STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Jack Cristil, the former sports broadcaster of six decades of Mississippi State athletics, died Sunday at the age of 88 at Sanctuary Hospice House in Tupelo of complications from kidney disease and cancer after an extended illness. Cristil, who served MSU from 1953 to 2011, was known throughout the South as "the Voice of the Bulldogs."

"As a lifelong Bulldog, my heart is heavy at learning of the passing of legendary MSU broadcaster Jack Cristil," MSU President Mark Keenum said. "Jack's deep love of this university was always evident in his words and in his deeds. He was a tireless ambassador for Mississippi State and he brought great honor and distinction to our university as one of the most revered radio announcers in American history.

"I join every member of the Bulldog family in extending our sincere respects and deepest sympathies to his daughters, Kay and Rebecca, and to his grandchildren, Jake and Lindsey. Surely, Jack's remarkable life and work is now forever wrapped in Maroon and White."

With a 58-year association with MSU, Cristil was the second-longest tenured college radio play-by-play announcer in the nation at the time of his 2011 retirement due to health problems.

During his legendary career as the voice of the Bulldogs, Cristil called 636 football games, roughly 60 percent of every football game played in the history of the institution. He was in his 54th season as the men's basketball play-by-play voice, having described the action of almost 55 percent of all the men's basketball games played at the school. In all, Cristil delivered game descriptions to Mississippi State fans across the Magnolia State and around the world for more than 1,500 collegiate contests.

"Jack Cristil connected with generations of Bulldog fans and remains an icon for all who love the Maroon and White," MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin said. "No school's broadcaster was as synonymous with their institution as Jack Cristil was with Mississippi State. Jack's passing leaves a large void, but I think all Mississippians appreciated his dedication and talent, and Jack will always be the Voice of the Bulldogs."

After his retirement, Cristil lent his time to the production of a biography called Jack Cristil: Voice of the MSU Bulldogs. The book sold 10,500 copies and raised more than $170,000 for the Jacob S. "Jack" Cristil Scholarship in Journalism at MSU.

In August 1953 Cristil sent audition tapes to then-Mississippi State Director of Athletics C.R. "Dudy" Noble, and one month later the association between Cristil and the university began. His announcing career began with a 34-6 win against Memphis State on Sept. 19, 1953. Cristil's last football game was MSU's 52-14 win against Michigan at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida, in Jan. 2011.

Cristil's first basketball season was 1957-58, the third of legendary head coach Babe McCarthy's tenure. Cristil's final basketball call came on Feb. 26, 2011, at Tennessee.

A winner of numerous broadcasting laurels, Cristil most recently was presented the Lindsey Nelson Award, given annually to the nation's premier sports broadcaster. He was honored with the prestigious College Football Foundation Chris Schenkel Award in 1997 for excellence in college sports broadcasting. Nelson and Schenkel were longtime national award-winning broadcasters.

In 1992, Cristil received the Ronald Reagan Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters. That same year, he was the first non-coach / non-athlete to be inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. Cristil was inducted into the Mississippi State Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.

A winner of the Mississippi Sportscaster of the Year Award a record 21 times, Cristil was named the Southeastern Conference's Broadcaster of the Year in 1988.

During his early years working at Mississippi State, Cristil served in advertising sales at WELO Radio and later WTVA-TV in Tupelo, Mississippi, where he resided since 1955.

Cristil was a veteran of World War II, serving as an aircraft engine mechanic in the U.S. Army Air Corps.

Prior to coming to Mississippi State, Cristil broke into the profession as a minor league baseball broadcaster, working in Jackson, Tennessee; Anniston, Alabama; Clarksdale, Mississippi; and Memphis.

From 1947-48, Cristil studied broadcast journalism at Minnesota before returning home to Memphis and eventually launching his professional career.