Billy Packer, 82, a 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS and an Emmy award-winning college basketball broadcaster, passed away on Thursday.
Billy Packer, a veteran college basketball analyst, passed away, his family confirmed Thursday night. Before his final Final Four in 2008, Packer, 82, had worked for CBS Sports as its Emmy-winning college basketball analyst for 27 of his 34 years on Final Four broadcast teams.
Packer’s son, Mark, revealed to The Associated Press that his father had been ill for the previous three weeks and had been hospitalized in Charlotte. He eventually passed away from kidney failure. The development of college basketball and Packer’s broadcasting career were mutually exclusive. In every Final Four from 1975 to 2008, he served as an analyst or color commentator. In 1993, he was honored with a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio, and Sports Analyst.
Together with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire, Packer helped make three-man TV broadcast teams popular during his more than three decades as a prominent voice in the sport. Packer was also unafraid to express his opinions. One of his many memorable calls was “Simon says championship” as Arizona won the 1997 national championship behind a performance of 30 points from Miles Simon.
In 1975, he called his first Final Four after joining NBC in 1974. John Wooden’s final game as a coach that year saw UCLA defeat Kentucky in the championship game.
Along with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire, Packer contributed to the 1979 broadcast of the NCAA championship game, in which Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team defeated Larry Bird’s Indiana State team. With a 24.1 Nielsen rating, which translates to an estimated 35.1 million viewers, that game is still the highest-rated basketball match in history.
In the fall of 1981, when the network acquired the NCAA Tournament rights, Packer joined CBS. Up until the 2008 Final Four, he continued to serve as the network’s primary analyst.Mark, Liz, and Brandt were all children of Packer, who also predeceased his wife Barb. Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, said in a statement that Billy Packer “was synonymous with college basketball for more than three decades and set the standard of excellence as the voice of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.”
“He had a significant influence on the development and acceptance of those sports. In typical Billy fashion, he offered his own distinctive style, viewpoint, and opinions when analysing the game, but he never lost sight of the action on the field. Billy was a dedicated basketball player, but at his core, he was a family man. He leaves a legacy that spans college basketball, CBS Sports, and, most importantly, as a devoted husband and father.
Everyone will miss him greatly. As a 5-foot-9 senior guard on the 1962 Wake Forest team that went all the way to the Final Four under coach Bones McKinney, Packer made a significant impact on the game. He averaged 14.1 points per game. Packer started his broadcasting career after a brief stint as the Demon Deacons’ assistant coach.
Packer stirred up controversy in 1996 at CBS by using the phrase “Allen Iverson, a former Georgetown star, was referred to as a “tough monkey” during a game. Later, according to Packer “I wasn’t sorry for what I said, as it had absolutely nothing to do with Allen Iverson’s race, in my opinion.
Packer “set the standard of excellence as the voice of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament for more than three decades,” according to Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports. Packer has been “synonymous with college basketball for more than three decades.”
2008 saw the induction of Packer into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
As news of Packer’s passing circulated, ESPN commentator Dick Vitale posted on Twitter. When Billy Packer passed away, Vitale tweeted, “So sad to learn of his passing. He had such a passion for college basketball.” “My thoughts and prayers are with Mark, Billy’s son, and the entire Packer family. Billy and his partners Dick Enberg and Al McGuire were outstanding, and I have always had the utmost respect for them. Billy be reborn.
We fell in love (with) college basketball because of you, tweeted college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla. I’ll always hear your voice in my head. Packer claimed that “Billy was always a little bit of a hustler — he was always looking for that next business deal.”
Get latest news on The News Garage