The Michigan Daily - Sports Monday- December 11, 1989 - Pagk 3
Q&A: ABC Sportscaster §Keithi 'ackson
A southern drawl and college football have mixed
for 40 years - now ABC's Keith Jackson tells all
After broadcasting college
football for nearly 40 years, ABC
television announcer Keith
Jackson embodies the sport's
foundations: enthusiasm and effort.
Jackson will be announcing
Michigan for the 8th time this
season at the Rose Bowl in
Pasadena on New Year's Day.
Daily Football Writer Adam
Benson talked with Jackson about
some of the pressing issues facing
college football today. Daily
Football Writer Adam Schrager
transcribed the interview.
Daily: It seems like this year
there are a lot of bowls that will
play into a National Championship
scenario. Have you seen a year like
this in recent memory?
Jackson: Oh yeah, there have
been some instances like this where
you have as many as five
possibilities. That's the most I can
ever remember, but whichever team
is undefeated is the one that will be
National Champion and that goes
back to the BYU time when they
won it undefeated. You could get
down to where you have a split
vote where the AP poll votes one
team and the UPI coaches poll
votes for another. We had that last
in 1978 when Southern Cal was
voted No. 1 by the coaches and
Alabama was No. 1 by the AP.
D: Do you think parity has set
in in college football?
' J: Oh, I think it's been with us
for the last half-dozen years. I think
over at least the last half-dozen
years we have had as many as 12,
14 teams capable of beating each
other by the time you get to the end
of the season.
You see this is one of the things
that Bo (Schembechler) does that
probably diminishes his chances of
*winning a national championship
because he comes out and he plays
top people. To open your season
with a Notre Dame at home or on
the road is a chaiienge and in many
instances the Irish have already
played a game.
So, if Michigan had had a game
against someone to work out the
kinks of their kicking game, they
could have probably beaten Notre
Dame in Ann Arbor and been
undefeated. If Michigan was
undefeated at this particular point,
they would be first in the nation.
You know what this is? It's the
best marketing in the world. It's
people arguing over the water
fountain on Monday morning. It's
arguing here and there and
everywhere. It's absolutely the best
"marketing there is. So if you've got
a third of the population of the
country arguing about which team
is No. I in college football, then
D: Any bowl matchup look
J: Well, Miami-Alabama has the
potential to be very exciting. Of the
big four, maybe the Cotton Bowl
would come off a little bit down.
pennessee-Arkansas would be an
exciting football game if you lived
in one of those two states, but
unfortunately for them, the rest of
the country doesn't care that much.
But I think the Orange Bowl, Sugar
Bowl, and Rose Bowl probably
have the best matchups. I think the
teams are fairly equal in quality.
And those are the people who are
contending for the big one really
D: What is it that you expect to
see in the Rose Bowl?
J: It's a game for the big uglies
in the trenches. The big guys will
be in front all night. They'll butt
heads with each other. Both teams
are quite gifted and I don't expect to
see anything different from what we
saw a year ago. I think you'll see
Michael Taylor doing his thing and
I think you'll see the youngster
Marinovich doing his thing for
Southern California. Southern
California, if they're ever going to
have their neck moved and their
jaws set, will be there this time
because those kids don't want to go
0-3 in the Rose Bowl.
D: Earlier this year, you referred
to yourself as the "Voice of the
Wolverines." Did you really mean
J: Oh, I was just kidding. Last
year, I did seven USC games. This
year, I did seven Michigan games.
What that tells you is that we've
got 20 teams once the season starts
with the Big Ten and the Pac 10.
13 of them aren't too good, so you
spend a lot of time with your
quality teams and that's the
D: What has made Michigan
appealable to the nation?
J: They win...they win. But
there's more to it than that. Many
kids want to come and play for Bo.
Why do they want to come and play
for Bo? One, they win and two,
Michigan is a university of high
national posture academically.
The law school is outstanding.
The med school is outstanding and
on and on and on. Schembechler.
Play for Bo. You walk out on the
street and someone asks you where
you went to school, you say I went
to Michigan. If you played football
and you played for Bo, everybody
knows you went to Michigan. He
runs a quality program. He's
irascible and at the same time, a
lovable kind of guy who believes in
I have been watching this guy
pretty damn closely for the whole
21 years that he's been at Michigan
and I don't see the man doing
anything wrong. Just because some
newspaper guy in Atlanta doesn't
like him or some radio guy in
Portland doesn't like him, they
don't know what the hell they're
talking about. The only people that
count when you start measuring a
coach are the guys who work with
him and who were influenced by
him. And I don't hear anybody
knocking Bo who ever played for
All you have to do in dealing
with Schembechler is to do what
you say. That's all. Be honest and
caring because that's what he is.
