Sports broadcaster Keith Jackson dead at 89

ABC2 (8/4/98)KICKOFF CLASSIC-- ABC Sports, the network of college football and the Bowl Championship Series, kicks off its 33rd season with a blockbuster schedule that includes the nation's top-ranked teams, beginning with the early-season KICKOFF CLASSIC, between Florida State and Texas A & lM on MONDAY, AUGUST 31 (8pm ET, to conclusion) on the ABC Television Network. Veteran play-by-play announcer Keith Jackson (right) will call the action with Pro Football Hall of Famer and ABC college football analyst Bob Griese from Giants Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands. Library Tag 05242009 Sports
Keith Jackson (right) and Bob Griese at a college game in 1998.

Keith Jackson, the down-home voice of college football during more than five decades as a broadcaster, has died. He was 89. He died Friday and no cause was given in a statement Saturday by ESPN.

Jackson’s familiar “Whoa, Nellie” expression was a staple of his football game calls, but he was a versatile announcer who also worked on NBA, NFL, auto racing, and Olympics telecasts.

He was also credited with first calling the Rose Bowl “The granddaddy of them all,” and naming Michigan’s stadium “The Big House,” according to ESPN.


Jackson’s longtime employer was ABC Sports. Jackson covered many sports, but he was best known for college football. His signature phrases like ‘‘Whoa, Nelly!’’ gave his game calls a familiar feel.

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Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger said Jackson ‘‘was college football’’ for generations of fans. Jackson retired after the 2006 Rose Bowl and is a member of the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

Jackson was a longtime resident of Sherman Oaks, Calif., and Pender Harbor, British Columbia. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Turi Ann.

An Associated Press report was included. Follow Matt Pepin on Twitter at @mattpep15.