Keith Jackson, the legendary college football announcer who nicknamed Michigan Stadium “The Big House,” died Friday night at the age of 89.
ESPN said Jackson’s family confirmed his death.
Jackson, whose folksy voice endeared him to college football fans across the nation, retired in 2006 after more than five decades in sports broadcasting. His final game was Jan. 4, 2006, with Texas defeating USC in the national championship game.
Jackson was known most for his distinctive phrases, such as “Whoa, Nellie!” after an exciting play, and “swappin’ paint,” to describe the battle between offensive and defensive linemen.
“Having a hard time finding the right words to express what the icon Keith Jackson meant to me personally, Michigan football and CFB, in general,” former Michigan receiver Desmond Howard, now a football announcer himself, wrote on Twitter. “May his family find some comfort in knowing how much joy he brought us for so many years and that his legacy endures.”
Jackson is also credited with nicknaming the Rose Bowl “The Granddaddy of Them All” among bowl games.
"For generations of fans, Keith Jackson was college football," Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company, said in a story on ESPN.com. "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."
In addition to college football, Jackson also called the NFL, NBA, MLB, auto racing, golf and college basketball.
In a Fox Sports interview in 2013, Jackson said his folksy language stemmed from his rural upbringing in Georgia and he became comfortable with the usage through the years.
“I would go around and pluck things off the bush and see if I could find a different way to say some things. And the older I got the more willing I was to go back into the Southern vernacular because some of it’s funny,” Jackson said.
Jackson was born in Roopville, Georgia, in 1928 and graduated from Washington State University in 1954. He was a longtime resident of Sherman Oaks, California.
After serving four years in the Marine Corps, Jackson broadcast his first college football game in 1952 as an undergraduate at Washington State. He worked in radio and television before joining ABC Sports in 1966.
Jackson is survived by his wife of 63 years, Turi Ann, three children and three grandchildren.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.