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Molly McGrath is Sprinting Towards Excellence

“Is there burnout? Yeah, but I wouldn’t be able to prepare any other way.”

Derek Futterman

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Molly McGrath
Courtesy: Molly McGrath

As the clock counts down to the end of the fourth quarter, Molly McGrath stands at the ready. Prepared, alert and energized, she sprints onto the field at the sound of the final buzzer to interview West Virginia head football coach, Neal Brown, after his team claimed a 17-6 victory over Pittsburgh. Once her work was done, she posted the video to social media, which garnered a significant number of views and remarks commending her dedication to the craft.

While it may seem like an aberration from the norm for viewers, the occurrence represented a typical day on the job for McGrath, who has been working for ESPN as a college football reporter since 2016. Whenever she is on site for an assignment, her objective is to provide information and insights by serving as a resource on the field.

“He just shook the hand of someone that he just beat on the field, [so] you want to get that interview right after that moment,” McGrath explained. “[I] can’t say I don’t hustle and work hard – I definitely do. I’m a little aggressive; maybe some people think it’s too much, but I do that pretty much after every game.”

Having the wherewithal to hustle is essential to McGrath’s occupation, which necessitates extensive preparation, collaboration and synergy. Keeping her role in perspective, she is able to execute her tasks at a high level, which pay dividends to the aggregate output. Additionally, possessing a keen interest and shrewd understanding of the psychology behind the broadcast renders her adept at addressing the needs of her colleagues.

When McGrath moved from the West Coast to Boston to study broadcast journalism at Boston College, she made it a point to stay in the metropolis each summer. Although she had completed internships with WHDH-TV and NESN, the impending start to her senior year heightened concern over a lack of genuine reporting experience.

Despite serving as captain of the cheerleading team, McGrath met with athletic director Gene DeFilippo to solicit clearance to interview student athletes, coaches and personnel in a student-reporter role. Evoking evidence of an ostensible schism between the athletes and other college students, she pitched her ability to bridge that gap through journalism.

“He always tells the story, [and] it’s so funny because he’s like, ‘Here comes in this little blonde cheerleader spitting piss and vinegar, and she’s telling me I need to give her a job and let her do all these things,’ because I guess I was pretty demanding or strong in what I wanted,’” McGrath shared. “….I said, ‘This is what I want to do. I want to be a sports reporter, and I want your help.’”

Throughout her senior year, McGrath was vigorous in her pursuit to compile a demo reel to facilitate her job applications. Despite reaching out to more than 100 different sports networks at every corner of the United States and enduring universal rejection, she remained persistent and eventually received a lucky break. McGrath, as it turns out, was afforded a chance to work at ESPN as a production assistant, where she experienced the competitive nature of the profession firsthand.

While there is a discernible yearning for obsequiousness in dedicated professionals, vitriol and acerbic rhetoric can demoralize self-confidence and engender animosity and contempt. McGrath always looks to succeed in her endeavors and simultaneously has avoided becoming ensnared in malice, substantiated through her relationships with other colleagues. Part of that emanated from developing a kinship with her cheerleading teammates.

“There’s this perception that women are competitive and unkind with each other, but I’ve found that in this industry, at least in my experience and especially at ESPN, the women are all really supportive of each other and we want each other to succeed because I think it makes all women look better,” McGrath said. “If we’re all succeeding, it’s better for women in this male-dominated industry in general.”

After six months, McGrath departed ESPN and drew the attention of the Boston Celtics, which brought her on as a web reporter and in-arena host. Repetitions both on digital platforms and at TD Garden refined her ability in cohesive storytelling, along with being comfortable addressing a crowd.

“When I’m on TV and it’s just me looking into a camera, sure there might be millions of people watching me, but it doesn’t faze me because being in an arena live with people is so much more difficult,” McGrath said. “I think it taught me to persevere and to stay clear-headed, and to tell my story, in a way, around a bunch of people.”

