Keith Jackson, who was widely regarded by several generations as
the voice synonymous with college football, has died. He was 89.
Jackson died on Friday night, according to media reports.
The Georgia-born Jackson’s folksy voice and colorful expressions
made him a popular play-by-play personality among college football
Jackson was best known for his signature phrase “Whoa, Nellie” as
well as “big uglies” in reference to offensive linemen and holding
the last syllable in the word “fumble” for a few seconds. He is
also credited with nicknaming the Rose Bowl as “The Granddaddy of
Them All” as well as christening Michigan Stadium with its “Big
“For generations of fans, Keith Jackson was college football,” said
Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company. “When you
heard his voice, you knew it was a big game. Keith was a true
gentleman and a memorable presence. Our thoughts and prayers go out
to his wife, Turi Ann, and his family.”
Jackson began his broadcasting career on the radio in 1952 by
calling a Washington State vs. Stanford game. He went on to call
national college football games for ABC Sports from 1966-2006 in
addition to providing the voice for Monday Night Football in the
NFL in 1970. Jackson also worked with games involving Major League
Baseball, NBA and the USFL as well as events such as PGA Tour golf,
the Olympics, boxing and auto racing.
Although versatile, it was college football for which Jackson was
Jackson initially announced his retirement from college football
play-by-play responsibilities after the 1998 season, but stayed on
with ABC Sports before walking away in May 2006.
“This is the perfect time,” Jackson told The New York Times in May
2006. “I don’t want to get back into the pressure cooker of
play-by-play and worry about travel. I don’t want to die in a
stadium parking lot.”
Bob Griese was quite clear in what he’d remember about Jackson, his
longtime broadcast partner with whom he started working in 1985.
“That big smiling face, and just the thrill and the love he had for
doing college football,” Griese told ESPN. “He did it for a long,
long time. … He never intruded on the game. It was always about
the kids on the field. Never, never shining the light on himself.
And that was one of the things that I most admired about him.”
Jackson’s last game was a memorable one as it was the 2006 Rose
Bowl, with Vince Young leading Texas past Heisman Trophy winners
Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush.
“Just heard the news that everyone’s favorite CFB broadcaster Keith
Jackson passed away last night,” ESPN college football analyst Kirk
Herbstreit wrote on Twitter. “Can close my eyes and think of so
many of his special calls. Thank you Keith for all the memories and
the grace in which you provided them. RIP Keith.”
Jackson was inducted into the American Sportscasters Hall of Fame
in 1994. The National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association
named him the National Sportscaster of the Year five times, among
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