Broyles begs to differ with this Jackson call

By: Bob Holt
Published: Saturday, January 13, 2018
Frank Broyles (right) and broadcaster Keith Jackson began working as a team on ABC college football telecasts after Broyles retired as the Razorbacks coach in 1976.
Frank Broyles (right) and broadcaster Keith Jackson began working as a team on ABC college football telecasts after Broyles retired as the Razorbacks coach in 1976.

Editor's Note: This story originally published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Sept. 12, 1998. It is being republished following Keith Jackson's death Friday at the age of 89.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Frank Broyles would like to tell Keith Jackson "Whoa, Nellie" when it comes to his former broadcast partner's decision to retire after this year.

Broyles, Arkansas' athletic director who was a color commentator with Jackson on ABC's college football telecasts from 1977-85, said he has been aware of Jackson's plans for the past three years.

"Every time I talk to Keith, I try to change his mind about retiring and tell him he can't do it because college football needs him," Broyles said. "He's told me that he won't change his mind, but I'm still hopeful that he will come back and keep doing the games."

Jackson, whose signature expression is "Whoa, Nellie," began broadcasting college games in 1952. He has been ABC's lead announcer since 1966, with the exception of 1970, when he was the play-by-play man for the first season of Monday Night Football.

Broyles said Jackson's long-term association with college football has been a key for the game's growth on television.

"Keith has become the voice of college football and has brought so much credibility and acceptance to college football at a time when we were really in a competitive race for viewers with pro football and other sports," Broyles said. "His presence on the scene year after year has been a direct benefit to the popularity of college football."

Broyles was well-known for coaching the Razorbacks from 1958-76, but he said Jackson couldn't go anywhere on a game weekend without being recognized.

"I was with Keith, but really I was just a sidekick, while Keith was the star of the show," Broyles said. "Everywhere we went -- on the airplane, in the restaurant, in the hotel, going through the parking lot and through the stadium -- people would know Keith.

"They'd see us and yell, 'Hi Keith! Hi Keith!' When Keith was in town, everybody took notice, because his presence meant it was the game of the day in college football.

"His popularity to the fans was so obvious. He's a true celebrity and probably the only announcer I know of in any sport who enjoys that type of popularity with the fans."

Broyles' first ABC broadcast wasn't with Jackson. While still coaching, he did the Texas-Texas A&M game with Chris Schenkel in 1974, when Arkansas' season was over. ABC producer Don Ohlmeyer liked Broyles' work and asked him back for the Auburn-Texas Gator Bowl, when he again was teamed with Schenkel.

When Broyles stepped down as Arkansas' coach after the 1976 season, he began doing ABC games on a regular basis, sometimes with Jackson and sometimes with Schenkel. A couple of years later, Broyles became Jackson's partner every week for the big game.

Broyles and Jackson, both natives of Georgia, had an easy chemistry that came across on the television screen as two pros who loved talking to their audience about college football.

"We found out that we had played an American Legion baseball game against each other in Georgia when we were both growing up," Broyles said. "We became good friends from the very beginning when we started working together."

Broyles is used to giving orders as a coach and athletic director, but he had no problem deferring to Jackson's expertise when it came to broadcasting.

"Heavens, no, I was in his field and I was a neophyte in that field," Broyles said. "He was the expert and he coached me and was my mentor. I'm fortunate that he was a good friend and had the interest to help me and work with me and tell me what approach to take.

"I think the best thing Keith ever told me was, 'Frank, whatever you say, be sure that a housewife in Eugene, Ore., can understand what you're saying.'

"So, I never used football jargon to describe what was going on. I wouldn't say, 'Draw play,' because I knew some people didn't know what that is. I'd say, 'Here's a fake pass and run.'

"I stayed very basic and used regular words everybody could understand."

Broyles said Jackson always has understood it is the game, not the announcers, that should be the focus of the broadcast.

"Keith is the epitome of doing the game for the enjoyment of the fans," Broyles said. "He said his part of it was secondary, that he was just a tool in the process. "In all of my time with him and all the other games I've heard him do, I've never heard him use the word 'I.'

"I hear other announcers say, 'When I was playing,' or 'Well, I don't think this.' But I've never heard Keith use 'I.' "

Broyles has remained close to Jackson even though they no longer work together. When Jackson was inducted into the American Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame in 1995, Broyles was his presenter at the banquet.

"We'll always be good friends," Broyles said. "I miss working with him on the broadcasts."

Broyles said a change in ABC ownership resulted in a decision to replace him as color commentator before the 1986 season.

"The new management told me that was a conflict of interest for me to be an athletic director and doing the games," Broyles said. "They said they'd had complaints that other schools thought it was an advantage for Arkansas for me to be on the broadcast, so that was [the network's] call to make a change."

Broyles said he wasn't upset about ABC's decision, because he was beginning to grow weary of traveling every week, leaving Thursday and not getting home until Sunday, and had been contemplating leaving the broadcast in another year.

Bob Griese is Jackson's current broadcast partner. They are in their 11th year together.

"Keith and Bob are a great team," Broyles said. "They work together beautifully."

Like Broyles and Jackson used to do.

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