HOUSTON — Keith Jackson could simply say "Danny Ford" and go on with his thought, but that wouldn't be Keith Jackson. Ford comes out "that tobacco-chewing fella over in Fayetteville," and when you hear such phrases, it's time to shout, "Welcome back, Keith. . . and college football [they're synonymous]."
Saturday, at noon, Jackson will be saddling up as play-by-play announcer for the 27th year a-running as ABC gets the season under way with the Kickoff Classic: top-ranked Florida State vs. Kansas.
Aside from his enjoyable down-home way of moseying through a telecast, Jackson is a guy who can get you up to date rapidly on anything having to do with the collegiate game, past, present or future. He's a godsend when, in the course of human events, one finds focus diverted by the myriad of other sports that command time and attention.
One of the top news stories last week and again this week was sanctions being dropped on a couple of high-profile teams, Auburn and Washington, and, as expected Keith was there with XTC worthwhile insight.
His beloved Huskies from the great Northwest got the book thrown at them by the Pac-10 and Jackson wasn't about to let the severity of the penalties levied by the conference slip by without comment.
"I don't doubt there's self-interest reflected in the decision, but this is nothing new for the conference, going all the way to the days when they booted Idaho out," he said. "The Pac-10, by the way, is the only conference that acts in this singular [judge and jury] manner. There has to be some bias involved."
Just as there was bias, he assumed, "back in 1955 when I was working in Seattle covering the university on local television. It was the last time Washington was penalized in a situation nearly identical to this one, a slush fund being involved."
He more than hinted that the present-day Huskies' domination of the Pac-10 with three straight Rose Bowl appearances under coach Don James and the situation nearly 40 years ago when coach Jim Owens had Washington riding high might have created a "need" for the powerful California schools to take these outlanders down a peg.
"One question I'd like to ask the conference, one you'd never get an answer to, of course, is if it was their intention to destroy the program? Taking away the television money and bowl appearances, OK, but losing 20 scholarships over the next two years is halfway to the 'death penalty' [the name for a sport being banned at a school]."
Similar to the ACC of old, where a seemingly justified feeling of paranoia existed among those schools outside North Carolina, the Pac-10, according to members in Washington, Oregon and Arizona, is run by the Cal quartet -- Southern Cal, UCLA, Stanford and Cal-Berkeley.
"My immediate impression when sanctions and probations are dealt out to schools is a bunch of coaches and administrators sighing, 'There but for the grace of God go I,' " Jackson said. "I tend to come down on the side of the coaches in these situations because I think it's unreasonable to expect them to be chasing after kids.
"I hear the man when he says I can't spend all my time monitoring people. A lot of people are calling Don James a quitter and I talked to him [Monday] after he resigned. He said, at 60 years of age, he just feels he doesn't have the energy to fight [the perceived injustice]. When you think about it, being asked constantly about the penalties and probation would drive anyone crazy."
Jackson pointed out, "at one point in the mid-'80s, no less than half the conference, five schools, were on probation at the same time. They had a tough time finding someone to play in the Rose Bowl."
Almost any college football game tunes Keith Jackson up to nearly a fever pitch and, in a couple of weeks, Washington will be on ABC playing Stanford. Recall, some time back, Cardinal coach Bill Walsh referred to the Huskies as running "an outlaw program," a statement he has since apologized for.
"You think they won't remember that up in Seattle?" Jackson asked. "Wooo-eeeee." That's Keith's way of saying he can't wait for that scrum.
As for Florida State and Kansas? "Should be a good ballgame. Kansas has a bunch of tough kids."
And the reference to "that tobacco-chewing fella over in Fayetteville," coach Danny Ford of Arkansas: "Watch out for him. He's pretty good preparing a team for a big game and Arkansas is going to beat some teams in the SEC."
Texas A&M defends its trademark
HOUSTON -- Texas A&M plans to complain to ESPN about the cable network's use of the term "12th Man" in a contest promotion, the school's athletic director says.
ESPN is sponsoring "ESPN's NFL 12th Man Contest," with the winner receiving tickets to attend NFL games next season.
Interim athletic director Wally Groff says Texas A&M holds the trademark on the term "12th Man," used to describe A&M fans who traditionally stand during games in support of their team.