Jack Cristil got to say MSU fans’ favorite words one last time tonight.
The Bulldogs went up to Knoxville and beat Tennessee, 70-69, a huge win in itself. It was extra special, of course, because it was Cristil’s final broadcast after 58 years of calling MSU games (54 of of those years doing basketball).
Cristil received well-wishers before the game, and Tennessee officials recognized him on the court prior to tipoff. During the pregame show, longtime color analyst Jim Ellis told Cristil, “Jack, it’s a funny feeling right now as I say I hope you have a great call and a great game, and I hope you can wrap it in maroon and white.”
During the second half, ESPN cut to the MSU Network feed for a few moments, and Cristil went nationwide on his farewell call. It only got better from there, as the Bulldogs scored the winning bucket with 3.4 seconds left. Here’s how that call went – if only I could replicate the sound.
Cristil: “The Bulldogs come back down the floor, and Dee Bost spins in the lane, the ball slammed in the goal by Wendell Lewis. And Mississippi State should be up by a point. … He hit that rim with both hands, slammed it in the goal.”
Lewis was fouled on the play and had a free throw. Cristil and Ellis debated whether it’d be better for Lewis to miss it or make it.
Cristil: “We have 3.4 seconds left in the game. Lewis thus far on the day, by the way, has hit three out of four, and his free throw is long, it’s not good. Tennessee rebounds it, Hopson grabs it, he’s going to fire from midcourt. Missed it. Wrap this one in maroon and white!”
Ellis: “Boy, that was good to hear. That was music to the ears of Bulldogs supporters. Haven’t won here since ’99, Jack.”
MSU’s players and coaches then walked over to Cristil and shook his hand.
During the postgame show, Cristil talked about his relationship with Ellis and John Correro, who used to be the analyst and does sideline reporting for football.
Cristil: “Each of you see the same things that I see. You see the marvelous people at Mississippi State University, and the wonderful things they’re trying to do and trying to get accomplished, whether it be in the academic area or in the athletic area. And the young men and the young ladies they have turned out over the years. And you’re so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this, and to share in some of the cream, so to speak, like you get a game like today. This is what makes it all worthwhile. To have had good help over the years, and to have had this opportunity for this lengthy period of time, and to see the progress that has been made on that campus since I first came in 1953 is absolutely amazing. And I”m so thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part of it.”
Ellis: “I know that our Mississippi State folks all say God bless Jack Cristil, and they want to wrap your retirement in maroon and white and wish you the absolute best every day of your life.”
Cristil: “Thank you, Jim.”
Cristil interviewed coach Rick Stansbury, and he signed off a few moments later.
“You can wrap this one in maroon and white,” he said. “This is Learfield Sports.”
MSU team spokesman Gregg Ellis tweeted this after the game: “Sitting by Mr. Jack on the ride to airport. I’ve never seen him smile so much. He was the man today.”
(Note: I’ll have a lengthy story on Cristil in Sunday’s Journal.)