Three weeks ago, Jim Miller reported that ESPN would replace Chris Berman with a trio of studio hosts: Trey Wingo, Suzy Kolber and Samantha Ponder. On Thursday, ESPN finally confirmed the news, announcing that Kolber will host Monday Night Countdown, Ponder will lead Sunday NFL Countdown and Wingo will take over draft coverage.
“We have three exceptional hosts in Suzy, Sam and Trey, who will usher in this new era of NFL studio coverage on ESPN,” said Stephanie Druley, ESPN Senior Vice President, Studio and Event Production. “They each have a unique style and approach, yet they all share a passion for the game of football that is evident to viewers. We look forward to this group being the face of our NFL studio coverage for many years ahead on ESPN.”
The decision to have three people replace Berman as the face of ESPN’s NFL coverage is partly an acknowledgment of Berman’s outsized presence at the network. It’s also likely a practical move. Kolber already co-hosted Monday Night Countdown, so her role won’t have to drastically change, and Wingo has anchored ESPN’s coverage of the NFL draft’s later rounds, so he’s already comfortable in that position. Distributing Berman’s responsibilities to Kolber and Wingo will have a limited ripple affect at the network.
But while Kolber and Wingo have extensive experience covering the NFL for ESPN, Ponder has pretty much stuck to college football with the Worldwide Leader. She has served as a contributor to College GameDay, a sideline reporter on ESPN and ABC and a host on College Football Live.
As she faces a fairly significant career redirection, Ponder wrote an essay on ESPN Front Row explaining why jumping to her new position was a tough decision.
It’s not that the offer to host Sunday NFL Countdown wasn’t an incredible opportunity with more responsibility and space to grow. It’s that it requires me to leave the best job I’ve ever had and the best group of people I’ve ever worked with.
Since I started in this industry in 2004, I always promised myself that I would make it about the people. The people I worked with, the people I covered and the people watching at home. College Gameday is special for a lot of reasons, but none more so than the group of people who make it run. It’s not just the special chemistry of the guys you watch on camera. That part is easy to see.
How Ponder performs hosting one of ESPN’s most popular NFL shows will be worth watching next season. We’ll also keep an eye on how ESPN fills her spot on its college football coverage team.