Jackson says, `Whoa, Nellie' to retirement

Announcer returns to ABC to call Pac-10 football games

June 16, 1999|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN SPORTS MEDIA CRITIC

Like a college coach being lured out of retirement to make one last push for a title, ABC college football announcer Keith Jackson yesterday stepped out of his six-month-long retirement to call football games for the network this fall.

Jackson, who wrapped up 32 years of college football announcing with his call of last January's Fiesta Bowl national championship game, has agreed to announce Pac-10 games and the Rose Bowl for ABC.

Jackson, who has lived in the Los Angeles area for more than 40 years, said the chance to continue calling games while reducing travel made the offer -- personally extended by new ABC Sports President Howard Katz -- one he could not pass up.

"The fact that I can do what I like to do best and stay in my own bed made it a relatively easy decision. The one thing I was tired of was all the traveling," Jackson said. "I guess maybe I'm weird, but I enjoy doing it. I have an opportunity to sleep in my own bed and not have to beat myself up [traveling], and I like that."

Katz, who took over at ABC two months ago, said one of his first calls was to Jackson, whom he has been friends with for 28 years, to see if Jackson -- known for his "Whoa, Nellie" call -- would come back.

"From the initial conversation, I got the sense that if we could find a way to cut down on the travel, we could get this done," Katz said. "I don't think there are very many people who many of us know who would have entered into something like this, but he's an extraordinary guy."

Katz said Jackson, 71, will tell him annually whether he's comfortable working the next year. Jackson said he feels as though he has another "two or three years."

"I'll know when the tires are flat," Jackson said. "It's got to be up, it's got to be bright and it's got to be useful, and only if the public likes it."

Jackson, who will be teamed again with analyst Bob Griese, said he had not been approached by Katz's predecessor, Steve Bornstein, about staying on.

"My sense was they wanted to change me and that was fine with me," Jackson said.

Katz said Brent Musburger and Brad Nessler will split calling the national games this season and will alternate doing the national championship games this year and next.

Pub Date: 6/16/99

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