I've never heard one of his players
knock him and that is the ultimate
D: Has college football made
your career as big as it is?
J: I guess so. That's the thing
that I chose to do. There are only
two sports I've never done. One is
ice hockey because I grew up in the
South and there wasn't any hockey
down there. And the other that is
considered a sport by some is
demolition derby. I've never done
either and I'm past 60 now and I
damn well don't intend to.
I like to do college football
because I grew up withecollege
football on the farm. One of my
favorite teams when I was a lad
growing up was the University of
Chattanooga Moccasins which is
now the University of Tennessee at
Chattanooga. They were coached by
a fella named Scrappy Moore.
I just grew up as a college
football fan because pro football
didn't exist in the South in those
days. I wasn't exposed to the Bears,
Eagles and Giants, so I became a
college fan and knew chapter and
verse on all of the college teams.
I have an affinity for college
football and its roots more so than I
do for pro football. Now, I'm doing
games where I'm seeing the sons of
fathers whose games I did in the
60s and that's fine. I can sit down
and tell a kid, 'I saw your old man
play. You're not as good as your
old man so get off your ass and go
to work.' I get a great pleasure out
of seeing youngsters.
D: What do you look to bring
to a broadcast?
J: Nothing but truth, pleasure.
It's a visual medium. I don't need
to do much. The only time I have
to get into show business is when
it's 39-0 at halftime. Otherwise,
leave them alone. If it's a good
'All you have to do in
Schembechler is to do
what you say. That's
game like Ohio State-Michigan,
just identify the people, amplify the
cirumstances and clarify certain
things for the people at home.
You see in television you might
have 50 million people watching
you, but you're not talking to 50
million people, you're talking to
one. You're only talking to a
person because you don't have 50
million people all watching one
television. They may be scattered in
40 million homes. You're really
talking to individuals. I try very
hard to be understandable and clear.
D: Every broadcaster has their
famous call, it seems yours is the
extended fumble call or 'Oh Nellie.'
Where did those come from?
J: I never use them. That's an
overrated, overstated thing. I maybe
said the fumble thing, but 'Oh,
Nellie'...Christ, I can't remember
the last time I said that. Airball in
basketball is mine. It goes back to
1953, but it's no big deal. What has
come out here is an amalgamation
Most people tend to put their
finger on me as being a Texan, but
I can sit down and speak as English
as anybody. I worked at the BBC in
1958. I can also speak some
German. You kind of want to pass
yourself off sometimes as more
than just a country boy, but that's
just not up to me. Whatever is
comfortable. I try to make the
viewer comfortable. I've been doing
this since 1952 and it's gotten
easier over the years.
What I try to do is take some
collection of words that everybody
can understand. I remember one
phrase where one guy came up to
me after the game and said 'How in
the hell did you come up with that.'
I didn't know how. But it struck me
that when Southern Cal was
playing UCLA, they had three
penalties in a row piled on top of
each other, so instead of having
first-and-10, they had first-and-45. I
said that's kind of like having
Boardwalk and Park Place go in the
tank before you even got a chance
to bid. This is something that
everybody could relate to, the game
College is a game. You've got
bands, 106,000 people crowds,
mamas, papas, grandmas, grandpas,
great-grandmas, great-grandpas, you
don't need some smart-mouthed
announcer to redirect everything.
Let them soak it up and enjoy it.
D: Do you believe there should
be a football National
J: Well, anything is feasible. I
happen to like the bowl system.
Who do you satisfy with a national
playoff? I think you satisfy the
media. I think you satisfy the
betting public and I think you
satisfy administrators who think
only about money. I don't think
anybody else cares about it. People
I see pushing it are not my kind of
So what it all comes down to is
plain chase for money. I always
thought when we got to a fiscal
wall in college football, we may
have a playoff. How do you pick
the teams? There is no such thing
as a blue-ribbon committee. That is
a myth. They don't exist. Who
picks the team? Broadcasters and
reporters pick the team? That's
absurd. So who picks 'em? I don't
know. Leave it alone.
D: The knock on Bo is that he
hasn't won a National
Championship and he never will.
