College Football Sportscaster Keith Jackson Dies At Age 89

Sportscaster Keith Jackson, best known for his folksy coverage of college football, died Friday, according to ESPN. He was 89 years old.

Jackson worked on ABC’s Wide World of Sports and also covered Major League Baseball, the NBA and 10 Olympic Games.

But he was most closely associated with college football and fans were familiar with the way he called large linemen “big uglies” and the way he would exclaim “Whoa, Nelly!" when something exciting happened.

He is credited with naming the Rose Bowl as the Granddaddy of Them All and Michigan Stadium as the Big House.

“When I was a boy, we didn’t have all this pro stuff,” he said in 2009. “All professional sports of any consequence were located in the big cities in the north, so those of us who enjoyed the game of football followed college football.” 

Jackson retired after the 2006 Rose Bowl.

“For generations of fans, Keith Jackson was college football,” said Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Company. “When you heard his voice, you knew it was a big game. Keith was a true gentleman and memorable presence. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Turi Ann, and his family.”

After four years in the Marines, Jackson broadcast his first college football game as an undergraduate at Washington State. Stanford beat Washington State 14-13 in that game.

He graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism and spent 10 years at ABC affiiate KOMO-TV, Seattle, doing new sports and products, first in radio, then television.

Jackson joined ABC Sports full time in 1966. Wide World of Sports took him to 31 countries, including 10 Olympics. He also was the first play-by-play man for ABC’s Monday Night Football, sharing a booth with Howard Cosell and Don Meredith.

In 2009, he was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

Jackson is survived by Turi Ann, his wife of 63 years.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.