Keith Jackson, Voice of College Football, Dies at 89

Mr. Jackson had the same reputation among his colleagues in the booth. As the former quarterback Bob Griese, Mr. Jackson’s color commentator for many years, recalled: “At our first game, he said to me, ‘All right, what do you want to do?’ I said: ‘You’re the guy who’s been here. You’re Mr. College Football.’”

Even after decades in the job, Mr. Jackson retained an old-fashioned, wide-eyed love for the college game.


The National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association named Mr. Jackson sportscaster of the year five consecutive times, from 1972 to 1976.

Associated Press

“The N.C.A.A. can make anybody cynical,” Mr. Jackson once told Sports Illustrated. “But I’m not. It’s still fun to see new generations enjoy the game peaceably. I get there an hour and a half before the game and watch the bands rehearse, the people carry on. You let it seep into you.”

The National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, now known as the National Sports Media Association, named Mr. Jackson sportscaster of the year five consecutive times, from 1972 to 1976.

Mr. Jackson once told The New York Times how the broadcaster Ted Husing inspired his breezy style, advising him: “Never be afraid to turn a phrase. If you can say something in such a way that’s explanatory, has flavor and people can understand it, try it. If it means quoting Shakespeare or Goethe, do it.’’

He was more partial to the lingo of his native rural South.

Mr. Jackson’s “Whoa, Nellie!” punctuating an exciting play was his best-remembered good ol’ boy touch, though he maintained that he didn’t use it all that often.

He said he had a mule named Pearl while growing up on a Georgia farm but attributed the expression to his great-grandfather Jefferson Davis Robison, who evidently plowed many a field holding the reins of a mule.

“He was a farmer and he was a whistler,” Mr. Jackson told The Los Angeles Times in 2013. “He loved two phrases: ‘Dad gummit’ and the other was ‘Whoa Nellie.’”

Mr. Jackson informally christened the University of Michigan’s cavernous stadium at Ann Arbor “the Big House”; he relished broadcasting the Rose Bowl game, “the granddaddy of ’em all”; and he admired the enormous linemen, who were “the Big Uglies in the trenches.”

Keith Max Jackson was born on Oct. 18,…

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