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Keith Jackson

Updated on September 18, 2014

Sportscaster Keith Jackson

Whoa Nellie! For many long-time football fans, Keith Jackson will always be remembered as the voice of college football. In 2006, Jackson retired from the broadcast booth after a 40 year run with ABC television. Keith Jackson's Hall of Fame career has netted him countless awards and accolades for his devotion to college football.

Public domain photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

Broadcasting Career

Jackson began his career as a broadcaster at Washington State in 1952, when he called a radio game between Stanford and Washington State. He then worked for KOMO radio in Seattle, and later for KOMO-TV from 1954 to 1964 as co-anchor for their first news team (first co-anchor news team on the West Coast), covering Seafair hydroplane races, minor league Seattle Rainiers baseball games, and University of Washington Huskies football games. In 1958, Jackson became the first American sports announcer to broadcast an event from the Soviet Union, a crew race between the Washington Huskies and a Soviet team. Despite heavy suspicion and numerous hurdles by the Soviet authorities, Jackson and his crew were able to cover the race: the first ever American sports victory on Russian soil.

In the early 1960s, Jackson covered American Football League games. In 1970, he was chosen to be the first play-by-play announcer on Monday Night Football covering the NFL, but he remained in that capacity only for the program's first season. Frank Gifford was ABC's initial target but could not get out of his CBS contract until after the 1970 season. In 1971, however, Gifford landed the job. He found out that he had been taken off the Monday Night package from 38 messages, not from Roone Arledge himself. This led to some contention between him and the brass at ABC.

Jackson was the play-by-play announcer for the United States Football League broadcasts on ABC from 1983 to 1985. He was paired with Lynn Swann and Tim Brant. He called all three championship games in the league's short history.

For all his success, he received the most acclaim for his coverage of college football. He genuinely enjoyed the sport and the purity of it. Jackson began his ABC career at a time when television play-by-play announcers did not always have regular analysts. He would only once miss working a college season in his over 50 years (when he served as play-by-play announcer during the inaugural season of Monday Night Football), beginning in 1952. Jackson was joined in the booth by Joe Paterno for the 1974 Michigan-Ohio State game in Columbus, while Woody Hayes accompanied him for the 1974 Notre Dame-USC game.

Jackson announced his first retirement from college football at the end of the 1998 season and his intention to live full time at his home in California. Choosing the 1999 National Championship at the Fiesta Bowl between Tennessee and Florida State as his last broadcast, he concluded the program by stating "Tennessee 23, Florida State 16. And so it is done. I say goodbye to all of you. God bless and good night." During the game, Jackson also verbally recognized that John Ward, Tennessee's long-time radio sportscaster, was also broadcasting his last football game for the Vols.

Jackson rescinded his decision the following fall and began to do a more limited schedule of games, teamed with Tim Brant and later Dan Fouts, almost exclusively sticking to venues on the West Coast, closer to his home in British Columbia. Two notable exceptions were the 2003 Michigan-Ohio State game and the 2005 Red River Rivalry. Both were the 100th meeting between two archrivals. He strongly hinted that he was interested in retiring for good after the 2005 season, telling The New York Times that he was feeling his age after 53 seasons. ABC tried to lure Jackson to stay, but he made up his mind. Jackson decided to retire for good on April 27, 2006, at age 77, noting he didn't want to die in a stadium parking lot. His last game call was the 2006 Rose Bowl featuring Texas vs. USC.

Jackson Tribute Clip

Jackson Accolade

Late Penn State Head Coach Joe Paterno said of Jackson: "I don't think you could say that there is any one person who is not a coach, athletic director or administrator who has done more for college football than Keith Jackson."

Do You Miss Keith Calling College Football? - You can elaborate here.

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    • QuizSquid profile image

      QuizSquid 4 years ago

      There's no one quite like Keith Jackson. He made those broadcasts something special.

    • NUTZFORdBUCKS profile image

      NUTZFORdBUCKS 6 years ago

      Holy Buckeye!