As her second season with the Celtics came to a close, McGrath felt she needed to do more to ensure sustained growth. One day, she spontaneously looked at her Facebook messages and saw a FOX Sports executive had reached out, sharing that the company was starting a new sports network. Jacob Ullman, senior vice president of production and talent development, discovered her work on YouTube and thought that she may be a good fit.

McGrath then noticed it had been sent two weeks earlier, and she rapidly followed up and flew to Los Angeles to audition. By May, she was on the air as an in-studio host and update anchor, on the ground floor of what proved to be a burgeoning property. Once it became time for football season, she was added to the NFL on FOX lineup to work as a sideline reporter with Sam Rosen and Heath Evans.

“I was terrible, but I had so much fun, and to be at an event live is so invigorating,” McGrath said. “I remember in that moment before one of my first games thinking, ‘I think this is something I really need to do, and I need to be the best at it,’ because why else would you do it if you don’t want to be one of the best?”

McGrath’s hard work was rewarded with a promotion to serve as the network’s lead college football reporter the next season. Working alongside Gus Johnson and Charles Davis was an invaluable experience for her to grow accustomed to different settings, build her network of contacts and become more proficient in reporting.

“I was still learning, but [I] worked really hard,” McGrath said. “I had a couple of moments where I’m like, ‘Oh shit, I’m on TV,’ and I would get really nervous because I was still so young and inexperienced.”

McGrath ultimately made her return to ESPN ahead of the 2016 college football season to contribute on Friday night college football telecasts and occasionally host College Football Live. The demand for excellence was still very much present, and McGrath felt motivated to prove to executives that they had made the right decision in bringing her back.

“Being a part of game broadcasts at ESPN [brings] heightened expectations and a heightened level of, ‘Everyone needs to be great,’ and, ‘Everyone needs to pull their own weight,’” McGrath said. “That’s something that I learned at ESPN that I think has made me better.”

In the years that have ensued, McGrath has ascended through the ranks, much of which can be attributed to her preparatory regimen leading up to an assignment. In working as the lead reporter for ESPN Saturday Night Primetime, she usually finds herself on a flight home on Sunday morning and begins her work at cruising altitude. Throughout the rest of the day, McGrath works to schedule conversations with the athletes and uses her time on Monday to complete her film study.

“I think that I’m at my best when I’m just reacting and when I’m working unscripted because I have confidence from my preparation,” McGrath said. “….Is there burnout? Yeah, but I wouldn’t be able to prepare any other way.”

Staying prepared to react to dynamic circumstances while gathering and disseminating content enhances the aggregate presentation effort. McGrath feels an innate fear of failure and approaches the week-by-week grind as if she is studying for a final exam that she has no choice but to ace.

McGrath has an affinity for perfection, but she willingly embraces alterations in the plan and unforeseen occurrences. Embedded within each win and loss lies an immeasurable number of sequences that can determine the final score, and she needs to remain nimble to parse the contest accordingly. She hardly remains idle, always staying locked in to the action and focused on deftly carrying out the task at hand.

“I don’t want to tell some fluffy stories that I could have told on Friday afternoon,” she explained. “I want to tell you exactly what the quarterback is saying to his offensive line after that sack, [and] I want to tell you exactly the look on the players’ face and the sounds that they made when they come off of the field with an injury.”

With four minutes to go in the contest, McGrath can usually discern who is going to win, although there are plenty of last-minute changes in fortune. As the end of the game approaches, she begins to contemplate events in themes and prioritizes what is most important. McGrath has a limited amount of time to execute a postgame interview, and she usually prioritizes clarifying ambiguity and highlighting the emotions of the moment.

“A good reporter is a good listener, so I listen to what my booth is talking about,” McGrath said. “[For] the most important things that my booth has talked about, it is my responsibility to ask about those things because it adds to their conversation and their story.”

