Keith Jackson, the iconic and legendary voice of college football, passed away on Friday night. Jackson was 89.
Jackson spent his broadcasting career calling multiple events for ABC, from baseball to basketball and ABC’s Wide World of Sports, but he will always be connected to his work covering college football. If there was a big game being played on ABC, Keith Jackson’s voice would likely be behind the microphone. Jackson spent his entire career broadcasting college football starting in 1952, with the lone exception of when he did Monday Night Football one season. Jackson provided the narration for many iconic college football moments from regular season games to bowl games, and always delivered with his signature style that provided the tone of the moment but without letting the moment get buried in his signature voice.
Jackson’s final game assignment was a true classic, the 2006 Rose Bowl BCS National Championship Game between Texas and USC. It was a fitting way for Jackson’s final broadcast assignment to send him off into retirement.
Jackson has done more to lend his voice to college football’s history over the years before and after his retirement from broadcasting. His work on team videos have helped preserve the history of various college football programs and he continued to help the Big Ten Network with documentary features as well.
Jackson was awarded the Gold Medal Award by the National Football Foundation in 1999, and the Rose Bowl stadium’s TV booth has been named in his honor. It is Jackson that is largely credited with nicknaming the Rose Bowl “The Granddaddy of Them All.” Jackson is also believed to have nicknamed Michigan Stadium “The Big House.” Jackson had a wide-spanning appeal across the college football landscape because he had a deep understanding and appreciation of the sport from multiple angles. Jackson was able to relay the significance of different traditions and stories for the games he covered because he invested himself in the pageantry and tradition wherever he traveled.
Over the years, listening to Jackson call a game was more and more like having someone tell us a story, and we could not wait to hear what happened next.
Rest in peace, Keith Jackson, and thanks for all of the memories.