Alex Rodriguez has been a headliner of ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” broadcasts since 2018, but the network has a decision to make about bringing him back.
According to Andrew Marchand of ESPN, Rodriguez’s contract is expiring at the end of the season, meaning the network will have to decide whether to keep him. Marchand says that Rodriguez does not have “uniform” support, but is backed strongly enough that the network will likely want him to return.
ESPN also will need to find a replacement for Matt Vasgersian, who will not return in his play-by-play role.
Rodriguez has a lot of other things on his plate. He is one of the owners of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and already has decisions to make there. He also serves as a studio analyst for FOX Sports’ MLB coverage.
A-Rod has some interesting and intelligent takes on broadcasts, but they can be mixed with him stating the obvious and making some pretty basic flubs. ESPN clearly feels there’s something there, though, if they’re willing to stand by him despite all his other opportunities and interests.
ESPN has settled on a new host for “NBA Countdown” after all the drama that unfolded in recent months, and the job has reportedly been given to one of their most recognizable faces.
According to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, ESPN has named Mike Greenberg the new host of “NBA Countdown.” Greenberg will be joined by Stephen A. Smith, Michael Wilbon, Jalen Rose and Magic Johnson for marquee games.
Greenberg, who makes $6.5 million per year at ESPN, has been the host of “Get Up!” since 2018. He also has a show on ESPN Radio and hosts the NFL Draft. By adding “NBA Countdown” to Greenberg’s responsibilities, ESPN executives are hoping to elevate the program after years of a rotating cast that never seems to compete with TNT’s “Inside the NBA.”
Rose is the only analyst who worked on “NBA Countdown” last year that will be returning. The show has been completely revamped after Maria Taylor left following a high-profile contract dispute that also cost Rachel Nichols her job. Taylor now works for NBC.
Nichols is still being paid by ESPN but has been removed from all on-air programming. There has been talk that she could return to her former employer once her contract with ESPN expires.
Katie Nolan is out at ESPN after four years at the network.
Nolan confirmed Wednesday that she was no longer with ESPN, and suggested she would take her time in assessing what her next step in sports media would be.
Nolan had previously hosted “Always Late” for the network, and also made appearances on Dan Le Batard’s show “Highly Questionable.” That show was also canceled after Le Batard left the network. Nolan had most recently hosted the “Sports?” podcast after confirming the cancellation of “Always Late.”
Prior to her time at ESPN, Nolan had been a regular fixture at FOX Sports. It remains to be seen what she will do next.
ESPN needs a new host for their “NBA Countdown” show, and they have two leading candidates in mind, according to a report.
OutKick’s Bobby Burack reported on Tuesday that ESPN is considering Elle Duncan or Michael Eaves to host the program. Both Eaves and Duncan are “SportsCenter” hosts for ESPN but do not have a specific NBA focus.
“Countdown” is the program the precedes ESPN’s coverage of NBA games. Jay Williams and Jalen Rose are the two current analysts on the program.
Burack reports that Cassidy Hubbarth, who covers the NBA and serves as both a host and reporter, is also being considered for the job. Burack suggests two others the network should consider as hosts for the show.
“NBA Countdown” has long been considered a vastly inferior product to “Inside the NBA,” which is the immensely popular NBA pregame/postgame show by TNT. Countdown has lost public respect thanks to the embarrassing actions of some of its personalities, who have made race more of a focus than basketball.
The network is searching for a new host after Maria Taylor left following a high-profile contract dispute that also cost Rachel Nichols her job. Burack cautions ESPN about hiring Eaves or Duncan given what another ESPN host alleged about them last year.
Todd McShay covered ESPN’s marquee game between Alabama and Miami over the weekend, but that could be the last we see of the longtime reporter on television for a while.
McShay announced in a tweet on Tuesday that he is taking a leave from ESPN. He thanked his supporters and said he needs to “focus on my health and my family.”
The announcement came after some viewers felt McShay looked unwell again during Saturday’s broadcast of the Alabama-Miami game. He appeared to slur his words a bit while delivering a sideline report.
McShay’s health became a topic of conversation last year when he looked like he was struggling while giving a pregame report ahead of a Big Ten contest. He left that game due to what ESPN called an illness. You can see the clip here.
McShay, 44, has not made mention of his health since the incident last year. You may recall that he was also unable to participate in ESPN’s 2020 NFL Draft coverage after he contracted COVID-19. Hopefully he feels well enough to return in the near future.
Max Kellerman appeared on ESPN’s “First Take” for the last time on Wednesday. Kellerman has spent the past five years hosting the show alongside Stephen A. Smith, and that partnership would have continued if Smith wanted it to. So why did Smith want Kellerman gone?
According to Outkick’s Bobby Burack, Smith had several issues with Kellerman as his debate partner. One was that Smith didn’t consider Kellerman to be a great debate partner. Smith apparently felt that Kellerman was a fence-sitter and did not take a definitive stance often enough. When Smith hosted “First Take” with Skip Bayless, the two almost always took opposite sides and ferociously defended them. That is the dynamic Smith wants on the show.
Burack also says Smith felt uncomfortable discussing social issues with Kellerman. That probably wasn’t as much of an issue with Bayless, as there wasn’t nearly as much spillover between politics and sports television five years ago.
