Photo from (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Keith Jackson, the voice of college football who for decades on ABC broadcasts, died Friday night. He was 89.
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.
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.
Jackson joined the ABC radio network in 1965, freelancing TV assignments before settling in permanently at ABC when Roone Arledge needed someone to call a parachute-jumping segment for “Wide World of Sports” in 1968.
Jackson , worked 15 Rose Bowls, more than any other announcer. No cause of death or other details were given in a statement from ESPN, which, along with ABC, Jackson’s longtime employer, is owned by the Walt Disney Co.
ABC quickly put him on college football, and the fit, as Jackson might have said, was “pert-near” perfect. After announcing his retirement in 1998, he was honored wherever he went to work games. At Michigan, former coach Bo Schembechler presented Jackson with an autographed helmet and a Michigan jersey at halftime while the marching band spelled out, “THANKS KEITH.”
Keith Jackson was criticized for ignoring an ugly incident in the 1978 Gator Bowl game, when Ohio State coach Woody Hayes punched Clemson player Charlie Bauman after Bauman had intercepted a pass near the Ohio State sideline.
Recalling the scene for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1999, Jackson said that because the sideline was crowded with players and officials, “the fact of the matter is, I didn’t see [the punch]. ... If people go back and listen, I said, ‘Let’s look at the tape and see what happened.’ But we didn’t see the tape because the network was nickel-and-diming the operation at that time with a bunch of green kids and the tape was in New York, which did not feed to us in the booth. I saw [the punch] for the first time at noon the next day on NBC.”
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.
Jackson announced that he would retire from college football play-by-play after the 1998 season but ended up continuing with ABC Sports.
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.
He walked away for good in May 2006, telling The New York Times he was finished "forever."
Jackson is survived by his wife of 63 years, Turi Ann, three children and three grandchildren.
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