Keith Jack­son dead at 89

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - SPORTS -

Keith Jack­son, whose sig­na­ture phrases like “Whoa, Nelly!” made him the down­home voice of col­lege foot­ball dur­ing more than five decades as a sports­caster, has died. He was 89.

Keith Jack­son, whose sig­na­ture phrases like “Whoa, Nelly!” made him the down-home voice of col­lege foot­ball dur­ing more than five decades as a sports­caster, has died. He was 89.

Jack­son died Fri­day, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment Satur­day by ESPN, which con­sol­i­dated with ABC Sports, Jack­son’s long­time em­ployer. No cause or place of death was given. Jack­son was a long­time res­i­dent of Sher­man Oaks, Cal­i­for­nia, and Pen­der Har­bor, Bri­tish Columbia.

Jack­son cov­ered many sports, but he was best known for col­lege foot­ball. A na­tive of ru­ral west Ge­or­gia, his smooth bari­tone voice and use of phrases like “big uglies” for line­men gave his game calls a fa­mil­iar feel.

He might be best known for his “Whoa, Nelly!” ex­cla­ma­tion, but he didn’t overuse it dur­ing games. Bor­rowed from his great­grand­fa­ther, a farmer, the phrase was also part of a com­mer­cial Jack­son did for Miller Lite in the mid’90s.

In a Fox Sports in­ter­view in 2013, Jack­son said his folksy lan­guage stemmed from his ru­ral up­bring­ing and he be­came com­fort­able with the us­age through the years.

“I would go around and pluck things off the bush and see if I could find a dif­fer­ent way to say some things. And the older I got the more will­ing I was to go back into the South­ern ver­nac­u­lar be­cause some of it’s funny,” Jack­son said.

Bob Iger, chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive of The Walt Dis­ney Co., said lis­ten­ers “knew it was a big game” when they heard Jack­son’s voice.

“For gen­er­a­tions of fans, Keith Jack­son was col­lege foot­ball,” Iger said.

Jack­son’s death comes just three weeks af­ter that of another sportscast­ing ti­tan — Dick En­berg, known for his own ex­cited calls of “Oh, my!” dur­ing a 60-year ca­reer.

Kirk Herb­streit was among the col­lege foot­ball broad­cast­ers pay­ing trib­ute to Jack­son on so­cial me­dia. He said in a tweet that Jack­son was “ev­ery­one’s fa­vorite CFB broad­caster.”

“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,” Herb­streit wrote.

Af­ter serv­ing four years in the Ma­rine Corps, Jack­son broad­cast his first col­lege foot­ball game in 1952 as an un­der­grad­u­ate at Wash­ing­ton State. He worked in ra­dio and tele­vi­sion be­fore join­ing ABC Sports in 1966.

Jack­son first an­nounced his re­tire­ment in 1998 but re­turned to work. He re­tired for good af­ter the 2006 Rose Bowl, which fea­tured Texas’ up­set of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia in the BCS na­tional cham­pi­onship game. He is a mem­ber of the Sports Broad­cast­ing Hall of Fame.

The Rose Bowl sta­dium’s ra­dio and TV booths were re­named in his honor two years ago. He is in the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame for his con­tri­bu­tions to the New Year’s Day game, which he called a record 15 times and nick­named “The grand­daddy of them all,” ac­cord­ing to the Rose Bowl web­site.

Jack­son also called mul­ti­ple World Se­ries and base­ball All-Star games, and was ABC’s lead NBA play-by-play an­nouncer and worked col­lege bas­ket­ball with Dick Vi­tale. Jack­son also cov­ered 10 Olympics, call­ing swim­ming, track and field, bas­ket­ball, speed­skat­ing and ski jump­ing.

Jack­son is sur­vived by his wife of 63 years, Turi Ann.

Fu­neral ar­range­ments were not an­nounced.

Keith Jack­son

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