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From His Bulldog Mouth: The Legendary Jack Cristil Dies at 88

VIDEO Courtesy Mississippi State and

TUPELO, Miss.–Jack Cristil died Sunday at age 88 in Tupelo. From 1953 to 2011, Cristil was the voice of the MSU Bulldogs, becoming a legend for the university, a radio broadcasting legend, and a unique Mississippi personality.

Cristil died at Sanctuary Hospice in Tupelo after a battle with cancer and kidney disease, said a statement from Mississippi State.

His legendary voice and his talent for painting a picture in your mind of a gridiron occupied by the Bulldogs earned him a reputation throughout the south, and throughout the country. When he retired in 2011, he was the second-longest tenured play-by-play announcer for any college in the country.

Cristil retired because of his health problems.

“As a lifelong Bulldog, my heart is heavy at learning of the passing of legendary MSU broadcaster Jack Cristil,” said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. “Jack’s deep love of this university was always evident in his words and in his deeds. He was a tireless ambassador for Mississippi State and he brought great honor and distinction to our university as one of the most revered radio announcers in American history. I join every member of the Bulldog family in extending our sincere respects and deepest sympathies to his daughters, Kay and Rebecca, and to his grandchildren, Jake and Lindsey. Surely, Jack’s remarkable life and work is now forever wrapped in Maroon and White.”

This is a press release from Mississippi State that has info on arrangements and a history of Cristil’s life and career.

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. He was in his 54th season as the men’s basketball play-by-play voice, having described the action of almost 55 percent of all the men’s basketball games played at the school. In all, Cristil delivered game descriptions to Mississippi State fans across the Magnolia State and around the world for more than 1,500 collegiate contests.

“Jack Cristil connected with generations of Bulldog fans and remains an icon for all who love the Maroon and White,” MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin said. “No school’s broadcaster was as synonymous with their institution as Jack Cristil was with Mississippi State. Jack’s passing leaves a large void, but I think all Mississippians appreciated his dedication and talent, and Jack will always be the Voice of the Bulldogs.”

After his retirement, Cristil lent his time to the production of a biography called “Jack Cristil: Voice of the MSU Bulldogs.” The book, written by MSU journalist in residence Sid Salter with a foreword by author and MSU alumnus John Grisham, sold 10,500 copies and raised over $170,000 for the Jacob S. “Jack” Cristil Scholarship in Journalism at MSU.

Earlier, Jack and Mavis Cristil had established a need-based scholarship in their name to benefit Lee County students at MSU with academic talent who needed help with tuition, books and fees.

“Jack Cristil was a courageous, tenacious man possessed of a great love for Mississippi State University,” said MSU Chief Communications Officer and Cristil’s biographer Sid Salter. “His tired body finally failed Jack, but his keen mind and that great staccato baritone voice never failed him. I count his friendship as a tremendous gift to me and to my family. We all loved him.”

It was in August 1953 that Cristil sent audition tapes to then-Mississippi State Director of Athletics C.R. “Dudy” Noble, and just one month later the association between Cristil and the university began. His announcing career began with a 34-6 win over then-Memphis State in his Tennessee birthplace Sept. 19, 1953. Appropriately, his last football game was State’s 52-14 win against Michigan at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., in Jan. 2011.

Cristil’s first basketball season was 1957-58, the third of legendary head coach Babe McCarthy’s tenure. Like football, his first men’s basketball game was an 80-56 win at Union, in Jackson, Tenn., the city in which he launched his broadcasting career 10 years earlier. His final basketball call came on Feb. 26, 2011, at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville — a game that was a 70-69 win for the Bulldogs.

A winner of numerous broadcasting laurels during his career, Cristil was most recently presented the Lindsey Nelson Award, given annually to the nation’s premier sports broadcaster. He was honored with the prestigious College Football Foundation Chris Schenkel Award in 1997 for excellence in college sports broadcasting. Nelson and Schenkel were longtime national award-winning broadcasters. In 1992, Cristil received the Ronald Reagan Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters. That same year, he was also the first non-coach/non-athlete to ever be inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. Cristil was inducted into the Mississippi State Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.

A winner of the Mississippi Sportscaster of the Year Award a record 21 times, Cristil was named the Southeastern Conference’s Broadcaster of the Year in 1988.

During his early years working at Mississippi State, Cristil served in advertising sales at WELO Radio and later WTVA-TV in Tupelo, Miss., where he has resided since 1955.

Cristil was a veteran of World War II, serving as an aircraft engine mechanic in the U.S. Army Air Corps.

Prior to coming to Mississippi State, Cristil broke into the profession as a minor league baseball broadcaster, working in Jackson, Tenn., Anniston, Ala., Clarksdale, Miss., and Memphis. He has also broadcast countless high school and junior college games through the years.

From 1947-48, Cristil studied broadcast journalism at the University of Minnesota before returning home to Memphis and eventually launching his professional career.

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1925, Cristil is survived by daughters Kay Cristil Clouatre of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Rebecca Cristil Nelson (Andrew) of Tupelo, Mississippi, and grandchildren Jake Clouatre of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Lindsey Newhall of Tupelo. He is also survived by two sisters, Zelda Cristil Esgro of St Louis, Missouri, and Miriam “Mimi” Cristil Lapides of West Palm Beach, Florida, and a number of nieces and nephews.

Cristil was preceded in death by his wife of 33 years, Mavis Kelly Cristil, in 1988. He was also preceded in death by his parents, Mollie Kabakoff Cristil and Benjamin Herman Cristil of Memphis, by a sister, Charlotte Cristil Hiller, and by brothers Harold Cristil and Stanley Cristil.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time, but the arrangements will be handled by Holland Funeral Directors of Tupelo ( The Cristil family will communicate details through the MSU Office of Public Affairs, but a public memorial service is planned in the near future on the campus of MSU.

In lieu of flowers, the Cristil family requests donations to either of the Cristil Scholarships at MSU (, the Girl Scouts Heart of the South ( or Sanctuary Hospice House (

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