Bob Ley announced his retirement today and his legacy really is unimpeachable. He spent nearly 40 years at ESPN and along with Chris Berman is one of the two people you can put on the network’s Mount Rushmore in Sharpie before having a big debate over who claims the last two spots.
Ley leaves behind Bob-Lanier-sized shoes to fill both in his presence as the godfather of the network and the host of Outside the Lines. So what comes next? Norby Williamson, the executive who ultimately oversees the program, released the following statement indicating that, unsurprisingly, Jeremy Schaap and Ryan Smith will continue to handle most of the anchoring role:
Over the last few years, OTL has pivoted from being primarily a vessel in which Ley introduced reported features into becoming a conversational program. If you spend a lot of time watching ESPN, you’ll notice that once the transformation became complete it has actually wound up having a moderate overlap with a lot of the topic selection from the rest of the network’s lineup. This bodes well for OTL’s foreseeable future because it hits on the stories that are in the news that day. Schaap and Smith have been more than capable as discussion facilitators.
Nonetheless, more surprising things have happened in the history of ESPN than if, down the road, the company ultimately decided to expand the noon SportsCenter from being 60 to 90 minutes as the bridge between First Take and NFL Live. This is not to suggest that the OTL brand would go away; it is and will remain very valuable as an authoritative news gatherer. But, one could imagine a world where it is eventually folded into SportsCenter and other studio programs under a features banner. The show began as a monthly program before expanding into weekly and later daily; perhaps another option could be ESPN deciding to move it back to airing on weekends.
It’s doubtful that any major changes along these lines are imminent, but with Ley headed out it’s only natural that ESPN will evaluate in the near term what it wants to explore with the future of the franchise.