Bulldogs bid farewell to Cristil today at Tennessee

Published 12:09 am Saturday, February 26, 2011

When the final horn sounds tonight in Tennessee’s Thompson-Bolling Arena, more than a basketball game will end. So will an era.

Mississippi State fans will bid farewell to Jack Cristil, the longtime play-by-play man whose voice has called Bulldog football and basketball games for more than a half-century. The 85-year-old Cristil, citing health concerns, announced his retirement earlier this week.

“It’s been an honor and pleasure to have the opportunity to work with a legend such as Jack Cristil, the greatest sports announcer of all time,” said Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury. “I was always amazed with how he was able to control his thoughts, and how he was never lost for words. I consider Jack a close friend, and I will dearly miss our pregame and postgame conversations. There will never be another one like him.”

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Stansbury, in his 13th season in Starkville, is the second-longest tenured basketball coach in the Southeastern Conference — and still has only been on the bench for about a quarter of the games Cristil has called.

There have been 100 different SEC football coaches and 92 basketball coaches in the 58 years Cristil has been behind a microphone. Bear Bryant was coaching at Kentucky during Cristil’s first football season in Starkville, and Darrell Royal was MSU’s coach in his second.

Cristil broadcast games during 11 different presidencies and in seven decades. Georgia Tech and Tulane were still SEC members when he began his career in 1953.

Cristil’s broadcast partner, Jim Ellis, will assume the lead play-by-play role. Ellis has been in the booth for a remarkable 32 years — and is still MSU’s junior broadcaster by more than two decades.

Tonight’s game will be televised by ESPN, which is expected to pay tribute to Cristil. Thousands of Mississippi State fans will surely do the same by turning down the volume on the TV and flipping on the radio, listening one last time to the voice so many have come to know as the sound of the Bulldogs.