"I haven't got much to say," Jackson said.
Great, I thought, a sportscaster who doesn't have much to say, just my luck. I couldn't wait to talk to him. Like most college football fans, I loved it when Jackson called the games on ABC. He was a regularly scheduled guest in my family room, and I always enjoyed it when he stopped by. Plus the guy's a Coug, which added to my appreciation of him.
Then he tells me that he doesn't have much to say, giving me a figurative "Whoa Nellie!" before we even got started. Fortunately he didn't really mean that.
We talked for an hour as Jackson discussed all kinds of things from his home in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
|GO 2 GUY JIM MOORE|
Turi Ann graduated from Pullman High. Her parents owned the 9-hole golf course. They met as students at Washington State and are together nearly 60 years later.
"Compromise, respect…and picking the right one doesn't hurt either," Jackson said when asked what the secrets were to his long-term marriage. "I'm not sure who picked who, but it doesn't matter."
JACKSON RETIRED AFTER the 2006 Rose Bowl and has not done a broadcast or been to a game of any kind since, even as a fan.
"I just haven't got a desire to go," he said. "A lot of people ask questions, and I don't have the answers anymore."
He'll watch games at home but turns down the sound half the time.
"There are too many people talking at me," Jackson said. "I never liked that, I still don't like it. You don't need to bury your audience. You need a few seconds to rest."
There's no urge to get back in the booth either. He's been to 33 countries and called everything but hockey.
"That was enough," he said.
But Jackson still follows sports, particularly the socio-economic factors. It bothers him that teams on the pro and college levels can buy championships. In college football, he calls BS on the BCS for having a CEO.
"I don't agree with that a bit," he said.
JACKSON THINKS IT'S WRONG that recruits go to schools for a year or two before heading to the NBA, or three years in the case of football players opting for the NFL.
A lot of money is spent in recruiting these players, and they should honor their end of the deal by remaining in school for four years, says Jackson.
"People say it's a free society, and that you knew the kid was going to leave early anyway," Jackson said. "That's one attitude; that's not mine. The school's dropped a bunch of money (on recruiting the kid). I don't think that's right. It's my old-fashioned country way of thinkin', I guess."
He also thinks a modified playoff system should be used to determine a national champion in college football. Keep the bowl games, and after they're done, pick the four strongest teams to play in the semifinals and title game.
Jackson knows he's opinionated and outspoken, and that's why he doesn't want to write an autobiography.
"I'm not sure I'd be able to afford the legal fees," he said. "I would challenge a lot of things."
After telling him that he should do one anyway because it would be a best-seller, Jackson said: "I don't know, and at this point, I don't really care."
WHEN THE CONVERSATION shifted to all things Washington State, I got the sense that Jackson has mixed feelings about his alma mater.
"I don't do TV anymore, I don't think people remember I went to school there," Jackson said. "I don't have a good relationship (with WSU). But it's not a big thing." A few minutes later, he changed course and said his relationship was "pretty good with the school," not wanting to sound like it wasn't.
Jackson was a charter member of the WSU Foundation in 1979. A Murrow Award winner, he gave scholarship money to the Murrow School of Communication and chaired the fund-raising drive for the construction of the alumni center.
"I've done my thing," Jackson said. "I did a lot of work for those people."
It irked him when he assembled a variety of college football honchos for a gathering at the Performing Arts Coliseum during the Murrow Symposium in the early '90s. Among the honored guests was Dennis Swanson, former president of ABC Sports. He didn't think WSU did a good job of making the most of this collection of high-powered sports figures.
"It made me madder than a hornet," Jackson said.
But he also has fonder memories of WSU, reminiscing about the beauty of the Palouse. A Georgia boy, he came out of the Marines and wanted to study police and political science, and Washington State was one of two schools that allowed students to combine both subjects, Michigan State being the other.
But a year into his studies at WSU, Jackson decided "I don't want to do this." He said he "heard a fella doing a football game" and told communications professor Burt Harrison that he could do a better job.
Harrison, with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, told Jackson: "Prove it." Jackson did. He was on the air for more than 50 years, spending the last 43 with ABC Sports, becoming best known as the voice of college football.
WHEN HE FINALLY retired three years ago, that was that. He hasn't been on a commercial airplane since but will get on one next month to appear at the Sports Star of the Year banquet in Seattle and receive a special award.
Jackson doesn't miss the cramped seats or security lines. One time in Denver, he was body-checked, and it was just too much for Jackson to take.
"I took off my shoes and the guy started to rub my feet," he said. "What the hell are you going to find in somebody's feet? He kept rubbing my feet, and I finally told him: ‘You do that one more time and I'm gonna kiss ya.'
"The last time I saw him, he was running out the back door."
As the conversation was wrapping up, I asked Jackson what he had planned for the rest of the day. He was heading to Federal Express to send a Christmas present – a bottle of California Pinot Noir - to Bob Griese, his former colleague in the booth.
Jackson and Griese called the Cougars' 1998 Rose Bowl game against Michigan. When asked if he rooted for the Cougs that day, Jackson said: "Nah, I never rooted for anybody. But if (Michael) Black doesn't get hurt, they would've beaten 'em."
ON MOST DAYS, Jackson said he does "as little as possible." He's doesn't like the rat race in today's world, saying that almost every day he threatens to throw his laptop in the swimming pool.
"I don't like the pace," he said. "When you're running at that pace, it's too easy to miss something meaningful."
He and his wife still play golf, but he's stiff and arthritic and complains about losing 25 yards off the tee. He's had bouts with skin-cancer, with some basal-cell carcinomas removed recently, but other than that, Jackson said he's doing fine health-wise.
I'm assuming that most college-football fans miss him. He's still around but he'll never be back, not in the booth anyway.
"One of the reasons I quit when I quit is that I didn't want to die in a damn airport parking lot," Jackson said. "And I still don't."
Jim Moore is a '78 alum of Washington State and he encourages you to visit his website, www.jimmoorethego2guy.com where he continues to trash the Huskies. He also writes for seattlepi.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cougsgo, and he's on "The Kevin Calabro Show" on 710 ESPN Seattle every Wednesday at 3 p.m.