McGrath works alongside play-by-play announcer Sean McDonough on Saturday nights, someone she considers to be a trusted colleague and close friend. With his vast experience in various disciplines of broadcasting, he is able to be candid and honest with his colleagues.

“Sean is someone who elevates everyone around him because he demands the best,” McGrath said. “He demands us to know every statistic and to have everything perfectly correct and to have the reports be succinct and to have the questions be thoughtful.”

Greg McElroy also joined the broadcast team this season as the color commentator and provides a consistent level of energy and work ethic. The relationship between broadcasters, producers and other personnel is especially important considering weekly travel and collaboration in addition to the final on-air product.

“We’ve seen in the past [that] there have been broadcast booths where the chemistry wasn’t great, and it affects the way people call the game,” McGrath said. “The fact that we all love each other, want what’s best for each other, and make each other better, I think makes our broadcasts so special and great.”

Throughout the game, McGrath aims to be the best teammate possible and is genuinely indifferent as to how long the camera is on her. Namely, she contributes in many different ways on the air and does not always receive attribution, underscoring her commitment to the viewing experience.

“The game is not about you,” McGrath said. “The game broadcast is about the game, [and] it is about the athletes on the field. You are there to highlight them.”

McGrath recently returned from maternity leave after welcoming her second child into the world, and she treasures the moments she gets to spend with them. Watching them in the early stages of their lives has refreshed the reason why she performs the role, focusing more on the impact it will have on her children than her own success. The sacrifices in being a working mother often away for days at a time can complicate retaining harmony, and it requires a true passion for the craft.

“I think that I’m a better mother because I love what I do,” McGrath said. “I hope someday my kids will understand, and I hope that they’ll be proud of me.”

In addition to being a role model for her children, McGrath wants to serve as an example for women aspiring to forge a career in the industry. In articulating that women have had an uphill battle since the beginning, she referenced previous criticisms pertaining to her reporting and appearance on social media. McGrath overcomes the adversity by focusing on her inner circle and knowing that they would defend her no matter the outcome.

“I think it’s just leaning on the people that I work with and knowing that it doesn’t matter what other people think,” McGrath said. “All that matters is that the people I work with know that I work hard and that I’m a good teammate. That’s the kind of thing that I just repeat to myself.”

When McGrath begins her responsibilities as a college basketball reporter, she knows that it will likely not be as time consuming and intense as the college football season. The sport is more conducive to one-on-one conversations, which usually take place at shootaround, and the games are usually shorter. Even so, she will approach the situation in the same way with an intent to be the best reporter on the air.

“[The athletes] are out there working their butts off to try and win a game; you should be working your butt off to cover them properly and fairly,” McGrath said. “I think it’s just working hard. You can’t be afraid of hard work, [and] you can’t be afraid of hustling and taking any opportunities that you can to get better.”

For McGrath, continuing to establish herself in the space and garnering career longevity are appealing, and while she values her concentrations, she has always wanted to report on the Super Bowl. The Walt Disney Company will broadcast the season-ending contest in February 2027 from a location to be determined, and while there are no guarantees in this industry, taking the air from the game would fulfill a lifelong dream.

“It’s something that hopefully I’m able to do,” McGrath said. “I want to have a really long career, but it’s hard to break from one sport into the other. It’s hard to navigate trying to cover more of the NFL, and hopefully, I’ll have an opportunity to do that down the line.”

Whether or not she is in the presence of the Vince Lombardi Trophy, McGrath remains committed to excelling on the collegiate broadcasts. Although she never ran track, she is always in the start position and ready to sprint, literally and figuratively, to actualize her role in effectuating a premium broadcast.

“I always get a, ‘Hey, Molly, great game,’ after games like that, and it’s because I know that I added a ton of value,” McGrath said. “For me, it’s those games; it’s the unseen things, I think, that can sometimes be the most important.”

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Michelle Smallmon Didn’t Stumble Into Mornings on ESPN Radio

“The humanity and the relatability is what’s going to really bring people in.”

