It's hard to remember as we get older what our first memory of Mississippi State athletics was. No matter how early it came or how momentous it was though, odds are good that Jack Cristil's voice was involved. Cristil, who became the voice of Mississippi State football in 1953 and basketball in 1957, was the gruff yet smooth and steady voice that so, so many of us came to know and love as THE VOICE of Mississippi State athletics. Mr. Cristil retired from MSU sports in 2011, and since then he has kept a low profile. His health has apparently been in decline since that time, and tonight that sadly culminated in his passing away at the age of 88 years young.
It's hard to really know what to say here, because Jack meant so much to me like he did others, yet I didn't know him personally. My prayers are with his family and those that did know him tonight, and I know that Jack is already sitting in the booth in Heaven just waiting for the next game to start while working through the starting lineups. He has been missed tremendously by the Bulldog family since his retirement in 2011, and we now mourn with his family as he has lost his battle with kidney disease and cancer, according to a statement from MSU. Here's a bit from the school on Mr. Cristil:
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. [Read the full statement here]
Mississippi State athletics have never been the easiest to be a fan of or to cover, but night in and night out, Jack covered it with a professionalism and a manner fit of a national champion. It didn't matter if it was a 40 point loss or a 40 point win, Jack was going to tell you what he saw exactly as he saw it, with a description that no one could match. Jack's description of what Mississippi State was wearing that day made you feel like you were sitting courtside or at the 50 yard line. He was old-school; he was unwavering. He had so many phrases that became staples of how we heard and knew MSU athletics. He was the creator of our favorite phrase: "Wrap it in maroon and white." He gave you promise, but he also wouldn't sugarcoat things when they were bad. He was so many things to me and to you and to all of us, but most of all, he WAS Mississippi State. He was everything we loved about fall Saturdays; he was listening to a big win at the Hump on a long night when we couldn't be in Starkville. He was our favorite, and he was our voice. And now, he will be missed. Thank you Jack, thank you.
Please come and share your own memories of Mr. Cristil in the comments. We are stunned tonight as we bring you this news, but we are comforted to know that Jack is in a better place tonight, free from suffering.
Wrap It In Maroon And White