Thursday morning Jack Cristil got to wake up and read exactly what he meant to Mississippi State fans and it couldn’t have been more positive.
Saturday will be the final broadcast for the 85-year-old Cristil as he prepares to wrap up a 58-year broadcasting career in maroon and white with the Bulldogs men’s basketball road game at Tennessee (5 p.m., ESPN).
“He’s the most trustworthy presence for the MSU sports fan,” MIssissippi State athletics director Scott Stricklin said.
Cristil informed his listeners Wednesday night during the post-game show that his health concern is a upcoming kidney dialysis that his physicians have told him he needs to start next week.
“All good things, as they say in the trade, must come to an end sooner or later,” Cristil said on his post-game 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.”
Stricklin told the Starkville Daily News that Cristil informed him of his unfortunate health status Monday over the phone in a conversation that shocked the MSU athletics director that grew up listening to Cristil call games as a child.
“He’s like a walking encyclopedia,” Stricklin said. “I told him the great thing about all of this is you’re going to be around to read all the nice things people will say about you. It’s our little way of giving back to him for the 58 years he’s given us as the voice of Mississippi State athletics.”
Veteran color analyst Jim Ellis will assume play-by-play duties for the remainder of this men’s basketball season. An announcement on a permanent replacement will be made at a later date.
“I grew up listening to him so I was in awe of sitting beside him but it’s been a good experience,” Ellis said. “I hate that he couldn’t go out on his own terms but my goodness what a career.”
Stricklin has already proclaimed Thursday on Twitter that while the dates of the ceremonies still need to be figured out, Mississippi State will be honoring Cristil with his name somewhere at Davis Wade Stadium and a banner to hang in the rafters of Humphrey Coliseum.
During his legendary career as the voice of the Bulldogs, Cristil called 636 football games since 1953, or roughly 60 percent of every football game played in the history of the institution.
The last Mississippi State football game that Cristil broadcasted was the Bulldogs 52-14 victory over Michigan in the 2011 Gator Bowl.
“Jack Cristil has been such an important part in the fabric of the culture of the state of Mississippi, not just Mississippi State University, for an amazingly long run,” Mississippi State head football coach Dan Mullen said. “He’s been the consummate professional, and I consider myself very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with him the last two seasons. He is a legend and he will always be The Voice of the Bulldogs.”
Cristil, who informed the listeners of the news after discussing MSU’s loss to the Tigers with men’s basketball coach Rick Stansbury, was completing his 54th season as the men’s basketball play-by-play voice. He has described the action of almost 55 percent of all the men’s basketball games played at the school.
“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,” Stansbury said. “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 post-game conversations. There will never be another one like him.”
Cristil’s 58-years behind the microphone at Mississippi State is the longest tenure of any announcer in the Southeastern Conference outlasting some of the legends in the broadcasting business like Kentucky’s Cawood Ledford, LSU’s John Ferguson, Auburn’s Jim Fyffe, Alabama’s John Forney and Arkansas’ Paul Eells.
“Jack Cristil has been the voice of Mississippi State athletics for nearly 60 years, which is simply an amazing achievement,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said. “His unique voice and colorful broadcasting style will truly be missed across the airwaves throughout the SEC. We wish him the very best in the coming years as he addresses the health concerns that has taken him from the microphone.”
In August of 1953, Cristil sent audition tapes to then-MSU athletics director C.R. “Dudy” Noble, and just one month later the association between Cristil and the university began. Saturday Cristil will sign off the broadcast airwaves for the final time in the state he was born on Dec. 10, 1925.
“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,” Cristil said Wednesday night. “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.”