Derek Futterman

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Michelle Smallmon
Courtesy: Missouri Athletic Club Connections

It all started with an accident. While vacuuming her apartment just two days before the first episode of her new national ESPN Radio program, Michelle Smallmon tripped over an air purifier cord. As a result of the maladroit blunder, she fell face first into her coffee table and hit the inside of her eye on a drinking glass.

When Smallmon looked into the mirror, she immediately saw that her eye was bleeding and swelling up and was in a state of disbelief, although she was not surprised that this happened to her because of her inherent clumsiness. The black eye that came out of all of this turned out to be an advantageous opportunity for the program, which opened its first hour on the air with this circumstance.

Smallmon works alongside Evan Cohen and Chris Canty weekday mornings on UnSportsmanLike, the new ESPN Radio morning show that leads off a refreshed national programming lineup. Since the program is also simulcast on ESPN2, there are cameras on inside the radio studio at the Seaport District-based radio studio, granting viewers of the premiere episode an opportunity to see Smallmon’s black eye for themselves. The incident, however, provided a means for the new hosting trio to introduce themselves and showcase their personalities in an atypical fashion by recalling a calamitous occurrence from the onset.

“We have to be ourselves,” Smallmon said. “People are coming for the sports, and hopefully with our opinions and our information and the knowledge that we provide, they’ll stick around, but they’re going to remember us for who we are. The humanity and the relatability is what’s going to really bring people in.”

Once the hosts of UnSportsmanLike were finalized, Smallmon met with Canty and Cohen to determine their collective philosophy for the program. At the crux of their conversation was how sports is supposed to be an enjoyable part of people’s days, making it important to be genuine with the audience and celebrate the festivities.

“I just think that audio provides a really great way for people to weave us throughout their day and it’s something that they can come back to, and I just feel like the audio space continues to grow,” Smallmon said. “So that is really exciting to me that there are so many different avenues for us to explore in the audio space.”

Smallmon and her colleagues understand that their program that was once anchored by Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg in the mornings for 18 years, who created a show that proved to be an enduring facet to sports radio as a whole. Today, UnSportsmanLike is competing for mindshare and attention span in a dynamic media ecosystem where people can consume various types of content by equipping myriad methodologies. The mission to serve the sports fan anytime, anywhere requires the hosts engage in deft preparation and fealty towards the audio vertical, never taking their positions for granted and understanding the privilege in being able to communicate en masse on the air.

“Any time anybody elects to listen to you, they are giving you a vote,” Smallmon said. “They’re choosing you [and] they are saying, ‘I want to spend a part of my precious time with you,’ and particularly in the mornings because we’re the first people that get the opportunity to talk about the games from the night before or to give our opinion on certain things.”

While Smallmon may have stumbled into an enthralling storyline to open the program and captivate the audience, she did just the opposite in landing a spot within the coveted morning drive daypart. Through years of indefatigable persistence and calculated risk-taking, she positioned herself to garner such a chance when the network was in the midst of developing a new lineup.

Despite having a successful morning show in St. Louis, Mo. on 101 ESPN that was finishing with high ratings and bolstering streams of revenue, Smallmon found herself yearning to live in a sprawling metropolis. Because of this, she started visiting her friends in New York City once per month and gradually became enamored with the locale, prompting her to meet with co-host Randy Karraker, program director Tommy Mattern and Hubbard Radio market manager John Kijowski to express her intent to leave the station.

“They have always been my biggest champions [and] they encouraged me every step of the way,” Smallmon said. “They were like, ‘This is going to be a tough transition for us because the show’s going so well, but we care about you as a person more than we do an employee, and if this is your dream and something you think you have to do, we’ve got your back.’ I will always and forever be indebted to them for not only finding a way to help me do that, but for supporting me and checking in with me every step of the way.”

