Cristil Career Concludes At 58 State Seasons

It was supposed to be just another Mississippi State game to call. Instead Wednesday evening marked the end of an era. After more than five decades on the job legendary ‘Voice of the Bulldogs' Jack Cristil is hanging up the headset.

Cristil, play-by-play man for Mississippi State football since 1953 and basketball since 1957-58, confirmed he will retire following Saturday's game at Tennessee.

"I have been privileged and blessed for the past 58 years to have had the opportunity to represent Mississippi State University as their broadcaster for football and basketball," Cristil said to end the evening's post-game show. "All good things, as they say in the trade, have to come to an end sooner or later."

As Cristil's incredible tenure on the Mississippi State microphone showed, that end was much, much later than for most in his profession. Since the 2002 football season, when he was honored on Scott Field at halftime of the Kentucky game for his 50th Bulldog season, Cristil has made frequent and usually joking remarks regarding when it would have to end. Most commonly, that he no longer bought green bananas given his age.

Joking did not prevent friends from seeing and fans from hearing the difference in recent years, though, and questions about health increased accordingly. On the air, again fittingly, Cristil affirmed this was forcing his departure.

"At this particular point in conference with my physicians, it's been determined because of a deteriorating health situation which I am experiencing that it is necessary for me to start some kidney dialysis," he told the radio audience. "And in so doing this treatment will restrict me to the point where I cannot represent this University the way it should be represented. When that happens, I've told many people over the years that I would step aside. Now, it's time to step aside."

Doing so on the road may not set up a final adieu to the home crowd, but it suits all the same. This way he goes out with today's Bulldog fans the same way he was introduced to many preceding generations—on the airwaves. Sadly, Bulldog basketball couldn't make Cristil's homecourt finale a success. They were upset by LSU 84-82, as guard Riley Benock's attempt to tie caught a little too much iron at the buzzer.

Thinking about a lost game was difficult in light of the night's real loss, though. "It's a sad time from that standpoint," said Jim Ellis, who has teamed with Cristil on football since 1979 and basketball since 1983. "I hate that it happens in the middle of a season. But boy, when you think about the run that he's had. I feel sad for him, but I feel glad for him too with the fact he's had the privilege of doing what he enjoyed doing for what, 58 years? And he's done it so well."

Ellis, 63, will take over Cristil's lead job on Bulldog broadcasts, though he said that whether he solos the remaining basketball games or a new team is put together will be discussed tomorrow. Bart Gregory will handle Diamond Dog games when Ellis is with the basketball team. Obviously Ellis has put in his time awaiting his long-expected promotion, though he's not worried too much about it for a while now.

"For probably twenty ears now he's said ‘I don't know how much longer I'll do this'," Ellis smiled. "But after a while you say Jack, I think you're going to continue to do it because you love to do it. I mean, this is who he is, that's his identity."

Though in a very real sense, Jack Cristil and Mississippi State are inseparable in many minds and not just Bulldog fans. Ellis relates how often over the years followers of other programs have told him how much they enjoyed the no-nonsense style of Cristil on Bulldog broadcasts. It earns automatic bragging rights for a truly veteran fan to say he listed to a MSU game before Cristil was signed by Dudy Noble himself in 1953.

Now Cristil is as much the face of State sports as its voice. The separation will not be easy for either.

"Please, ladies and gentlemen, accept my genuine, my honest, my heart-felt 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. "The Mississippi State University family is second to none, and as family I know you understand. Thank you very much and may God's richest blessings be upon you and your family."

If Ellis feels the most blessed of Bulldogs from such long direct association, he also has the professional's vantage point to pronounce a best benediction on this legendary career.

"He is the last of the true radio broadcasters," Ellis said. "He's a one of a kind. There will never be another Jack Cristil."

Gene's Page Top Stories