Emmy-award winning college basketball broadcaster Billy Packer, who brought unparalleled basketball knowledge to 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS, has died at the age of 82, according to a Thursday night tweet from his son Mark.
Packer's career spanned the growth of the game of college basketball from a parochial, regional sport in the mid-20th century to a nationwide fascination, propelled by the popularity of March Madness. He acted as an analyst or color commentator on every Final Four from 1975, when UCLA coach John Wooden won his last title, to Kansas's victory in 2008.
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Born in Wellsville, N.Y., Packer attended high school in Bethlehem, Pa. and played collegiately at Wake Forest from 1960 to ’62. He was an All-ACC selection with the Demon Deacons in '60 and ’61, garnering NCAA All-Region honors in '62 as Wake Forest reached the Final Four.
Gradually, Packer found his way into broadcasting. NBC hired him in 1974, and he moved over to CBS when that network acquired the rights to the NCAA Tournament for $48 million in ’81.
During his career, he became a widely recognized symbol of college basketball on television, and worked with many of the top play-by-play broadcasters of his era, including Curt Gowdy, Dick Enberg, Brent Musburger and Jim Nantz. In 1993, he received a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio and Sports Event Analyst.
He occasionally courted controversy, taking heat for referring to then-Georgetown guard Allen Iverson "a tough monkey" in 1996 and apologizing for making sexist comments toward two Duke students in 2000.
Packer also wrote multiple books, including the memoir Hoops: Confessions of a College Basketball Analyst in 1985.
His son, Mark, followed his father into broadcasting, and currently hosts a show on the ACC Network.