When she was young, Smallmon frequently traveled to St. Louis with her father to attend sporting events, cherishing every chance she could to see a live game. Throughout her childhood, she watched football on television and remembers seeing sideline reporter Melissa Stark interview the players, prompting her to think about working in sports. Quotidian tasks were transformed into beacons of flourishing sports knowledge, catalyzed by her father’s creativity with abecedarian activities such as sorting and folding laundry.

Yet Smallmon concentrated in premedical studies at the University of Illinois, matriculating to try and become a dermatologist. Early on, she realized that she was not dedicated enough to pursue a profession in the field, resulting in a meeting with her advisor about her future plans. Upon being asked her ideal career path, Smallmon demonstrated interest in covering the basketball team with the goal of appearing on College GameDay as a features reporter in the future.

Amid an economic crash, Smallmon was able to land a job as a production assistant at KSDK, a local television station with which she had interned as a college student. Smallmon worked on the outlet’s morning show, Today in St. Louis, arriving at the studios around 3:30 a.m. every day to prepare and execute the broadcast.

Although her shift ended at 2 p.m., she would put in extra effort to stay later and interact with sportscaster Frank Cusamano and sports director Rene Knott, volunteering her time and trying to be productive. In displaying her aspiration to work in sports, she was eventually offered a position in the department, which first started with shooting and editing high school events.

“Most of the work that was done in sports was leading up to the 5 and 6 o’clock newscast until they took a big break before 10 p.m.,” Smallmon said. “I would use that time to just absorb as much as I could, watch the guys at work and try to make myself useful.”

Drawing inspiration from the aforementioned Stark, Smallmon had seen various women working and thriving in sports television; however, this was not the case in the sports radio format. Despite being familiar with the medium, she had never considered going on the air until Knott asked her to be a co-host of his new weekend show on 101 ESPN.

After some time, she received a note from an executive inquiring if she would be interested in applying for an open producer position available at the outlet. Even though she applied thinking she would not receive the job – a thought compounded when she discovered the producer role was for the program hosted by Bernie Miklasz – Smallmon made it to the final round of interviews. Speaking with Miklasz directly, he articulated that while he thought she was a good fit for the role, the other candidate had more qualifications and previous experience.

“I looked at him and I said, ‘Well, if that person is as great as you say that they are and have this much experience, they will have no problem finding another job when you hire me to be your producer,’” Smallmon averred. “I left there and I was like, ‘Man, I blew that.’”

Much to her surprise, Smallmon was hired and ended up working with Miklasz in the role for three years. In speaking with him and observing how he interacted with other people, she learned industry nuances and esoterica that made her even more adept at the role. Smallmon was eventually moved to The Fast Lane in the afternoons with Randy Karraker, D’Marco Farr and Brad Thompson, possessing a mentality of how to best position the show for sustained growth and success.

Smallmon took her skills to ESPN Radio in 2015 when she moved to Bristol, Conn. to work as a producer. The first stint with the network prepared her to excel on UnSportsmanLike, collaborating with hosts such as Ryen Russillo, Danny Kannel and Jorge Sedano, but she always felt a magnetic pull back towards St. Louis. Once Russillo was officially slated to leave ESPN, Smallmon was in talks with the company about different paths she could take and weighing her options. In the eleventh hour, Smallmon received a fortuitous call from Miklasz, who conveyed that he was thinking about changing up his show and wanted to know if she had any interest in co-hosting the program.

“It just felt like all of the cards were falling into place at the right time for me to make that move, and I’m a person that likes to take chances and challenge myself, and I don’t ever want to live with regrets,” Smallmon said. “I thought, ‘Maybe hosting and being on the air is not going to be for me; maybe it’s always going to be production, but I’d like to know.’”

Once she returned, Miklasz offered to change the name of the program to incorporate Smallmon, an entreaty that she declined because of fear that it would disrupt what was a known entity to listeners in the locale. Upon his exit from the station two years later, Smallmon started hosting with Randy Karraker, who implored her to add her name. Even though she never sought out to find the spotlight, she capitulated to the request once her co-host explained why it was important as not only an identifying factor, but also as the first female to be a full-time host on the station.

