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Who Replaces Cowherd At ESPN?

Jason Barrett

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Traug Keller says ESPN did everything it could to retain Colin Cowherd. When the radio host suggested he wanted to move his base of operations from Bristol, Ct. to Los Angeles, ESPN management greenlit the proposal. Extra television opportunities? You bet, the company said. Keller, a longtime ESPN executive, would know the details of such contractual negotiations. The senior vice president of production business divisions oversees all aspects of the ESPN’s audio business including talent, staffing, national programming content, scheduling and event production. He’s also enjoyed a good relationship with Cowherd since hiring the host in 2003 to replace Tony Kornheiser for the late morning time slot on ESPN Radio.
But while ESPN’s offer was aggressive, it was not enough. Last week The Big Lead’s Ryan Glasspiegel broke the story that Cowherd was leaving ESPN at the end of his current contract.
“I’m close to Colin and I think he’s a unique talent,” said Keller by phone from Gleaneagles, Scotland, where he is attending The Open Championship. “But I think he was playing this around in his mind, ‘Is there something bigger and better out there for me?’ This was also, and make no mistake about it, this was about the bids that were put in. We put in an aggressive bid for Colin and I think he got a better one from Fox. As you know, that’s life.”
While an official contract has yet to be signed as of this writing, Cowherd is heading for Fox Sports as Keller’s quote above indicates. Negotiations are currently finalizing between that network’s brass and Cowherd’s reps. One of the questions remaining for Fox was whether ESPN would let Cowherd out of his contract early, keep him on air until the end of his contract, or pay him to sit on a California beach until his contract’s end. Keller would not confirm an end date for Cowherd but he did say it would be an amicable parting. I’m told Cowherd’s ESPN contract ends in December but he’ll be off ESPN well before that.
If you are looking for a starting date for Cowherd at Fox Sports, keep this in mind: Cowherd has a book coming out Oct. 1 and I’d guess he’d want to be at his new employer to promote that (as well as having his new employer promote the heck out of the book). Based on multiple industry sources I spoke with, the Fox Sports salary they anticipated for Cowherd was north of $6 million annually when you include radio and television work.
As for Cowherd’s replacement, multiple sources told SI.com that The Dan Le Batard Show, which currently airs on ESPN Radio from 4-7 p.m. ET, is thefrontrunner to take over Cowherd’s morning 10-1 p.m. spot. That would cause an opening in Le Batard’s current spot, with multiple in-house candidates being kicked around including Bomani Jones, who currently hosts an ESPN Radio show from 9-11 p.m.
The choice of Le Batard makes a lot of sense internally for a number of reasons. First, ESPN president John Skipper is personally fond of Le Batard and has said so in interviews with this column. Second, Le Batard is key talent figure in Rydholm Projects group, the company led by producer Erik Rydholm that produces Highly Questionable, Around The Horn and Pardon The Interruption in partnership with ESPN. Rydholm’s shows build on each other to funnel into what ESPN management considers its most important property in SportsCenter and whether he wants to admit it or not, Rydholm is the most powerful producer at ESPN. If you regularly appear on Rydholm shows, you can feel comfortable buying, as opposed to renting, that two bedroom loft in Brooklyn or Miami.
But just because ESPN management thinks Le Batard is a good fit by no means assures it will happen. Le Batard and Jones work on Highly Questionable, which tapes at 12:30 p.m. ET (the slot Cowherd currently hosts). That show is very important to Le Batard and Rydholm, not to mention ESPN’s TV side. Also, keep in mind Le Batard and his radio show have spent years establishing an audience during the drive-time hours in Miami. That’s something that group might not want to screw around with. It also seems inconceivable that Le Batard would make any move that has a negative impact on the television show he does with his father, Gonzalo. As for Jones, he does a lot of spots on Around The Horn (which tapes at 1:30 p.m.) so that’s also a factor with him. I believe Keller when he says nothing has been finalized.
Asked where ESPN Radio stood on a new lineup, Keller said, “We have a deep bench. There are great network programs. We have a guy named Le Batard in Miami who is doing a great radio show.”
Keller then rolled off a number of additional ESPN Radio names from Jones to the L.A.-based Max Kellerman and Marcellus Wiley to the Chicago-based duo of Tom Waddle and Marc Silverman to the New York-based ESPN Radio show featuring Michael Kay and Don La Greca to Michael Smith and Jemele Hill, the hosts of ESPN2’s His and Hers.
So file those names away, too, as part of a radio chessboard. “We have strong ideas but I am not ready to talk about it right now,” Keller said.
For those who think ESPN Radio is going to fall off a cliff from 10-1 without Cowherd, guess again. The person or persons who replace Cowherd will essentially be given a Wonka Golden Ticket.
Cowherd’s show airs on 400 terrestrial radio stations, Sirius XM, iTunes, Slacker, Tune-in and is simulcast on TV.
“I think about ‘Who is next?’ and that’s the fun part of my job, taking folks, putting them on, and watching it happen,” Keller said. “Look, you and I both know that after a 10- or 15-year run, people get the itch. Maybe it’s better over there. I get that and that happens. But the part that keeps me going and what I love that we have is this ability to take people and let them loose to see what they can do.”
To read the rest of this story, visit Richard Deitsch’s column on SI

Sports Radio News

Freezing Cold Takes Author Describes Difference Between Skip Bayless and Mike Francesa Hot Takes

“He has a knack for saying things defiantly and within a real brief period the opposite happens,” he said.

