“Goodbye. . . . Hello, Heisman!”
College football lost one of its most iconic voices Friday night, “the soundtrack to so many of our Saturdays,” as one Los Angeles Times reporter put it, as longtime broadcaster Keith Jackson died at age 89, his family confirmed to ESPN.
Over a career of more than 50 years, Jackson’s Southern drawl and rhapsodic, folksy delivery was synonymous with some of college football’s most memorable moments. He will be remembered fondly for the sing-songy way he’d announce teams such as “Al-a-bama!”
Jackson was born in 1928 in Roopville, Ga., and attended Washington State after a stint in the Marine Corps. He began his career in radio in 1952 and transitioned to television after a couple of years. In 1966, he began calling college football games for ABC; he also would make appearances in the booth for college basketball, the NFL, the NBA, the World Series and the Olympics.
“Keith Jackson is a man of great character and a legendary broadcaster,” George Bodenheimer, then the president of ESPN and ABC Sports, said when Jackson retired in 2006. “For decades, his unmistakable style defined college football for millions of fans.”
He made famous such phrases as “Whoa, Nellie,” which he attributed to his great grandfather; “Big uglies”; and “Hold the phone!” He is credited with naming the Rose Bowl “The Granddaddy of Them All” and Michigan’s stadium “The Big House.”
Here are some of Jackson’s most memorable calls:
“Hello, Heisman!”: Desmond Howard’s punt return vs. Ohio State in 1991
2006 Rose Bowl: Vince Young’s Texas Longhorns vs. Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and Southern Cal
Miracle at Michigan: Colorado wins on a Hail Mary in “The Big House” in 1994
1986 NLCS Game 6: Mets win 16-inning thriller to reach World Series
“Bo Over the Top”: Bo Jackson scores game-winning TD in Iron Bowl
1993 Sugar Bowl: Alabama’s George Teague chases down Miami’s Lamar Thomas and forces turnover
1978 Gator Bowl: Woody Hayes’s Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Charlie Bauman’s Clemson Tigers
1985 Iron Bowl: Alabama beats Auburn on 52-yard field goal
Wisconsin upsets Nebraska in 1974