Billy Packer, the longtime voice of college basketball who called 35 consecutive Final Fours as the sport and its tournament grew dramatically in the last quarter fo the 20th century, has died at the age of 82, his family announced on Thursday night.
Beloved or loathed by fan bases for his critical, sometimes biting, often arrogant style, Packer was one of college basketball’s biggest advocates as the lead analyst for CBS’s coverage from 1981-2008.
Prior to the NCAA tournament’s move to CBS, Packer was part of the celebrated trio along with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire covering the game for NBC, including the 1979 NCAA Championship game between Magic Johnson’s Michigan State and Larry Bird’s Indiana State.
Packer played basketball at Wake Forest, earning All-ACC honors twice while helping the Demon Deacons to two Atlantic Coast Conference championships and an appearance in the 1962 Final Four.
His broadcasting career began in 1972 covering the ACC. He then moved to national broadcasts on NBC in 1974.
Packer found himself in controversial moments throughout his career. In 1996, he referred to Georgetown’s Allen Iverson as a “tough monkey.” And he also had to apologize for sexist remarks to Duke student staffers in 2000. He was largely critical of smaller, Mid-Major schools making up such a large portion of the NCAA tournament. He also caused an uproar when he said Saint Joseph’s didn’t deserve a No. 1 seed in 2005 after it finished the regular season undefeated.
He did not take kindly to being replaced by Clark Kellogg as the lead analyst of the Final Four following the 2008 tournament.