Yesterday, SI’s Richard Deitsch tweeted that the ACC Tournament was the last scheduled assignment for ESPN’s beloved sideline reporter, Erin Andrews. A little bit later, someone with the account “ESPNsteve” tweeted that Andrews was done with ESPN. The ESPNsteve account was summarily proven as a fake after a few retweets, and the account no longer exists. In fact, ESPNsteve’s last act on this earth was to ask Andrews via Twitter on a date. How sad.
If Andrews does leave ESPN with the expiration of her contract on the horizon (presumably at the end of the month), where will that leave the network and Andrews? A move to a much more mainstream media role, such as Good Morning America where Andrews has appeared in the past, seems logical for her. Despite Andrews’ history in sports, a move to a national, non-sports role seems like the next logical move for her as it was for former SportsCenter anchor Josh Elliott.
If that scenario plays out, who will end up taking on Andrews’ role as the face of ESPN sideline reporting? The logical choice appears to be Jenn Brown, who is gaining quite a following on her B-team assignments at things like the Winter X-Games and college baseball coverage. Brown also works some college football games, but none of her games are nearly as high profile as Andrews’ major primetime assignments. Brown doesn’t yet have the level of criticism that many feel towards Andrews for her reporting style, and the move could actually end up benefitting ESPN in the long run if Brown’s star rises as Andrews’ did.
But Andrews’ possible departure could lead to more talent leaving ESPN. Back in January, I wrote about the possibility of ESPN losing both Michelle Beadle and Scott Van Pelt. Beadle might not be going anywhere, as it was initially reported her contract was expiring back in January, and well… she’s still there. I honestly don’t know where she’d fit in at another network. As the host of SportsNation, she’s got a rabid fanbase without having to do much in the way of analysis or reporting. Maybe she could take a step up to an anchor job? I really just don’t know if there’s anything for her outside of the niche that she’s built up on SportsNation for now…
There’s also a much more important ESPN figure whose contract is expiring soon: Scott Van Pelt. Signing the long-time SportsCenter anchor and radio host would be a coup for any network, but where would he fit in? If Van Pelt did leave ESPN, I’d expect his radio show to continue on independently, much like The Dan Patrick Show has. Maybe a back to back block of the two shows on regional networks would work well? In any case, where would Van Pelt be able to fit in and use his talents best? I think the best choice in my mind is CBS, which has PGA Tour rights. Of course, the PGA Tour is Van Pelt’s bread and butter, and the network could groom him to eventually replace Jim Nantz. Van Pelt could also host a show on the CBS Sports Network, like former ESPN star Jim Rome will be doing shortly.
Another possibility is NBC, who also has PGA Tour rights (broadcasting ten events a year, in comparison to the 20 shown by CBS), and also has another pair of networks that could be interesting to Van Pelt: the NBC Sports Network and the Golf Channel. Van Pelt could host Golf Channel programming on a regular basis, and maybe even simulcast his radio show on NBC Sports, like Patrick’s show is on Fox affiliates around the country. There’s also the Olympics, which could be a nice feather in the cap for Van Pelt.
Out of the three possible stars that could leave ESPN, I think Andrews has the most mainstream appeal, Van Pelt has the most appeal to sports networks, and Beadle has the most appeal for a studio setting. The major networks will likely have a vicious, bloody battle for Van Pelt if he chooses to leave ESPN, and I think bidding for Andrews’ services could be broadened to include the news departments of the major networks. All I know for sure is that at the end of the day, they’re all going to get paid and paid well.