Legendary Final Four college basketball broadcaster Billy Packer dies at age 82
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Billy Packer, an Emmy award-winning college basketball broadcaster who covered 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS, died Thursday at 82.
Packer’s son, Mark, told The Associated Press that his father had been hospitalized in Charlotte for the past three weeks and ultimately succumbed to kidney failure.
Packer’s broadcasting career coincided with the growth of college basketball. He worked as analyst or color commentator on every Final Four from 1975 to 2008. He received a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio and Sports Analyst in 1993.
“He really enjoyed doing the Final Fours,” Mark Packer said. “The ability to get involved in something that, frankly, he was going to watch anyway, was a joy to him. And then college basketball just sort of took off with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and that became, I think, the catalyst for college basketball fans to just go crazy with March Madness.”
Packer played three seasons at Wake Forest, and helped lead the Demon Deacons to the Final Four in 1962.
He joined NBC in 1974 and called his first Final Four in 1975. UCLA beat Kentucky in the title game that year in what was John Wooden’s final game as coach.
Packer was also part of the broadcast in 1979 with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State squad in the title game. That remains highest-rated game in basketball history.