana Pacers. “He did that kind of thing that other locals weren’t doing.”
In an interview with the Indianapolis News in 1978, Coppock described himself as a “shake, rattle and roll” sportscaster. “I inject opinion into every story I do,” he said at the time.
Later as a sports broadcaster in Chicago, he gave Indianapolis credit for launching his character.
“WISH helped me carve my entire broadcasting persona,” he said in 2013, an inductee to the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame. “They let me be something Indianapolis had never had: a villain.”
Montieth remembers watching Coppock on television as a young boy.
“He was a game changer in the local media,” he said. “He was the guy who instead of just sitting at a desk and reading scores on the evening sportscast was just a lot more colorful.”
Coppock was the first to read professional wrestling scores, Montieth said, and that was fitting because he was comparable to a pro wrestler.
“He was real cocky, real flamboyant,” said Montieth, who did a one-on-one interview with Coppock in 2013. “I compared him to wrestler Gorgeous George.”
He entered the ring with a splash. Coppock entered viewers homes with that same splash.
Coppock once described himself as “part professional wrestling, part carnival barker, part hustler and part journalist.”
Former WISH-TV anchor Mike Ahern once told IndyStar Coppock changed “the whole framework of sportscasting” in Indianapolis.
“I remember one time Coppock had a real glum look on his face,” Ahern said. “I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ He said, ‘I can’t understand it. I haven’t received one piece of hate mail today.”
Coppock was certainly a trailblazer, said Mark Patrick, who was a sports anchor for WISH-TV from 1990 to 1998.
Patrick remembers Coppock would walk a circular pattern around the court during the Pacers’ games, wearing his legendary full length fur, waving to people.
“He was a master showman,” Patrick said. “After Chet, all the rest were allowed to show much more personality.”
Follow Dana Benbow on Twitter @DanaBenbow.