Jim Jackson’s broadcast career has mirrored the path he took as a player for Ohio State. Years of work, self-study and preparation led to three NCAA Tournament appearances during his three seasons with the Buckeyes, where he went 6-3 in the postseason.
Now, more than a decade into his career as a college basketball analyst, the Ohio State alumnus will be on camera for March Madness for the first time since an Elite Eight overtime loss to Michigan in 1992.
Starting with Wednesday’s First Four games in Dayton, Jackson will be making his first on-air appearances as part of CBS Sports and Turner Sports’ coverage of the NCAA Tournament.Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our BuckeyeXtra newsletter
And although he’s been part of the radio broadcasts for Westwood One for several years, this is a new chapter for Jackson’s career – and one he’s excited for.
“I was ecstatic about it, because I’ve been calling it on radio, all the way up to the Final Four,” Jackson told The Dispatch. “I was fortunate one year to do a three-man booth with Clark Kellogg and Kevin Kugler, so I’ve been in the mix, right there on the front row. It just hasn’t been TV. This is something I’ve been working on for a long time to try and get my foot into the door.”
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Jackson will team with Spero Dedes and Steve Smith to call the games with Ros Gold-Onwude as the in-game reporter. After the two Wednesday night games in Dayton, the group will be off to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where it will call four Friday games.
The day will be capped by Jackson’s alma mater, the No. 11 seed Buckeyes, facing No. 6 seed Iowa State on TBS.
“To me, the first year on TV, it doesn’t matter (what games I call),” he said. “This is just putting the cherry on top of the pie, to be able to do an Ohio State game. I’m just looking forward to (Wednesday), first of all, some great games and then heading into the weekend and challenging myself to be the best that I can be for the tournament call.”
After a 14-year NBA career anded after the 2005-06 season, Jackson said he didn’t think he would be headed into sports media. A broadcasting agent had approached his basketball agent years earlier to see if he would be interested in a career upon his retirement, and the first year of the Big Ten Network in 2007 provided the right opportunity for him to get started.
Jackson said he worked with a broadcasting coach early in his career to help learn the nuances of taking the basketball knowledge he had built up for decades and dispensing it in a way that made sense to the viewer. Fellow Ohio State product Clark Kellogg, also a basketball analyst who has worked multiple Final Fours for CBS, has also been a mentor.
It was an occasionally challenging but ultimately necessary process.
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“Just like a game, you watch tape and you cringe at some of the stuff you do wrong,” he said. “If was to go back at tape and see myself early, I probably wouldn’t want to watch it. Being an athlete, period, you’re going to go through that situation where you’re going to be critiqued. That’s the reality in order to get better. That’s who we are. That’s what we’re accustomed to doing.”Join the conversation at Facebook.com/groups/BuckeyeXtraFans and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
An analyst for FOX Sports and Fox Sports 1, Jackson has called a number of Big East games in recent years. This season, he called several Ohio State games, too, helping further prepare him for Friday night’s game.
“The maturation process prepared me for what I’m getting into today,” he said. “Maybe five or six years ago I wouldn’t have been ready, but today because of all the reps and experience, now is a perfect time for me to get that opportunity and I’m thankful for it.”
One thing he wouldn’t be thankful for, though, is the potential for some old-school photos of himself playing for the Buckeyes to surface during Friday night’s broadcast.
“(Shoot), I hope not,” he said with a laugh. “With any play-by-play (commentator) or analyst, you don’t want it to be about you. You want it to be about the game. Those things are great, but you want the focus to be on those young men and the coaching staff and the programs currently playing and keep the focus there. The other stuff would be great, but you want the game to be the focus.”