Billy Packer, a longtime college basketball announcer who worked 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS, died on Thursday at the age of 82, his son said in a tweet.
“The Packer Family would like to share some sad news,” tweeted his son Mark, who hosts a show on the ACC Network. “Our amazing father, Billy, has passed. We take peace knowing that he’s in heaven with Barb. RIP, Billy.”
Later that night, Mark told The Associated Press that his father had been in a hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina, for the past three weeks. He had been there for a number of health problems, but in the end he died of kidney failure.
Packer worked with many of the best play-by-play announcers of his time, like Curt Gowdy, Dick Enberg, Brent Musburger, and Jim Nantz. In 1993, he won a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio, and Sports Analyst.
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In 1972, Packer started working as a radio and TV host in Raleigh, N.C. In 1974, NBC gave him his big break on a national level, and he stayed there until 1981.
Packer was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008. He also worked as an announcer in 1979, when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State team in the championship game. He did this with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire.
With a 21.1 Nielsen rating and about 35.1 million viewers, that game is still the most-watched basketball game ever. In the fall of 1981, when CBS bought the rights to the NCAA Tournament, Packer moved on to work there. He was the main analyst for the network until 2008 Final Four. From 1975 to 2008, he called every NCAA men’s basketball tournament, even the Final Four.
“He really enjoyed doing the Final Fours,” Mark Packer told The Associated Press. “He timed it right. Everything in life is about timing. The ability to get involved in something that, frankly, he was going to watch anyway, was a joy to him. And then college basketball just sort of took off with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and that became, I think, the catalyst for college basketball fans to just go crazy with March Madness.”
Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, said 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 tremendous impact on the growth and popularity of the sport,” McManus said. “In true Billy fashion, he analyzed the game with his own unique style, perspective and opinions, yet always kept the focus on the game. As passionate as he was about basketball, at his heart Billy was a family man. He leaves part of his legacy at CBS Sports, across college basketball and, most importantly, as a beloved husband, father and grandfather. He will be deeply missed by all.”
Dick Vitale also tweeted his sympathy–
So sad to learn of the passing of Billy Packer who had such a passion for college basketball. My 🙏🙏🙏 go out to Billy’s son @MarkPacker & the entire Packer family.Always had great RESPECT for Billy & his partners Dick Enberg & Al McGuire-they were super.May Billy RIP .
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) January 27, 2023
“So sad to learn of the passing of Billy Packer who had such a passion for college basketball. My [prayers] go out to Billy’s son @MarkPacker & the entire Packer family. Always had great RESPECT for Billy & his partners Dick Enberg & Al McGuire-they were super. May Billy RIP.”
Packer wrote several books as well. In 1985, he wrote a book called “Hoops: Confessions of a College Basketball Analyst.” This was one of his best-known works.
Before Packer became a nationally known analyst, he played basketball at Wake Forest for three years and helped the Demon Deacons get to the Final Four in 1962.
Packer was known for his strong opinions, and he sometimes did things to stir up trouble. He said he was sorry for calling Allen Iverson a “tough monkey” in 1996 and said that the comment had nothing to do with race.
He also said he was sorry and felt bad for saying that two female Duke students shouldn’t have been checking press passes at a men’s basketball game in the year 2000.
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