By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – After nearly six decades behind the microphone, Jack Cristil is wrapping up his career with the Maroon and White.
Cristil, 85, announced Wednesday he’ll be stepping down as Mississippi State University’s football and basketball play-by-play man, citing health reasons. His final call will come Saturday when the Bulldogs visit Tennessee.
Cristil, who was in the football booth for 58 seasons and is in his 54th season courtside, made his decision based on the advice of doctors. He said a “deteriorating health situation” is requiring him to undergo kidney dialysis immediately.
“All good things, as they say in the trade, must come to an end sooner or later,” Cristil said on his postgame show Wednesday, after MSU lost to LSU, 84-82. “It has been one genuine pleasure to be associated with such a magnificent university such as this, with its faculty, students and Mississippi State family.”
Cristil has called more than 2,100 football and basketball games, and each MSU win was punctuated with his signature line: “Wrap it in Maroon and White!”
The Memphis native, who has lived in Tupelo since 1955, was hired by athletics director C.R. “Dudy” Noble in 1953 to call MSU football games. He was 27 years old at the time.
“My first reaction when I saw that was an empty feeling,” Ole Miss play-by-play announcer David Kellum said of hearing the news. “Just because he’s been doing it for so long, and what’s Mississippi State going to be like without Jack Cristil doing games? That’s just hard to fathom.”
Cristil has called 636 football games – nearly 60 percent of the games in school history. After his final basketball game he’ll have called 1,538 of those, or about 55 percent of all games.
“The Southeastern Conference has been really lucky to have a lot of guys like Larry Munson (Georgia) and John Ward (Tennessee), and the list goes on and on, and Jack has outlasted all of them,” said Don Williams, general manager for Bulldog Sports Properties, a division of Learfield Sports Inc. “If you talk to him like I did tonight, he looks good and sounds good, and for somebody to go out in that good of shape is a testament to him.”
Cristil had called five years of minor league baseball, including two seasons with the Memphis Chicks, and then high school games in Clarksdale.
He also called games for Tupelo High School and Itawamba Community College from 1955-85.
Cristil has been named “Outstanding Sportscaster in Mississippi” a record 21 times and in 1992 was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. That same year he received the Ronald Reagan Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters.
Cristil studied broadcast journalism at the University of Minnesota from 1947-48.
“From a technician’s standpoint, there’s nobody that can do it any better than him,” said Kellum, who grew up listening to Cristil. “He got in it when in radio, you had to paint a picture, and he does it so well.”
For the past 32 years, Cristil has been beside analyst Jim Ellis for both sports. Ellis, the play-by-play man for baseball, will take over for Cristil for the remainder of the basketball season. A permanent replacement will be sought after the season.
Text below is what Cristil said to sign off his broadcast Wednesday night.
“I’m not going to talk basketball for the next couple of moments. I certainly would like to have a personal message with you. I have been privileged for the past 58 years to have the opportunity to represent Mississippi State University as their broadcaster for football and basketball.
All good things, as they say in the trade, have to come to an end sooner or later. Please accept my sincere, my genuine, my honest and heartfelt thank-you for all the kindness you have displayed to me over these past 58 years. It has been one genuine pleasure to be associated with such a magnificent university as this with the administration, the faculty, its students and the Mississippi State family.
The reason I am stepping down at this particular point, in conference with my physicians, Dr. Martin in particular of Tupelo it’s been determined because of a deteriorating health situation in which I’m experiencing, that it is necessary of me to immediately start some kidney dialysis and in so doing, this treatment will restrict me to the point where I can not represent this university the way it should be represented. And when I can not do that, I have told many people over the years that I would step aside and now it’s time to step aside.
Please, ladies and gentlemen, accept my genuine, my honest, my heartfelt thank-you for all the kindness, the courtesy and the encouragement that you have given to me and to my family over these years. The Mississippi State University family is second-to-none, and as a family, I know you understand. Thank you very much. May God’s blessings be upon you and your family. Thank you.
That concludes our broadcast of Mississippi State basketball from Learfield sports.”