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Legendary basketball announcer Packer has called his last game

CBS says contract won't be renewed; the Charlotte resident says he knew of network's decision before last season.

By Roger van der Horst
(Raleigh) News & Observer

The man whom many consider college basketball's know-it-all has known for more than a year that the 2007-08 season would be his last at CBS.

Before the season, the television network's brass informed Charlotte's Billy Packer that it wanted to give Clark Kellogg a shot at the lead analyst's role on live games. The outspoken Packer, 68, who had been working under a series of one-year contracts with CBS “on my own accord,” asked only that nothing be said about his departure until after the season so the news wouldn't detract from the games.

CBS announced on Monday that Packer's contract would not be renewed for a 28th season and that Kellogg would replace him. Packer quickly made clear that he wasn't done just at CBS.

“I'm not going to broadcast any more basketball games,” Packer said, meaning that he also won't return as an analyst on Raycom's ACC telecasts or consider offers from other networks.

Thus ends a remarkable run on national TV, including 34 straight NCAA Final Fours, a record that 17-year partner Jim Nantz says will never be broken. Over more than three decades with NBC and CBS, Packer gained a reputation for taking strong stands and refusing to budge from them, generating both intense admiration and dislike.

He hurt his reputation when he called Georgetown guard Allen Iverson a “tough monkey” in 1996 and allegedly made sexist comments to two Duke students in 2000.

“I tell you, I'll miss the old crank,” said Will Blythe, author of “To Hate Like This Is to Be Happy Forever,” a book on the UNC-Duke basketball rivalry. “I never thought I'd say that. Next to Dick Vitale's irrational exuberance, Billy Packer seemed like at least someone who hadn't lost his mind altogether. I got so I could depend on his acrid evaluations of coaches and players.”

CBS' regular-season and NCAA Tournament ratings declined in 2006 and '07. The 2006-07 regular-season average was the network's lowest ever, and the 2007 tournament average was its second-lowest. (The ratings for last season were not available from CBS.) CBS Sports President Sean McManus has insisted that factors such as lopsided games were to blame.

In a prepared statement released Monday, McManus said only that Kellogg deserved the new assignment. McManus offered no further explanation for Packer's departure.

“With his unquestioned popularity and performance over the years, Clark Kellogg earned all rights to this top spot,” McManus said in the statement. “Like Billy Packer, Al McGuire or any of the most highly regarded broadcasters, Clark is an original voice with his own style and perspective.”

Packer disputed a USA Today report that he had been fired.

“No, that's not true,” he said. “I worked through and completed my contract. I mean, you'd have to ask CBS that, but I completed my obligations to CBS, which was to work through this year's championship.”

Packer, who lives in Charlotte with his wife, Barbara, considered his TV role as a secondary job to a wide range of business interests, which include a golf course and residential development in Roaring Gap.

He said he has already turned his attention to a business project involving basketball that would have conflicted with his role as a broadcaster. “It's something I've been working on for about a year,” he said, declining to offer details.

Mark Packer, who hosts a daily sports radio show in Charlotte as “The Packman,” said he's surprised his father didn't step down three years ago.

“He's kind of made up his mind that he's had enough,” Mark Packer said. He noted his father didn't like the recent direction the game has taken.

Billy Packer, a player and later an assistant coach at Wake Forest, said Monday that college basketball can be good, but not great, in a system that allows players to turn pro early. His biggest regret, he said, was that he couldn't do more to bring “some semblance of order” to the relationship between the college game and the NBA.

The man whom many consider college basketball's know-it-all has known for more than a year that the 2007-08 season would be his last at CBS.

Before the season, the television network's brass informed Charlotte's Billy Packer that it wanted to give Clark Kellogg a shot at the lead analyst's role on live games. The outspoken Packer, 68, who had been working under a series of one-year contracts with CBS “on my own accord,” asked only that nothing be said about his departure until after the season so the news wouldn't detract from the games.

CBS announced on Monday that Packer's contract would not be renewed for a 28th season and that Kellogg would replace him. Packer quickly made clear that he wasn't done just at CBS.

“I'm not going to broadcast any more basketball games,” Packer said, meaning that he also won't return as an analyst on Raycom's ACC telecasts or consider offers from other networks.

Thus ends a remarkable run on national TV, including 34 straight NCAA Final Fours, a record that 17-year partner Jim Nantz says will never be broken. Over more than three decades with NBC and CBS, Packer gained a reputation for taking strong stands and refusing to budge from them, generating both intense admiration and dislike.

He hurt his reputation when he called Georgetown guard Allen Iverson a “tough monkey” in 1996 and allegedly made sexist comments to two Duke students in 2000.

“I tell you, I'll miss the old crank,” said Will Blythe, author of “To Hate Like This Is to Be Happy Forever,” a book on the UNC-Duke basketball rivalry. “I never thought I'd say that. Next to Dick Vitale's irrational exuberance, Billy Packer seemed like at least someone who hadn't lost his mind altogether. I got so I could depend on his acrid evaluations of coaches and players.”

CBS' regular-season and NCAA Tournament ratings declined in 2006 and '07. The 2006-07 regular-season average was the network's lowest ever, and the 2007 tournament average was its second-lowest. (The ratings for last season were not available from CBS.) CBS Sports President Sean McManus has insisted that factors such as lopsided games were to blame.

In a prepared statement released Monday, McManus said only that Kellogg deserved the new assignment. McManus offered no further explanation for Packer's departure.

“With his unquestioned popularity and performance over the years, Clark Kellogg earned all rights to this top spot,” McManus said in the statement. “Like Billy Packer, Al McGuire or any of the most highly regarded broadcasters, Clark is an original voice with his own style and perspective.”

Packer disputed a USA Today report that he had been fired.

“No, that's not true,” he said. “I worked through and completed my contract. I mean, you'd have to ask CBS that, but I completed my obligations to CBS, which was to work through this year's championship.”

Packer, who lives in Charlotte with his wife, Barbara, considered his TV role as a secondary job to a wide range of business interests, which include a golf course and residential development in Roaring Gap.

He said he has already turned his attention to a business project involving basketball that would have conflicted with his role as a broadcaster. “It's something I've been working on for about a year,” he said, declining to offer details.

Mark Packer, who hosts a daily sports radio show in Charlotte as “The Packman,” said he's surprised his father didn't step down three years ago.

“He's kind of made up his mind that he's had enough,” Mark Packer said. He noted his father didn't like the recent direction the game has taken.

Billy Packer, a player and later an assistant coach at Wake Forest, said Monday that college basketball can be good, but not great, in a system that allows players to turn pro early. His biggest regret, he said, was that he couldn't do more to bring “some semblance of order” to the relationship between the college game and the NBA.

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Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

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The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

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