Katie Nolan

Bristol, CT – February 26, 2018 – Photo Studio: Portrait of Katie Nolan (Photo by Melissa Rawlins / ESPN Images)

When Katie Nolan left Fox Sports for ESPN, she was under the impression that she was brought to the Worldwide Leader because they liked Garbage Time. Nolan thought she would be making Garbage Time at ESPN, but was in for a rude awakening a there was a lot of vagueness and things left up for interpretation with her role.

Since leaving ESPN, Nolan has opened up a bit about the things she liked in her 2017-2021 stint with the company, but also the drawbacks of her tenure.

Recently appearing as a guest on South Beach Sessions with Dan Le Batard, Nolan revealed that the first of her contracts with the company was lacking specifics.

“What’d I do differently, is I would not sign the contract until it said in it, what I was going to do,” she told Le Batard. “I signed my contract with ESPN. It was very vague at the time. They did not know. They were like we’ve got a whole video team and we want to do something digital with you and we want you to be the face of our digital presence and we’re going to pay you all this money. And I thought they weren’t going to pay me all that money and not give me stuff to do, so don’t just not sign this because it doesn’t outline you will have a show.

Nolan said it was very vague and referenced the press release when ESPN announced she was going to work there. The quote she gave was essentially mocking the vagueness and lack of clarity surrounding what her role would be.

Nolan said: “I could not be more excited to have a prominent digital presence while also making appearances across ESPN studio programming. When I was a little girl, I always dreamed that one day announcements regarding my specific assignments would be forthcoming.”

“It should’ve been a red flag. It should’ve made me be like, ‘Make them tell you what they want from you, so you can live up to it,'” she said. “Like if there’s no bar, then I don’t know what measure I’m being judged by and that ended up being what hurt me in the end. I didn’t know who my boss was. I didn’t know what they wanted me to do. I would get like little things that were cool, like ‘Oh, go coach the Celebrity All-Star basketball game.’ Which was [an] amazing experience, and then it was like, and then what? There was no thing.

“And they had given me a group of people, who I could tell, they had just basically laid off a division and repurposed those people. So, it was a room full of people who make really good sports documentaries and their way of working is they would take raw footage and cut it into something interesting. And my way of working is like live-to-tape. I don’t just want to record and give it to you and then have you turn it into something. I want to make the something with you.”

Clearly, there was a disconnect. Nolan was the happiest in her career when she was doing Garbage Time. She sat in on the edits, and perhaps she did too much at Fox Sports, but it was just a stark contrast from her collaborative nature, which is the person she thought ESPN had hired in the first place.

Nolan described Ashley Braband as her “life raft at that company.” Braband, who is now the Head of Current Series at Omaha Productions, was the creator and showrunner of the twice Emmy-nominated sports comedy show Always Late (ESPN+ and ESPN2). Her LinkedIn states that she “Directed roll-out of entire Katie Nolan brand, to include studio show, social media, and podcast.”

“She saw me right away and she was like ‘I recognize what you are trying to do, I align with you, and I want to help you do it,'” Nolan said of Braband. “And because of her, then we got to the point where it’s like ‘Let’s pitch them a show because they are launching ESPN+ and they are going to need stuff for it. So, let’s just ask if we can have a show on it.’

“We had to film it in a prop closet a pilot for it just to show them what it would be,” she added.

Nolan essentially said that it was going to be just like Garbage Time and suggested that the powers that be, take a look at her show, which aired for three seasons on FS1.

“We filmed that and they were like, ‘Yeah, OK.’ It was very surprising to me how easy it was to get the yes, but also how much it was like, ‘Are you supportive of this or are you gonna just let me do this?'”

It just goes to show how uncertain Nolan was in her role at ESPN, who was seemingly very excited about her when they announced her hire in October 2017, saying she would “have a prominent digital presence while also making appearances across ESPN studio programming.”

That next month, the network announced plans for a podcast and a digital show. But, she had to push for it and ESPN was mostly looking at her for that Snapchat show. As Le Batard said, ESPN is “still not sure what to do digitally,” maybe not so much to make Nolan feel better because of her lack of a role/presence, but also to explain why there was such a disconnect.

[South Beach Sessions via Barrett Sports Media]

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.