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Dan Patrick, Freezing Cold Takes

Fred Segal, the creator of the popular Freezing Cold Takes Twitter account, didn’t hold back
when it came to talking about some sports media personalities who are kings of the freezing cold take.

Talking to Dan Patrick on Wednesday, Segal said if there was a Mount Rushmore for hosts who
are often wrong or point out the obvious, FOX Sports host Skip Bayless would be one of the
faces.

“There’s things that he posts that are completely obvious that he can’t possibly think those things rationally,” he said.

Segal has a new book coming highlighting some of the best cold takes centered around the NFL.

“And he also has what feels to be a gimmick, his schtick, where he zeroes in on a player and decides, ‘I am going to constantly berate and say negative things about him and spin any positive into a negative.”

Segal thought of LeBron James and Aaron Rodgers as two athletes in particular that Bayless
likes to rip on.

He also said he’d add Mike Francesa to that Mount Rushmore as well, but for different reasons.
Patrick said the difference is that Francesa is just trying to be right and not troll.

“Out of all the people who try to be provocative on-air and are really concerned about being
entertaining, Francesa is completely honest with everything he says,” Segal said. “But he’s so
defiant about what he says.”

He added that Francesa has this ability of being so confident in what he’s saying, only to end up wrong nearly instantly after saying it.

“He has a knack for saying things defiantly and within a real brief period the opposite happens,” he said.

Segal mentioned Francesa saying the New York Jets would never get two first round draft picks
in a trade for Jamal Adams in 2020. Well, the Seattle Seahawks gave two first rounders to the Jets for Adams and a fourth round pick.

Patrick at least credited Francesa for owning his takes.

“He’s genuine in how bad some of his opinions are,” Patrick said.

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Sports Radio News

Pat McAfee Announces Partnership With NFL Films

“You’re going to make our show better and hopefully we make NFL Films a little bit better as well.”

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Pat McAfee Show

The Pat McAfee Show is breaking another barrier with his program. Today he revealed that his show will be teaming up with NFL Films to feature league footage on the show. They will also team up for at least one feature element between the two.

On the show, McAfee was discussing the debut of Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Detroit Lions with two of the coordinating producers of the show, Keith Cossrow and Ken Rodgers. After talking about the first episode, McAfee made the announcement.

“We will have NFL footage rights for the show every single day,” McAfee began. “We will also be creating, probably an Emmy-winning Mic’d Up type thing on the side with NFL Films. I don’t think this has ever happened before. I think this is one of the first times that something like we run has teamed up with NFL Films and the NFL.”

McAfee then told the two how happy he was to be partners with the group. “You’re going to make our show better and hopefully we make NFL Films a little bit better as well. We are very lucky and pumped to be a part of it, Keith.”

“Seeing you guys work, seeing how committed you are it reminded me of the way we are back here,” said Keith Cossrow. “What you guys have all built together is really special. What you’ve built Pat, is special. We could not be more excited at NFL Films to help build your show into something bigger. We are going to produce a weekly feature every week all season with you about the brilliance of our players in the NFL.”

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Sports Radio News

Dave LaGreca: WWE Will Improve Without Vince McMahon

“I don’t think Vince McMahon ever truly loved pro wrestling. He loved that term, ‘sports entertainment.’ He looked at pro wrestling the way a lot of mainstream people look at pro wrestling.”

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Wrestling fans have connected with SiriusXM’s Busted Open, because they trust host Dave LaGreca to be honest with them about what is good and bad in the sport. One target that he has never been afraid to go after is former WWE boss Vince McMahon.

“You can’t think about it,” he said on the latest episode of The Jason Barrett Podcast when asked how the company has responded to his criticism in the past. “You kinda have to block it.”

One of LaGreca’s most famous rants is about the appearance of zombies at a WWE pay-per-view event last year. During that rant, Dave LaGreca shouted over and over that Vince McMahon hates pro wrestling.

He told Barrett that he doesn’t regret the rant and still believes every word of it.

“I stand by that statement. I don’t think Vince McMahon ever truly loved pro wrestling. He loved that term, ‘sports entertainment.’ He looked at pro wrestling the way a lot of mainstream people look at pro wrestling.”

Dave LaGreca is a wrestling fan. He said he and people like him have plenty of reason for optimism with McMahon’s son-in-law Triple H taking creative control of the company’s storylines.

“Triple H looks at pro wrestling as an art form. He’s said it before. He appreciates it. He respects it. He grew up an NWA fan. I am very high on the next 3-6 months with Triple H at the helm of creative.”

Barrett followed that up by asking what could come next for Vince McMahon. Dave LaGreca had a simple answer.

“Watches!”

New episodes of The Jason Barrett Podcast drop every Tuesday morning.

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