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Maria Taylor Announces Exit From ESPN

The host’s final assignment was Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

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Courtesy: ESPN

The final shoe has dropped in the negotiations between ESPN and Maria Taylor. The network announced that Taylor has moved on from ESPN after the two sides failed to reach a contract agreement.

ESPN announced that the Bucks series-clinching victory over the Suns was Taylor’s last assignment.

“Maria’s remarkable success speaks directly to her abilities and work ethic,” ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro said in a statement. “There is no doubt we will miss Maria, but we remain determined to continue to build a deep and skilled talent roster that thoroughly reflects the athletes we cover and the fans we serve. While she chose to pursue a new opportunity, we are proud of the work we’ve done together.”

This breakup has been publicly brewing for weeks after leaks began getting out that Maria Taylor wanted “Stephen A. Smith money,” but ESPN was unwilling to go that high. Reported offers reached as large as $3 million per year. Taylor made $1 million per year on her now-expired ESPN deal.

So thankful to Jimmy and all of my great teammates and friends at the SEC Network, College GameDay, Women’s and Men’s college basketball, and the NBA Countdown family — the people who believed in me, encouraged me, pushed me, and lifted me up. Words are inadequate to express my boundless appreciation, and I hope to make them proud,” Taylor said in the press release.

All eyes in the sports and sports media world now shift to NBCUniversal and the Olympics. Andrew Marchand reported that NBC is targeting Taylor to be the new studio face of their sports coverage as soon as this weekend. A sensical move with Mike Tirico being the heir-apparent to Al Michaels and handling a full-slate of Notre Dame games this Fall.

NBC executives have shown a clear interest in Maria Taylor; now we wait and see if they can close on a deal with the former-ESPN star.

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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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