Summer’s a time of movement in the sports media industry, and with Fox rolling out a new channel, there’s even more chatter than normal. Here’s what I’m hearing:
Still no word about whether or not General Robert Montgomery Knight and ESPN will work out a new deal or will end their partnernship. Previously, it looked like he was gone, but there’s some sentiment that maybe he’ll be brought back in an even smaller role than last season, if that’s possible. Yes, I have called him. No, he has not answered or called back. My first question to him would be: Why would you want to go back? Then, I’d ask ESPN, why would you bring him back?
Jay Williams, the college basketball analyst, is the other big contract decision right now. Internally, I’m hearing ESPN doesn’t want to lose Williams, though Fox Sports (which has some college basketball) is in play as well. I wouldn’t read too much into his girlfriend, Charissa Thompson, leaving ESPN for Fox last week. One possible enticement for Williams to remain at ESPN? The status of College Gameday and Numbers Never Lie.
I’m hearing Jalen Rose, who is currently doing Gameday, Numbers Never Lie and NBA Countdown, will likely be coming off NNL and there is an internal push for Williams to take his spot. It’s also unclear what may become of Gameday next season, given the health of Digger Phelps (he says he’ll return, but replacement options if he’s still recovering include Seth Greenberg or Bruce Pearl) and the status of Rose, who seems to be everywhere all the time. But would ESPN pair two Dukies (Bilas and Williams) on Gameday?
And name to file away for later this summer: Jemele Hill, ESPN’s columnist/sideline reporter/podcaster. Hill has quietly made quite a name for herself by being versatile in Bristol, which naturally makes her more attractive to competitors. Her contract is up this winter, but since she was a college football sideline reporter last season, and those assignments are usually completed by the summer, a decision on Hill’s future at the network could happen by August. Will she be the latest female to bolt – see Beadle, Andrews, Nicols and Thompson? People I’ve spoken with in Bristol think – right now – she’s likely to stay, and they wouldn’t be shocked if ESPN tinkering with building a TV show around her and her podcast co-host Michael Smith.
Jeff Goodman, one half of the CBS Sports college basketball news-breaking team, could be on the move this summer. Multiple sources tell me Yahoo and ESPN are looking to pluck Goodman from CBS, where his contract is up this summer. One thing I noticed about CBS during the NCAA tournament – why didn’t the network have its two newsbreakers – Goodman and Gary Parrish – pop up on TV the way Fox has Jay Glazer and ESPN has Schefter/Mort during pregame shows? Everyone was focused on Charles Barkley and newbie Doug Gottlieb, but where were the news guys? (Counter argument: What news? Counter to the counter: There’s always news about player movement/coaching, etc.)
The idea of Goodman/Woj at Yahoo sets up an interesting basketball tandem; could ESPN be looking at Goodman to pump up its struggling NBA draft coverage? As I said last year, there’s just no reason Jeff Van Gundy needs to be there. He doesn’t know the players.
Over the weekend, Memphis lost valued assistant coach Damon Stoudemire to Arizona (first reported by Memphis Roar). Stoudemire was considered by some as the the #1 recruiter for coach Josh Pastner, and now the Tigers are scrambling to find a replacement. One potential name I keep hearing – his former teammate at Arizona, Miles Simon, who was previously an assistant coach at Arizona and is now an ESPN TV analyst.
Simon was the star on Arizona’s 1997 title-winning team. Pastner was a walk-on benchwarmer. Simon was an assistant coach for a few years in Arizona before the bizarre Lute Olsen/Kevin O’Neill battle, and rumors flew about why Simon left the program.
Would Simon try to leap back into coaching?
CBS, Turner, and the NCAA Tournament
The news today that CBS would relinquish airing the Final Four and National Title game wasn’t huge news if you think back to negotiations in 2010. When CBS and ESPN were battling for the NCAA tournament rights – remember, this was an era when CBS didn’t televise four games at once – ESPN’s big advantage was it could put all the games on. CBS could not. So it had to partner with Turner. I had a lot of college hoops fans in my twitter bubble lamenting the Final Four’s move to cable, but when you think about it, the College Football Championship game is on cable (ESPN), too. I guess the main difference here is that ESPN is now seen as so mainstream in the eyes of sports fans, essentially on par with ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS. But TBS – Friends re-runs four hours a day – is still cable. So it’s not really a huge deal, even though it sounds like it. (Worth noting: I don’t actually know what channel TBS is on my Verizon cable. I know TBS and TNT are right next to each other, and I only know that because of the NCAA tournament. The only things I watch on those channels are sports … except Dallas, sometimes, simply because of Jordana Brewster.)