Keith Jackson, the signature voice of college football for five decades on ABC and ESPN punctuated with his folksy Georgia twang despite having lived most of his professional broadcasting life in the San Fernando Valley, died Friday night at the age of 89, the network confirmed.
No cause of death was given.
Jackson and wife of 63 years, Turi Ann, had a second home in Pender Harbor, British Columbia but spent most of their time in Sherman Oaks and were there through his retirement in 2006, which came after he did the USC-Texas national championship game at the Rose Bowl, the last of his 15 games at the stadium in Pasadena.
‘4th and 5’ — Keith Jackson’s final call
(via trivinity/YouTube) pic.twitter.com/7bgGJrdkao
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) January 13, 2018
“If it’s the end, then it’s the end,” Jackson said after that game in the ABC broadcast compound outside the Rose Bowl. “But I really don’t know, and if I did, I’d tell you. But this would be a pretty good game to go out on. All I know is that I’ll go home, have a nice bowl of soup, sleep in tomorrow and if the weather’s good, maybe play some golf.”
The Rose Bowl broadcast center is named in his honor, and one of his last public appearances on TV was an interview with Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit during the 2017 Rose Bowl between USC and Penn State.
“For generations of fans, Keith Jackson was college football,” said Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, which owns ABC. “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.”
Despite many versions of the story, Jackson says his famous catch phrase, “Whoa, Nellie,” came from his great grandfather.
“He was a farmer, he was a whistler. One of these guys, he was always working, always busy. … And then he would do something — drop something or whatever — and often…