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Whoa, Nellie: Keith Jackson Ends Six-Month Retirement

ABC persuades Cougar alum to return in a regional role.

June 15, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) - Keith Jackson unexpectedly ended his six-month retirement Tuesday, deciding to return to ABC's college football telecasts this season.

Jackson, who retired this past season after 32 years with the network, will no longer be the network's top play-by-play man. Instead, he will work West Coast Pac-10 games and the Rose Bowl in January in order to keep travel to a minimum from his Los Angeles home.

"It was a relatively easy decision, and I know it sounds self-serving to retire and resurface," Jackson said. "I guarantee I wouldn't have done it if I couldn't stay in the West."

In January, the 71-year-old Jackson said the Fiesta Bowl was his final game, but ABC Sports president Howard Katz persuaded him to return in a regional role. Jackson will remain with analyst Bob Griese, his broadcast partner of the past 12 years, for 12 or 13 games in 1999.

The man famous for his "Whoa, Nellie!" call isn't sure exactly how much longer he'll stick around, but he figures that with the reduced travel, it should be at least two or three more seasons.

Katz is leaving the decision up to Jackson.

"Keith's going to tell me each year whether he's going to work the following year," Katz said. "And we'll do that however long he wants to do it."

Jackson will travel the farthest away from home for his first game - California at Nebraska on Sept. 11. Some of his games could be nationally televised, if Pac-10 teams such as Arizona, Arizona State or USC get off to good starts.

"What I guess we're saying with this announcement is that I'm staying at home and now there will be others doing the big games," Jackson said.

However, Katz would not bestow the title of No. 1 broadcast crew on the Brent Musburger-Dan Fouts team or the Brad Nessler-Gary Danielson pairing.

"Brent and Brad will share the spotlight on the national games," Katz said. "One of them will do the Sugar Bowl this year and the other will probably do the Orange Bowl next year."

The Sugar Bowl will likely determine this season's national champion, while the Orange Bowl will get the top picks in the Bowl Championship Series the following season. Katz also said Terry Bowden will replace Todd Blackledge, who left for CBS, as the studio analyst.

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