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Keith Jackson, the Voice of College Football, Dies at 89

He retired from broadcasting in 2006

Kaitlin Thomas

Keith Jackson, regarded by many as the voice of college football, died Friday evening. He was 89.

Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company, confirmed the news Saturday via Twitter.

"For generations of fans, Keith was college football," Iger wrote. "When you heard his voice, you knew it was a big game. Keith was a true gentleman and a memorable presence. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Turi Ann, and his family."

Born and raised in Georgia, Jackson served in the U.S. Marine Corps before attending Washington State University, where he got his start in radio in 1952 broadcasting university football games. He graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism in 1954 and soon began working for local ABC affiliate KOMO in Seattle. He became sports director of ABC Radio West in 1964.

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Known for his signature phrase "Whoa, Nellie!", Jackson first began calling college football games for ABC Sports in 1966, when the network acquired the broadcast rights for NCAA football. During his lengthy broadcasting career, Jackson covered 11 World Series, 10 Winter and Summer Olympics, and worked NFL and NBA games. He was the first play-by-play announcer of Monday Night Football, which debuted in 1970. After covering college football for more than 50 years -- 40 with ABC Sports -- Jackson retired in May 2006. His last game was the 2006 Rose Bowl, an instant classic featuring the Texas Longhorns and USC Trojans.

Among his notable achievements, Jackson is credited with nicknaming the University of Michigan's football stadium "The Big House" and coining the Rose Bowl as "The Granddaddy of Them All." Other highlights include being the first American sports announcer to broadcast an event from the Soviet Union, calling the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, when the Ohio State Buckeyes defeated the Miami Hurricanes in double overtime to win the national championship, and calling Reggie Jackson's three-homer game in the 1977 World Series. He also covered Desmond Howard's famous "Hello Heisman" moment in 1991.

Jackson received numerous awards during his career and was inducted into the American Sportscasters Hall of Fame in 1994. He received the Amos Alonzo Stagg Award from the American Football Coaches Association and was named National Sportscaster of the Year five times by the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

He is survived by his wife, three children and three grandchildren.