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Remembering KOAA sportscaster Lee Douglas

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For 33 years, southern Colorado residents tuning in to KOAA’s nightly broadcast heard the words, “And here’s Lee Douglas with sports.” Those tuning in after the Super Bowl Feb. 5 heard something much different. That evening, viewers were met with the sad news that their sportscaster had died suddenly from kidney failure Saturday night, Feb. 4. He was 57.

Douglas Lee Cooley, longtime sportscaster for KOAA, died Feb. 4, due to kidney failure. Photo courtesy of chieftain.com.

Graduating from Pueblo Centennial High School in 1973, he started working part-time at the local radio station, KDZA, while attending CSU-Pueblo.  After graduating with a degree in mass communications in 1977, he started working full-time at KDZA. 

Born Douglas Lee Cooley, he swapped his first and middle names when he started broadcasting in the late ‘70s and his professional name became Lee Douglas.

Douglas’ incredible journey with KOAA began in 1979 when he started to work as a sports broadcaster.  He left KOAA briefly in the 1980s to become the assistant city manager of Pueblo, as well as the assistant manager of the Colorado State Fair.

“Lee was a really capable guy who handled the public relations for City Council and the city,” former city manager Lew Quigley said. “He really did a lot for this community.”

After returning to KOAA, Douglas had the opportunity of a lifetime in 1999 when he traveled with the Denver Broncos to Super Bowl XXXIII in Miami, Fla.  He was on the field when the Broncos won their second-straight Super Bowl and witnessed John Elway quarterback his last game.

“The first shot was our post-Super Bowl live shot in the pouring rain,” said Eric Danner, who traveled with Douglas as a reporter and photographer. “I remember Lee had no notes. He ad-libbed the entire live shot. As I recall, we had no communication back to the station and the people at home were none-the-wiser. The man was a true professional.”

Douglas was promoted to sports director in 2000, a position he held until his death.

In his outstanding career, Douglas was honored many times.

The Mass Communications Department at CSU-Pueblo honored him with their Outstanding Alumni Award in 1986. He was named “Best Local Sportscaster” by the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Pueblo Chieftain, the Colorado Springs Independent and the Pueblo Business Journal.

By 2005, Douglas was inducted into the Greater Pueblo Sports Association Hall of Fame, the second broadcaster in history to earn this honor.

In a 2008 interview with Pueblo Chieftain sports reporter Jeff Letofsky, Douglas said he wanted to be a professional athlete when he was growing up.  Realizing he didn’t have that kind of talent, he started reporting play-by-plays for local neighborhood games into a tape recorder.

While Douglas’ broadcasting career grew, he became more and more comfortable with people recognizing him as he shopped at local stores around Pueblo. As the years went on, those people became friends and Douglas became part of the family to his southern Colorado viewers.

“I never take myself too seriously,” Douglas said in the 2008 interview. “I’m not a doctor, lawyer, cop or fireman. I’m lucky. I have a job that pays me for what I’m doing and it’s something that I love.”