Billy Packer, legendary college basketball analyst, dies at 82

Billy Packer, legendary college basketball analyst, dies at 82
Billy Packer at the On The Line prostate cancer initiative campaign event at The Millennium Broadway Hotel on Feb, 15, 2011 in New York City. Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Longtime college basketball analyst Billy Packer has died, his family announced Thursday night. Packer, 82, spent 34 years on Final Four broadcast teams, 27 of them with CBS Sports as its Emmy award-winning college basketball analyst before his last Final Four in 2008.

Packer’s son, Mark, told The Associated Press his father had been hospitalized in Charlotte, North Carolina, for the past three weeks with several medical issues and ultimately succumbed to kidney failure.

During his three-plus decades as a leading voice in the sport, Packer helped popularize three-man TV broadcast teams with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire and was never afraid to speak his mind. Among his many iconic calls was the line “Simon says championship” as Arizona clinched the 1997 national title behind a 30-point outing from Miles Simon.

Packer starred as a player for Wake Forest from 1958 to 1962 but became better known in the sports world for opinionated analysis from the sidelines of the biggest games in college basketball, including many years calling ACC games in addition to his duties at CBS Sports, where he was an analyst from 1981-2008.

Packer was also a father to children Mark, Liz and Brandt and was predeceased by his wife, Barb.

“Billy Packer was synonymous with college basketball for more than three decades and set the standard of excellence as the voice of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament,” CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said in a statement. “He had a tremendous impact on the growth and popularity of those sport. In true Billy fashion, he analyzed the game with his own unique style, perspective and opinions, yet always kept the focus on the game. As passionate as he was about basketball, at his heart Billy was a family man. He leaves part of his legacy at CBS Sports, across college basketball, and, most importantly, as a beloved husband, father and grandfather. He will be deeply missed by all.”  

Packer was also impactful as a player, averaging 14.1 points as a 5-foot-9 senior guard on the 1962 Wake Forest team that reached the Final Four under coach Bones McKinney. After a brief assistant coaching stint with the Demon Deacons, Packer embarked on his broadcasting career.

“Rest in Peace to the most incredible Dad, mentor and best friend,” Brandt Packer wrote on Twitter. “My entire life I always tried to emulate him – how to be a husband, father, to prep for a telecast, you name it, he was the bar for me. Just crushed. But we have peace knowing Billy is in Heaven tonight with Barb.”

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