“I would hear from so many female sports fans across the area and parents whose daughters listened to the show and whose daughters paid attention to the show because someone who looked like them occupied that seat,” Smallmon said. “I really realized how important it was for me to establish myself in that way.”

As Smallmon made the move from St. Louis to New York City, her parents surmised she was recklessly upending her life. Subletting an apartment from a mutual friend in the city, she was working under a usages deal at ESPN Radio where she would deliver overnight updates and host SportsCenter All Night. Smallmon was grateful for the support of her parents and asked them to give her a year, during which she would work hard to land a full-time job in the city. Three hundred and sixty-six days later, Smallmon took to the air with a black eye to commence UnSportsmanLike, officially meeting her end of the bargain.

“It’s hard to explain to people how strange our job is,” Smallmon said. “The three of us sit in a windowless room and talk to one another for four-plus hours a day, so just by nature of spending that much intimate time with someone, you get to know them really well really fast.”

The workday for the morning episode begins the day prior several hours after the conclusion of the previous broadcast, independently reading articles, following sports news and reviewing games. In the preceding afternoon, the program holds a content call where everyone pitches ideas before an early rundown is sent out and added to throughout the day.

While the game of the night is on, Smallmon is in constant communication with her thoughts before getting sleep and preparing for an early wake-up call. There is a pre-show meeting to review the rundown before the four-hour morning show begins at 6 a.m. As soon as the on-air light is extinguished, the process starts again so the hosts are ready for it to illuminate again in 20 hours.

“It’s really a full-time commitment, especially during football season, to do a job like this,” Smallmon said, “but when you’re lucky enough to get the opportunity to host a show of this magnitude, you’ve kind of got to make it your life in a lot of ways.”

When she takes her seat behind the microphone in the morning, Smallmon believes that two of the most talented people she has ever worked with are sitting by her side. In her view, she needs to be at the same level as them on the program and effectuates that through her preparation and by bringing different perspectives to the air.

“I have zigged and zagged and occupied different roles throughout my time,” Smallmon said. “It’s really just been surprising opportunities that I have emerged and that I’ve really been grateful to have and that I want to take advantage of, but I don’t really think about the future and my motivation is not really driven by what’s next; it’s driven by the present.

For now, Smallmon is focused on attaining success in New York City and hopes to participate in the program for as long as possible. Down the road though, she knows that her career will entail a second return to St. Louis when she wants to be back in the community she loves and closer to her family. The gratitude she has in being able to regard the city as home is conspicuous and authentic, and those in the locale continue to listen to her on 101 ESPN for two hours each morning ahead of the station’s local morning program.

“My only goal right now is to make UnSportsmanLike the best show that it possibly can be, and if that is the case, hopefully we have an amazing run with the show,” Smallmon said. “That’s the goal is to make it as amazing as it possibly can be and ride that wave for as long as we possibly can.”

Smallmon never envisioned herself working in radio but now finds herself as a trusted voice in the mornings on a simulcast program within the network’s on-air lineup. Through it all, she has remained true to herself while exhibiting an evident commitment and passion for the craft, valuing every chance she has to go on the air.

“People will always say things to me like, ‘Oh, are you going to be the next Erin Andrews?,’ or things of that nature,” Smallmon explained. “And I say, ‘No, I’m going to be the first and only Michelle Smallmon,’ because the edge that I have over everybody else is that I’m me. There’s nobody else that’s me, and so if I can just be myself and be authentic every day and do that, anybody else can.”

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Desmond Howard Unnecessarily Threw Pete Thamel Under the Bus on College GameDay

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A photo of Desmond Howard

College football fans can be a crazy bunch, most of them are crazy in the sense they are doing stupid things that give you a good laugh but, every fan base has a lunatic fringe. Each fan base is more than willing to point out the lunatic fringe in the fanbase of their rivals but often are slow to acknowledge their own offenders. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist in any program that has any significant fanbase. The lunatic fringe affected College GameDay Saturday, and Desmond Howard didn’t help the situation.