A third reason that Smith wanted Kellerman off the show is that he reportedly does not view Kellerman as his equal. That is why ESPN’s solution is to have a rotation of analysts debating Smith rather than a co-host who appears on “First Take” with him every day.
Smith was out having surgery on Wednesday, so he didn’t appear on Kellerman’s final show. He did, however, call in.
Smith is the highest-paid employee at ESPN. He makes more than $10 million annually. It’s no surprise that he has a tremendous amount of pull with the network. We already know of one strong personality who could be added to the “First Take” rotation, and Smith will have plenty of say in the others.
ESPN was seemingly duped by a high school football program that had no business being on its airwaves over the weekend, and the network has since expressed regret over the situation.
Bishop Sycamore, which is apparently an online-only charter school based in Columbus, Ohio, was dominated by defending high school national champion IMG Academy (Fla.) on ESPN Sunday night. The 58-0 score showed just how overmatched Bishop Sycamore was, despite ESPN somehow being given the impression that the team had several Division I prospects on its roster.
On Monday, ESPN issued the following statement to several media outlets:
“We regret that this happened and have discussed it with Paragon, which secured the matchup and handles the majority of our high school event scheduling. They have ensured us that they will take steps to prevent this kind of situation from happening moving forward.”
Paragon Marketing Group is the firm that arranged the schedule for ESPN’s “Geico High School Football Kickoff” event. It’s obvious that those responsible both with Paragon and ESPN did not do their research on Bishop Sycamore. If they did, they would have learned that the program went 0-6 last season and there is no record of it having existed prior to that. Worse yet, Bishop Sycamore’s game against IMG Academy was its second in three days, as the school also played on Friday night.
ESPN’s own announcers expressed concern for the health and safety of Bishop Sycamore players during Sunday’s game (video here).
The whole ordeal was embarrassing for ESPN, whether it was their marketing partner’s fault or not.
An extremely bizarre situation unfolded on Sunday when ESPN aired a lopsided high school football game between national powerhouse IMG Academy and some other program called Bishop Sycamore. The end result was ugly, to say the least.
ESPN aired several high school football games over the weekend as part of its “GEICO ESPN High School Kickoff” event. The last game pitted defending national champion IMG Academy (Fla.) against Bishop Sycamore, a program that claims to be from Columbus, Ohio. Many viewers understandably had never heard of Bishop Sycamore, and even Google couldn’t teach them much about the school.
As Zach Barnett of FootballScoop.com discovered, Bishop Sycamore appears to be some sort of online-only charter school. Its website looks like a poorly run blog, with no new entries since May 21. Bishop Sycamore’s football team went 0-6 last year, and there’s no record of it having existed prior to that.
So how did this happen?
It sounds as though ESPN and its scheduling partners were simply swindled by Bishop Sycamore. During the broadcast, announcers Anish Shroff and Tom Luginbill revealed that Bishop Sycamore claimed to have a lot of Division I prospects on their roster. In the clip below, Shroff admitted that the network could not verify the presence of top college prospects on the team. Shroff and Luginbill expressed concern for the health and safety of Bishop Sycamore players.
Bishop Sycamore lost to IMG in a 58-0 throttling. What’s worse is that the game was the program’s second in three days, as they also lost 19-7 to Sto-Rox of McKees Rocks, Pa., on Friday night.
Obviously, ESPN and its partners did not do their homework. There’s no way a “school” like Bishop Sycamore should be able to talk its way into a spot like that in the internet era. Some very simple research would have shown that they had no business playing in the game.
ESPN already has a number of former NBA players appearing on their network, but now they could be going after a current one as well.
Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reported on Thursday that ESPN is interested in hiring Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green for their “NBA Countdown” show. Green would only be available on occasion however as an active player.
The former Defensive Player of the Year Green has already dipped his toe into television. He has made guest appearances on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” and even joined CNN as a contributor last year.
Still, Green once got fined for something he said on TV. If he wants a shot with ESPN, he may have to be a bit more careful with his choice of words.
Stephen A. Smith is a powerful man at ESPN, and when he has an ideal co-host in mind, the network tends to listen. That’s what makes Smith’s latest reported idea so interesting.
According to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, Smith wants to team up with Magic Johnson on TV, possibly as part of “NBA Countdown.” Smith’s ideal setup would involve him, Johnson, and longtime “Pardon the Interruption” co-host Michael Wilbon, who works with Smith frequently on “SportsCenter.”
It’s not clear if ESPN would be willing to put Smith and his selected co-hosts on “NBA Countdown.” In the past, the network has resisted making him a centerpiece of its NBA pregame show, feeling his opinionated style is not a good fit for the program. However, there is some belief that the pre-existing camaraderie of Smith, Johnson, and Wilbon would come through on the air.
Johnson could also have a role as Smith’s debate partner on “First Take” as part of a rotation. ESPN plans to use a rotating cast of co-hosts on that program after Max Kellerman’s departure.
The network is currently revamping its NBA programming in light of the high-profile departure of Maria Taylor and the demotion of Rachel Nichols stemming from her controversial comments about Taylor that leaked this year. With the NBA coverage in flux, Smith certainly appears poised to step into the void.
Johnson has done TV before, although his contributions haven’t been terribly noteworthy. He certainly has his share of opinions, but also gets roasted somewhat frequently for some of his more obvious takes.