Packer out at CBS, to end Final Four run after 34 years

NEW YORK -- Billy Packer didn't sound like a man who found out his 34-year run as part of the Final Four broadcast had ended.

On Monday, CBS announced that Clark Kellogg would replace Packer after 27 years as the network's lead college basketball analyst. Including his earlier years at NBC, Packer had done every Final Four since 1975, an unparalleled run for a national sports championship.

"These are really good circumstances," Packer told The Associated Press by phone. "This decision was made with myself and CBS over a year ago. Their timing to announce it is their business. I have nothing to do with that. I was working on a series of one-year contracts for several years. … I did say there would be no mention during the season so as not to detract from the games and the guys involved."

Kellogg, a game and studio analyst for CBS for 16 years, will be the man next to Jim Nantz on the 2009 Final Four broadcasts. Kellogg said he was "excited, humbled and quite pleased" at the opportunity.

"With his unquestioned popularity and performance over the years, Clark Kellogg earned all rights to this top spot," Sean McManus, president of CBS News and Sports, said in a 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."

The 68-year-old Packer said he was "happy" for Kellogg, who played at Ohio State and then in the NBA.

"I think he has worked his trade and certainly as a player was a student of the game. His work at CBS and the fact he is such a smart guy should serve him well," Packer said. "I wish him nothing but the best."

Packer also will end his long run as an analyst for Raycom, a regional network that covers the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"I have had a chance to broadcast most of the great games since college basketball got on national television and I'm not interested in broadcasting any more games," he said. "I enjoyed doing that but I won't be any more."

Packer said he is involved in a college basketball project that he'll discuss in a few months.

"His understanding of men's college basketball, his analysis of the game, and his love for its place in higher education has ensured a legacy that anyone can envy," NCAA president Myles Brand said in a statement. "He is a friend of intercollegiate athletics, and I want to thank him for the enormous contributions he has made to the NCAA's Final Four tournament, as well as on many, many other occasions over several years."

Speculation of Packer's exit was fueled amid widespread criticism during this year's NCAA tournament.

Early in the semifinal between Kansas and North Carolina, with the Jayhawks up 38-12, Packer declared, "The game is over."

North Carolina cut the lead to 54-50 with 11 minutes left before Kansas pulled away, winning 84-66.
The Jayhawks beat Memphis 75-68 to claim the national title.

Packer later defended the comment to USA Today.

"My job is to say what I see, not have some kind of subconscious feelings about offending anybody. … It probably annoyed some people, but I don't concern myself with having some agenda that's contrary to what I'm seeing," he said.

Packer was able to stay one of sports' top analysts without changing much over more than three decades. He spoke his mind about coaches, players, the NCAA tournament and the influx of foreign athletes into American college sports.

His criticism of the tournament committee became standard fare on Selection Sunday and it often turned into a public battle with the likes of Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli when his team received a No. 1 seed in 2004.

Packer's reputation took a hit when he made insulting comments to two female Duke students when he was asked for a credential at a game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and years earlier when he referred to former Georgetown guard Allen Iverson as a "tough little monkey." He apologized for both remarks.

There wasn't much flash to his style, just a lot of basketball expertise from a coach's son who played in the Final Four for Wake Forest in 1962 and briefly coached on the college level.

"The only word to describe Billy is a giant," said Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, whose conference has a working relationship with CBS. "His passion for the game and presenting it the way he presented it is, I think unrivaled. This creates an incredible void. Those of us who have a passion for the game of college basketball are really going to miss him."

Including Kellogg.

"His excellence as an analyst is Hall of Fame worthy," Kellogg said. "His knowledge of the game and its history is unparalleled. That, along with his passion and keen insights, enabled him do his work as an analyst better and longer than anyone in the game's history. His legacy is one of enduring excellence and keeping the focus on the game. That is the foundation I aspire to build on."

Don't ask Packer to reflect on his career and pick a favorite game or personality.

"I basically have spent my whole life looking forward. I really haven't spent any time looking back," he said. "I am involved in a lot of different projects outside of sports. I haven't spent, and don't anticipate spending, any time looking back."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.