In retrospect, Pat McAfee joining the College GameDay desk ahead of the 2022 college football season was a tryout of sorts for ESPN. They needed an injection of something new into their flagship Saturday morning program and could evaluate how McAfee's particular energy reverberated with the network's audience. Obviously the execs liked what they saw as they signed McAfee to a huge contract the following spring and he remains a central aspect of GameDay. He has become so central that many assume he is the future cornerstone of the show once Lee Corso finally retires.
However, there's been more pushback against McAfee's antics this year than last. He caught a good amount of heat earlier in the season for blasting Washington State on live television. Last week, The Athletic published results of a poll in which nearly half of the participants said they do not like McAfee on College GameDay.
On Sunday, McAfee responded to the poll and informed the masses who aren't fans that they should rest easy because he hasn't re-upped with GameDay.
This is surprising because it was assumed that part of the reason ESPN went after McAfee so hard was to ensure he'd carry College GameDay into the next generation. Much of the criticism about him on the show was certainly valid but could also be chalked up to, essentially, growing pains. GameDay has been around for a long time and has been presented a certain way for many years. McAfee's presence is disruptive even if you like his schtick and it was always going to take a little while for the weekly viewers to get used to him. This tweet seems to indicate that his future on the show is not the sure thing we all thought it was.
Have to wonder how ESPN feels about that. They paid a lot of money for him to join the ranks and presumably expect more from him than merely his daily studio show. If McAfee really does not re-sign because fans are complaining, they may get creative in finding ways for him to contribute to other aspects of the four-letter network.
Of course, this could just be a bit of performance art. McAfee acknowledges the critics and gives the impression he's willing to leave if enough people demand it, but then signs the contract anyway because it's probably a ton of money and people participating in a poll with The Athletic do not represent the majority of College GameDay viewership.
Either way it does sound like McAfee doesn't have a deal that extends past this season. It would be weird to announce this and still have another season left under contract, after all. The future of the program may be decided sooner than we all thought.