As a fan, you can accept it as true or bury your head and assume you are the one singular program that has somehow avoided having a fringe lunacy.

Michigan is certainly a significant football program with a massive fanbase. Just the sheer number of Michigan fans tells you there is going to be a larger than normal number of fans that might fall into the category of “fringe lunatic”, it is just how the odds work.

That suggestion was made by ESPN during Saturday’s College GameDay which originated from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Just in case you are completely unaware of the biggest story in college football this season, during Saturday’s Ohio State-Michigan game, Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh was serving the final game of an agreed upon Big Ten Conference suspension. The game also happened to be the biggest game of the season so far, a virtual play-in game for the College Football Playoff.

The suspension of Harbaugh was the result of allegations that Michigan staffer Connor Stalions was running an “off the books” sign stealing operation and that Stalions was a little too closely connected with Harbaugh for the Big Ten’s comfort.

Stories like these only become mainstream by reporting and ESPN’s Pete Thamel was on the frontlines of that reporting. It should be said that, just because something is reported by ESPN, FOX, or CBS, doesn’t automatically make it true. Likewise, just because something reported about your team may not paint them in the best possible light, it doesn’t make it untrue. That was the gray area ESPN’s College GameDay found themselves in Saturday; one of their top college football reporters in the very midst of the fans that are upset with his reporting.

Thamel joins GameDay on site every week, normally delivering the breaking news on injuries and coaching changes, fairly normal stuff. He delivers his reports, not on stage, but among the actual team fans who are gathered behind the set for all the cameras to see.

Except Saturday when Thamel was not among the masses but inside the more controlled confines of Michigan Stadium.

Honestly, Thamel being inside the stadium, rather than among the crowd, would not have seemed at all odd to me until Michigan’s Heisman Trophy winner and GameDay analyst Desmond Howard made it awkward in this exchange:

Howard: “We’ve been doing this 12, 13 weeks and Pete’s always been in the crowd giving his reports, I’m like, ‘What the Hell’s Pete in the stadium for?’ That kind of just threw me all off, I’m like, ‘Put your big boy pants on and do it in the crowd like you normally do it.’”

Rece Davis: “He’s got some from the lunatic fringe, some ‘friends’. We’re just taking care of him.”

Howard: “We’ve got security. We’ll be ok. These guys are nice out here. These are nice fans. They’re not going to do anything.”

Davis: “It only takes one. That’s all.”

Howard: “He’ll be ok. Put the big boy pants on.”

I have no idea how many credible threats Thamel has received but there was, apparently, enough concern for ESPN to move him into an area that could be more easily secured.

Desmond Howard, though, seemed upset that ESPN doing that painted the fan base of his old school in a very negative light. I would make the case that even the most ardent GameDay viewers wouldn’t think it odd that Thamel was inside the stadium rather than among the crowd. Howard’s insistence on Pete not wearing his “big boy pants” only drew further attention to the fact Thamel was not in his normal spot.

Desmond Howard came off sounding like he was under some sort of pressure, personally created or applied from Michigan interests, to point out there was no reason Thamel should have any concern about Michigan fans. In doing so, Howard came off as something he’s never been accused of being, a poor teammate. The best way to handle the situation for ESPN would be to completely ignore the fact there was a change in Thamel’s location. In the event ESPN thinks anyone would notice, highly unlikely as it may be, just create a simple cover story.

To Thamel’s credit, he seemed content to not be the focus of this addition to the story, it was only Howard’s awkward interaction that brought it to light. It was completely unnecessary and only made everyone involved look a little worse.

In his NFL career, Desmond Howard averaged only one fumble per season, Saturday in Ann Arbor, he added another.

