Keith Jackson, the man whose voice was synonymous with college football for generations of fans, died Friday night at age 89, according to his family.
Jackson’s broadcast career began at Washington State in 1952 when he called a game between Washington State and Stanford, but it was just the first of many stops for the legendary voice. During his expansive career, Jackson also called the NFL, MLB, NBA, PGA Tour golf, the Olympics, boxing, racing and even some college basketball alongside Dick Vitale. He was the first play-by-play man of Monday Night Football and was the voice of some of the United States’ top Olympic moments, including calling Mark Spitz’s seven and Eric Heiden’s five gold medals..
But it was college football that Jackson was most known for calling as he spent 50 years in the booth covering games across the country. He’s credited with giving the Rose Bowl it’s “Granddaddy of Them All” nickname as well as christening Michigan Stadium with its “Big House” moniker.
Jackson was also famous for his catch phrases in the booth, none of which were more popular than “Whoa, Nellie!” He also turned the word “fumble” into an event during games, stressing the second syllable to make it sound like he was saying “fum-BULL.” Another popular phrase was “Hold the phone!” following a penalty flag during a play with Jackson holding on to the “n” in phone for a while.
Jackson retired from his duties in the booth following the 2005 season. His final game was the classic 2006 Rose Bowl between Texas and USC in which Vince Young scored on fourth-and-5 in the final seconds near the goal line to win a national title for the Longhorns.