What are your thoughts on that?
J: Who cares. Who cares. What
really matters is what he does with
his program and what the people do
who come out of his program. This
year is a perfect example of what
they are talking about. If he had
played Mollyputz Tech in his
opening game instead of Notre
Dame, he'd be ranked No. 1 in the
Baseball owners' purse
strings loosened too far
Rumor has it that ex-Met Felix Milan will return to New York Mets
for a three-year, $15.9 million guaranteed contract. The Mets, looking for
someone to fill the second base position felt that it needed Millan to teach
the youngsters how to choke up on the bat.
In other Hot Stove talk, the New York Yankees resigned "The
Whammer" himself, Babe Ruth, to a nine-year, $16 billion contract.
According to owner George Steinbrenner, the Yankees signed the dead
slugger because "it's the closest thing we've got to a decent pitcher with a
Get the idea? The use of exaggeration to prove a point. And the point?
Baseball salaries have gotten way out of control as owners offer insane
amounts of money to mediocre players in attempts to make their teams
Place these between your cheek and gum:
St. Louis Cardinal Bryn Smith: 3 years/$6 million. Smith plans to use
money to buy vowels for his first name. At the current "Wheel of Fortune"
market value of just $250 a vowel, Smith should be in line for some
major gift certificates.
New York Yankee Pasqual Perez: 3 years/$5.7 million. Rock solid
pitcher who should fall to pieces just when the Yankees need him to come
through. Had trouble dealing with life in such burgeoning metropolises as
Atlanta and Montreal. Steinbrenner's New York should be cake.
Houston Astro Bill Gullickson: 1 year/$1.5 million. Two years ago,
Gullickson left New York for Japan. Evzr since, he has been playing in
those matchboxes the Japanese call stadiums. With such an incredible
resume, how could the Astros resist?
Pittsburgh Pirate Walt Terrell: 1 year/$1.2 million. Even though
Terrell's agent admitted that he will only win half his games and garner a 4
point ERA, the Pirates signed him to the big bucks. This will be the
fourth team Terrell has played for in the last year. The pitching hungry
Yankees let him go. 'Nuf said.
Detroit Tiger Tony Phillips: 3 years/$4 million. I had this guy on my
rotisserie league two summers ago. A little known utility infielder, this
guy was a dog with fleas. He got three at-bats per week as my hitting stas
plummeted. I couldn't wait to cut him. And, now, the Tigers hand him a
guaranteed, three-year contract.
Sickening. Just two years back, Kirk Gibson went to the Tigers,
begging for a guaranteed, three-year contract. Despite all his loyalty, the
Tigers told Gibson to take a hike if that's what he wanted. Now, the Tigers
give some stranger, some utility infielder millions of dollars to play for
them. And now, they are pus.
Good. It serves them right. The Tigers were colluders three and four
years ago when All-Stars, All-Tigers Gibson and Lance Parrish begged for
the big bucks. Now, the Tigers are free spenders on mediocre players.
It seems that the age of fiscal responsibility has passed us. Baseball
players, regardless of talent, receive way too much money. Loyalty no
longer remains a factor for players, only the cash, the bread, the moola.
And the owners prostitute the game by giving it to them. How can a
career .500 pitcher like Bryn Smith make $2 million? How can the
Cardinals justify that? How can Steinbrenner give that much money to a
head case like Perez?
How far off can the $4 million a year player be? Just last year, everyone
made waves because Orel Hershisher signed a contract that will pay him $3
million in 1991. Now $3 million a year contracts are being doled out like
This bickering takes away a lot of fun as rooting for someone who
makes $2 million a year can be very tough. As human beings, screwing up
a game or two will be inevitable for these free agents. Just as inevitable
will be the cacophony of boos laid upon them by fans who spend eight
hours a day trying to make ends meet.
A larger chasm between player and fan will be created if the players go
on strike as expected in 1990. How can these players complain when
average players make this kind of money? How much longer will fans
endure all this?
These salaries are driving a wedge between owners as well. Teams like
the Yankees and Red Sox receive over $30 million in local television
packages while the Texas Rangers and Minnesota Twins get only $3
Therefore, a salary cap which equally distributes the local television
money equally must be instated. Salary inflation must stop before the
game becomes completely ruined. I'm no economics major so I can't offer
any figures as to where to set the cap.
But a ceiling figure must be somewhere in the midst of this winter
insanity and it must be found and instated. Fast.
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