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Nick Wright, Danny Parkins, Andrew Fillipponi and Omar Raja Join The 2024 BSM Summit Lineup

All four of these men are extremely talented and accomplished, and I’m grateful to each of them for making time to be with us.

Jason Barrett

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The buildup to the 2024 BSM Summit continues with our next speakers announcement. Media professionals looking to attend March’s show can secure seats at BSMSummit.com. We’ve already announced Jeff Smulyan, Mark Chernoff, Don Martin, Bruce Gilbert, Scott Sutherland, Chris Oliviero, Scott Shapiro, Spike Eskin, Mitch Rosen, Paul Mason, Bonnie Bernstein and Damon Amendolara will be part of the event. We’ll have additional big names to reveal in the weeks and months ahead too so stay tuned for more.

Before I get into the latest group of speakers, I want to pass along some Barrett Media news.

First, when you log on to BSM and BNM on Monday December 4th, you’ll notice both sites operating with a new, cleaner look. We pump out a lot of daily content on our websites but finding all of it can be intimidating. We’re hoping the modifications make it easier to find and digest our content and look forward to your feedback on what we roll out next week.

Secondly, I’ve spent months going through a process to identify an Executive Editor for Barrett Media. The type of leader I’ve been looking for different from what exists at some online publications. I’ve spoken to a lot of smart, talented people during this process, many who I know could make us better. However, there is only one job available. Fortunately after going through an extensive search, I’ve identified someone who I’m interested in teaming with to help take Barrett Media to the next level. I hope to announce that hire and the addition of a number of new writers next week. I think our readers, partners and clients will like what’s on the horizon.

Third, we have opened up voting on the Barrett News Media Top 20 of 2023. The deadline to cast votes for News/Talk PD’s is next Monday December 4th. We will present the News/Talk radio format’s collective feedback December 11-15 and December 18 on BarrettNewsMedia.com.

There’s other stuff on the way as well, but I’ll save the rest for next week. Let’s dive now into the latest additions to the Summit.

It is my pleasure to announce the additions of Nick Wright of FS1, Danny Parkins of 670 The Score in Chicago, Andrew Fillipponi of 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, and Omar Raja of ESPN to the 2024 BSM Summit speaker lineup. All four of these men are extremely talented and accomplished, and I’m grateful to each of them for making time to be with us.

Starting with Omar Raja, the work he did building House of Highlights into a powerhouse social brand is well documented. He now serves as a commentator for ESPN’s digital and social content, which includes being the leading voice behind ESPN’s SportsCenter Instagram account, and providing strategic social programming across ESPN’s social platforms. It’s not every day industry professionals gain an opportunity to learn from one of the industry’s top social media minds, so I’m hoping to see a lot of folks present when he shares his wisdom at the Summit.

Shifting from digital to on-air talent, one session I know many will be present for will include three personalities who have been highly successful in each of their careers, and share a lifelong bond through the friendships they formed while attending Syracuse University together. Nick Wright, Andrew Fillipponi, and Danny Parkins are three of the best in the business today, and all three will be on stage together to discuss their individual paths, their differing approaches to content creation, measuring and managing success, and much more. Having Damon Amendolara, another Syracuse graduate who’s been highly successful on the air, guide the session should make it even more interesting and entertaining for all in the room.

With these latest four individuals added to the lineup we’ve now secured sixteen top speakers for March’s show. I’m hoping to reveal the next group of participants in a few weeks. Once we get past the holidays I’ll start revealing the awards winners and a few executives who will be part of the conference.

I want to thank Steve Stone Voiceovers, Good Karma Brands, Bonneville International, Silver Tribe Media, Premiere Networks and the Motor Racing Network for returning as sponsors of the 2024 BSM Summit. If your group would like to explore a sponsorship opportunity for the show or review website or newsletter options for 2024, email Stephanie Eads at [email protected] to receive a copy of our advertising decks.

That’s the latest for now. More to come in December.

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