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March 14, 2010
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Jim Thacker, the play-by-play voice of ACC basketball for a generation of television viewers and a generous benefactor to the conference, was posthumously honored with the 2010 "Skeeter" Francis Award during the ACC Tournament. The Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association bestows the distinction annually on a media member or conference or institutional staffer for significant contributions to the coverage of ACC athletics. The citation, created in 1990, is named for Marvin "Skeeter" Francis, a former sports information director at Wake Forest University and the first administrator of the ACC's media services division.
Thacker, a native West Virginian whose smooth voice described league games from 1965-81, was the front man for the ACC region's first brand-name broadcasting duo. Billy Packer, winner of the Francis Award in 2005, began as the analyst in 1972, and the team was as consistent and revered as any of the basketball squads it covered.
"He was an important person in the development of the interest in the conference," Packer said. "And he was obviously a close friend and a guy I admired a great deal because the game was more important than himself."
The Thacker-Packer pairing was memorable for reasons that transcended the announcers' rhyming last names. ACC broadcasts under the auspices of Philadelphia TV pioneer Castleman DeTolley Chesley were the only games many fans watched until the dawn of ESPN in the late 1970s.The ACC was also the first major conference to partner with television to ensure a regular schedule of game action that included every league member.
Thacker remained in the play-by-play job until ACC broadcast rights transferred from Chesley to Raycom in 1981. He was also sports director at WBT in Charlotte and at radio and TV stations in his native state. In the spring and summer, he was part of CBS' golf coverage, which included The Masters.
Thacker died of a stroke in December 1994 at the age of 64. Shortly after his widow, Pat, passed away in May 2003, the estate established a scholarship fund to assist students seeking advanced degrees at ACC institutions. The league awards the grants at a scholar-athlete luncheon every spring.
In February 2004, the University of North Carolina's School of Journalism and Mass Communication announced the creation of the Jim and Pat Thacker Internship in Sports Communication. The program provides $5,000 a year for a junior or senior at UNC to participate in a 10-week summer internship with a professional sports team or organization.
Jim and Pat Thacker had no children. David Bishop, the attorney for the estate, accepted the award on behalf of the family at halftime of Saturday's second ACC Tournament semifinal.