Keith Jackson, who was widely regarded as the voice of college football by several generations, died late Friday night, his family said. He was 89.
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what legendary sports broadcaster died at the age of 89 over the weekend.
Jackson, who retired in 2006, spent some 50 years calling the action in a folksy, down-to-earth manner that made him one of the most popular play-by-play personalities in the business.
“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 got his start on the radio in 1952, broadcasting Washington State games, but went on to provide the national television soundtrack for the biggest games in the most storied stadiums. His colorful expressions – “Whoa, Nellie” and “Big Uglies” among the many – became part of the college football lexicon.
Keith Jackson was the voice of college football. Rest In Peace my friend 🙏🏼 pinkarmy.net/2YcAaRKoan
One of my favorite memories from my time in college was getting to do production meetings with Keith Jackson and Dan Fouts. Keith was the voice of my childhood Saturday football afternoons. Rest In Peace my friend. #legend https://t.co/7SD1hmzdVg
THE voice of college football and one of the most iconic voices of all time, RIP Keith Jackson. Thank you for all of the incredible Saturday’s.
#KeithJackson was the fabric of College Football. #RIP 🙏🏼 pinkarmy.net/Bf2DlYu8Az
Jackson began calling college football games for ABC Sports when it acquired the broadcast rights for NCAA football in 1966. He also worked NFL and NBA games, 11 World Series and LCS, 10 Winter and Summer Olympics, and auto racing. In addition, he traveled to 31 countries for “Wide World of Sports.”
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Among his broadcasting accomplishments, Jackson was the first play-by-play voice of Monday Night Football when the program debuted in 1970. He called Bucky Dent’s home run against the Red Sox in 1978 as well as Reggie Jackson’s three-homer game in the 1977 World Series.
His Olympics highlights include Mark Spitz’s record seven gold medals in the 1972 Games and speedskater Eric Heiden’s five golds in 1980.
Jackson announced he would retire from college football play-by-play after the 1998 season but ended up continuing with ABC Sports. He walked away for good in May 2006, telling The New York Times he was finished “forever.”
“I am saddened to hear the news of Keith Jackson’s death,” USC athletic director Lynn Swann, another broadcast partner of Jackson, said in a statement Saturday. “Keith covered games I played in and we worked together at ABC Sports for decades. Every step of the way, he shared his knowledge and his friendship.
“Not just the voice, but the spirit of college football. My heart and prayers go out to his wife and children on this day and I thank them for allowing so many of us to have shared in Keith’s life.”
Keith Jackson (center) teamed with Howard Cosell (left) and Don Meredith for the first “Monday Night Football” telecast on ABC on Sept. 21, 1970. ABC Photo Archives/ABC/Getty Images
His final game ended up being the 2006 Rose Bowl, the thrilling national-title showdown between USC and Texas that saw Vince Young and the Longhorns prevail over the Trojans and their two Heisman Trophy winners, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, with 19 seconds remaining.
Other memorable college football moments with Jackson on the play-by-play call included the 2003 Fiesta Bowl (Ohio State vs. Miami), Kordell Stewart’s Hail Mary in the 1994 “Miracle at Michigan,” Desmond Howard’s “Hello Heisman” moment in 1991 for Michigan, and “Wide Right I” and “Wide Right II” in the Florida State-Miami rivalry.
He was inducted into the American Sportscasters Hall of Fame in 1994, and he received the Amos Alonzo Stagg Award from the American Football Coaches Association.
ESPN Classic and ESPNU will feature these college football games called by Keith Jackson, who died Friday.
ESPN Classic on Saturday • 1994 Colorado vs. Michigan, 4 p.m.
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• 1997 Ohio State vs. Michigan, 6 p.m.
• 2003 Ohio State vs. Miami, 8 p.m.
• 2006 Rose Bowl: Texas vs. USC, 11 p.m.
ESPNU on Sunday • 2003 Ohio State vs. Miami, 6 a.m.
• 2006 Rose Bowl: Texas vs. USC, 9 a.m.
All times ET
Jackson was born on Oct. 18, 1928, in Roopville, 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 with his radio call of a University of Washington rowing victory.
He became sports director of ABC Radio West in 1964 and was a freelancer for ABC Sports until becoming part of its college football announcing crew.
The National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association named him the National Sportscaster of the Year five times, among other honors.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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