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Maria Taylor Not Leaving ESPN Before End Of NBA Finals

The “NBA Countdown” host’s contract expires on Tuesday.

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Courtesy: ESPN Images

There won’t be a mid-series switch for NBA Countdown after all. The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand reports that Maria Taylor and ESPN have agreed to a “mini-extension,” allowing her to finish out the 2021 NBA season before deciding to stay with the company long term.

ESPN did not offer a statement to Marchand but the host is expected to be at her normal spot on the broadcasts for Games 6 and 7 on Tuesday and Thursday.

All of this as rumors swirl surrounding the rising stars’ next move in the industry. The Post also reported last week that NBC is eyeing Taylor to be a marquee addition to their sports department. The prevailing thought was to add her to NBC’s Olympic lineup if she bowed out of ESPN the day her contract expired on July 20. 

Maria Taylor could still bolt for NBC if they make the right offer, but the “mini-extension” might delay her first appearance on NBC airwaves. Leaving for NBC could mean she takes over for Mike Tirico as the face of their studio sports coverage. Tirico signed with NBC to eventually replace Al Michaels as the voice of Sunday Night Football.

With Amazon and NBC striking a new deal for production on Thursday Night Football, those days could be coming sooner rather than later. Amazon has made it well known they desire to pair Michaels with another heavy hitter for instant credibility in their streaming-only booth, starting in 2022.

As for Taylor’s current role on NBA Countdown, the team is missing one of its playmakers in Jay Williams, who recently tested positive for COVID-19 and experienced mild symptoms while quarantining in a Milwaukee hotel room.

Unfortunately, Williams will not be on site for any more Finals games as the sports media world awaits Taylor’s next move in the industry.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Adam

    July 20, 2021 at 8:31 pm

    Maria Taylor is the most overrated person in sports. She isn’t worth anything. She isn’t even top 5 woman on ESPN. Good agent?

    • Ernest Hagans

      July 20, 2021 at 10:30 pm

      She’s not overrated, but is just in demand. You’re the only one outside negotiations questioning her value. She’s young and very professional. In this business you’re worth what you get.

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Sports TV News

Adam Schefter Expected To Join Mannings On Monday Night Football

The NFL insider has been with ESPN since 2009.

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Courtesy: ESPN Images

ESPN executives have nailed down two members of the Manning Monday Night Football Megacast already; now they have to round out the trio. One familiar face has a leg up on one of the hottest jobs in the industry right now.

Front Office Sports’ Michael McCarthy reports that Adam Schefter is a leading candidate to join Peyton and Eli Manning for their Monday Night Football Megacast, airing ten times this season on ESPN2. Schefter has never been a TV host or play-by-play voice at the company, but sources told McCarthy this isn’t set up as a “down and distance” broadcast.

“It will be like watching ‘Monday Night Football’ with the Mannings and their friends. The win will be how funny and interesting the whole conversation is,” A source said to FOS. “If you want down and distance, that’s on the main broadcast. This should look and feel totally different.”

A source went on to say that the job is pictured “more like Ernie Johnson Jr. — and less like Al Michaels,” with Schefter (or whoever gets the gig) facilitating conversations around the game with the Mannings.

McCarthy confirmed that the brothers have the final say on who will join them in the booth as the hottest job in sports media opens up. Name a big name and they’ve likely already had their agent on the phone to pump them up in Bristol, Conn.

“Everyone wants in. Every agent in town is calling ESPN,” a source said to FOS.

The brothers won’t be on-site for these games. Instead, they’ll pull off all ten broadcasts this season in a looser, remote atmosphere. Schefter could be a strong fit for that type of hybrid role, and the professional timing couldn’t be much better for the NFL insider. 

Schefter has been with ESPN since 2009 and signed his current five-year deal back in 2016. He’s a routine news breaker and a valuable asset for ESPN. Dangling the carrot of ten games with the Mannings could spell a fresh deal between Schefter and ESPN. Who is reeling in the Manning Conversations this fall? We’ll find out soon enough.

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Liberty Extends ESPN Deal

Liberty and ESPN reached a deal that gives the flames exclusive rights to the Flames’ football games through 2025.

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In a state dominated by FBS programs Virginia and Virginia Tech, and FCS power James Madison, Liberty University has needed to be aggressive in order to stay relevant. They hired Scott Jackson, the longtime assistant to the legendary Mike Fox at UNC, to coach their baseball program. The Flames also hired Ritchie McKay, Tony Bennett’s top assistant at UVA, to lead their basketball program. Of course, they famously hired ex-Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze to be their head football coach. Now, they have extended their exclusive media rights deal with ESPN through 2025.

The deal will see all of Liberty’s football games available on an ESPN platform, with a guarantee of at least one game available on a linear station and ESPN has the right to choose a non-traditional gameday to air a second linear broadcast. Liberty’s 12-game schedule is highlighted by a pair of road games at Power Five schools: a September 24 date with Syracuse and a pseudo-homecoming of sorts for Freeze against Ole Miss November 6.

“We are pleased to continue to showcase Liberty home football games exclusively on ESPN platforms in the years ahead through this multi-year extension of our rights agreement which began in 2018. The recent success of the Flames has made them one of the more intriguing programs in college football the past few seasons.” said Dan Margulis, senior director of programming and acquisitions, ESPN.

The move comes during a tumultuous time in college football as Oklahoma and Texas are reportedly nearing a deal to join the SEC. Liberty is currently one of just six FBS independents, along with BYU, UMass, Army, Notre Dame, and New Mexico State. That list is a mixed bag of those who are independent by choice and those who are not.

The Flames will embark on just their fourth season in the FBS this fall, and the smoke surrounding the school’s desire to join the AAC is palpable. Gaining favor with the Worldwide Leader is a good first step for a program that’s always focused on putting one in front of the other as of late.

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FOX Sports Puts Up Brewers Billboard Near Wrigley Field

After winning the Ultimate Fan Bracket, Brewers fans will be rewarded with a billboard honoring their victory in Chicago.

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Trolling is no longer reserved for the dark, seedy corners of the internet. It is now a tried and true amendment to the fabric of America’s digital culture. Such is the case for Fox Sports as it will have a billboard praising fans of the Milwaukee Brewers put up in Chicago as reward for winning Ultimate Fan Bracket.

The billboard will go up at the corner of LaSalle and Grand, roughly six miles from Wrigley Field. This is not the first time Fox Sports has trolled a home base’s fans as they previously had Bills billboards in Foxborough, Massachusetts and UNC signage in Durham, North Carolina.

While the Cubs’ primary rival resides some four hours south and a little west, the jab from their neighbors 90 minutes north will still sting. That is especially true given the phrase is borrowed from a self-appointed title for Cardinals fans in a city that is wildly proud of their loyalty to the Cubs, who, for over a century, embodied losing.

It’s going to take one heckuva cup snake to get that billboard down.

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