Keith Jackson, legendary voice of college football, dies at 89
Legendary ABC Sports broadcaster Keith Jackson, the voice of college football for decades, has died.
Legendary ABC Sports broadcaster Keith Jackson, the voice of college football for decades, has died. He was 89.
Jackson died surrounded by his family, NBC Sports' Todd Harris tweeted Saturday morning.
The voice of college football and so much more has left us. My mentor and dear friend, Keith Jackson passed last night surrounded by his family. Truly one of the greats in the broadcasting industry. I am grateful for my time with a true legend. Thank you for the lessons KJ. pic.twitter.com/SPGIZXrZNA— Todd Harris (@TheToddHarris) January 13, 2018
A fixture on ABC's college football broadcasts for more than a half-century, Jackson was known for punctuating calls with his signature, "Whoa, Nellie!" or homespun phrasing such as linemen being "big uglies in the trenches."
"For generations of fans, Keith Jackson was college football," Robert Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, ESPN's corporate parent, said in a statement. "When you heard his voice, you knew it was a big game. Keith was a true gentleman and memorable presence. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Turi Ann, and his family."
He coined the phrase "Granddaddy of Them All" for the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., and worked 15 of them, including his final game before his retirement in 2006 when Texas beat USC for the national championship. The Rose Bowl TV and radio booths were renamed "The Keith Jackson Broadcast Center" in 2005.
Named National Sportscaster of the Year five times, Jackson also worked NFL games and was the original play-by-play voice of "Monday Night Football." He and Celtics legend Bill Russell called NBA games on ABC for four years.
He also worked 10 Olympics, World Series, auto racing and traveled to 31 countries for ABC's "Wide World of Sports."
Jackson was born on Oct. 18, 1928, in Georgia near the Alabama state line. He spent four years in the Marine Corps before attending Washington State and graduating with a broadcast journalism degree. He worked at the ABC affiliate in Seattle, KOMO, for 10 years, including conducting the first live sports broadcast from the Soviet Union to the United States in 1958.
He became sports director of ABC Radio West in 1964 and became part of the network's college football announcing crew when ABC acquired the rights in 1966.
An Associated Press report included in this story.