Longtime Final Four basketball analyst Billy Packer, 82, dies

Longtime college basketball commentator Billy Packer, the voice of the NCAA Tournament for more than 30 years, died Thursday night. He was 82 years old.

Packer’s sons, Mark and Brandt, announced the news via Twitter Thursday night.

Mark Packer told The Associated Press that his father had been hospitalized in Charlotte for the past three weeks and had several medical issues, eventually succumbing to kidney failure.

Packer was a college basketball analyst for 34 consecutive Final Fours, first at NBC and then at CBS, while also serving as an analyst for ACC games on Raycom. He won a Sports Emmy Award for Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio, and Sports Analyst in 1993.

Packer was the son of longtime basketball coach Anthony Packer, who spent 16 seasons as head coach at Lehigh. After earning all-state honors as a high school senior at Penn State, Packer attended Wake Forest, where he was named All-ACC in 1961 and 1962. He helped lead the Demon Deacons to three ACC regular season titles and their first appearance in the Final Four in 1962, when Packer was named to the All-Region Team.

He briefly entered the coaching profession before starting his work as a broadcaster in 1972. Packer told The Athletic in 2019 that he “never had any goal of being a broadcaster”.

But within two years, Packer was poised for the NCAA tournament and Final Four games and didn’t give up his seat until his departure in 2008.

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β€œI made up my mind mid-career that I would never do that. One of the things I said to myself is that I really enjoy researching and studying the game and having the opportunity to connect with people I respect that really know the game and its history. And if I don’t enjoy doing that, I’m going to want to stop.” β€œThere’s a point where you say, well, I enjoyed running, and now it’s time to go back and do the other things that I enjoy. The last game I saw in person was the last one I broadcast. That was the [2008] National Championship Between Memphis and Kansas”.

Packer has some of the most famous calls in Final Four history, perhaps most notably saying, “Simon says… championship” after Miles Simon led Arizona to the 1997 National Championship.

He was also part of the broadcast in 1979 with Dick Enberg and Al Maguire when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team defeated Larry Bird’s Indiana State in the title game. It remains the highest rated game in basketball history with a 21.1 Nielsen rating, an estimated 35.1 million viewers.

“He really enjoyed doing the last four innings,” Mark Packer told the AP. Basketball in college with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, and that became, I think, the catalyst for college basketball fans to go crazy with March Madness.”

CBS Sports president Sean McManus said the Packer has been “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 has had a tremendous impact on the growth and popularity of the sport,” McManus said in a statement. In true Bailey fashion, he analyzed the game with his unique style, perspective and opinions, but always kept the focus on the game. As passionate as he was about basketball, at heart Bailey was a family man. His legacy is in CBS Sports, across college basketball, and most importantly, as a husband. A beloved father and grandfather, he will be sorely missed by all.”

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ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale was among those paying tribute to Packer on Twitter, writing, “So sad to learn of the passing of Billy Packer who had such a passion for college basketball.”

College basketball analyst Fran Varchella chirp: “We fell in love [with] College basketball because of you. Your voice will remain in my head forever.

When Packer stepped down as CBS’ lead analyst and was replaced by Clark Kellogg in 2008, the most important people in college sports expressed their admiration for Packer and his influence on the game.

“His understanding of men’s college basketball, his analysis of the game, and his love of its place in higher education ensured a legacy anyone could envy,” said Miles Brand, then-NCAA president. “He is a friend of intercollegiate athletics, and I want to thank him for the tremendous contributions he has made to the NCAA Tournament, as well as on many, many other occasions over several years.”

“The only word to describe Billy is gigantic,” former Big East commissioner Mike Trangiz said in 2008. β€œI think his passion for the game and presenting it the way he presented it is unparalleled. It creates an incredible void. Those of us who have a passion for college basketball will truly miss him.”

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Outside of his broadcasting career, Packer has been involved in a number of business and real estate deals.

“Since I played my last basketball game in college,” he told the Tampa Bay Times in 1999, “I haven’t been interested in competing in sports. But I love the challenge of business deals. To me, that’s the closest thing to sports. It’s a game that adults can play.” “.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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