We now have an exit date, and it’s tomorrow.
Via SI’s Richard Deitsch:
Sports Illustrated has learned that Michael Smith’s last day as an ESPN SportsCenter host will be Friday.
As to the why, it’s pretty obvious, though Deitsch does mention the specifics:
Smith leaving the 6 p.m. SC6 edition of SportsCenter follows his former SportsCenter co-anchor Jemele Hill ’s decision to depart the franchise to join the staff of The Undefeated, the ESPN microsite that fuses sports, race and culture, as well as other additional assignments. Both Hill and Smith have multiple years left on their ESPN contracts so look for Smith to craft a new role at ESPN over the next couple of months.
As this column wrote in October when it predicted Hill’s tenure as the co-host of the 6 p.m. ET edition of SportsCenter would end, Smith leaving SportsCenter is not a surprise. The SportsCenter that Hill and Smith envisioned, what made their chemistry honest and unique on the ESPN2 show His and Hers and their podcasts together, had slowly been chopped away by a desire from management to change that show to that of a traditional SportsCenter.
The timing might be a bit noteworthy, but Smith’s comments last month made it pretty clear that this was always going to be the outcome. SC6 had become something completely different than what Hill and Smith had expected or been promised.
Smith went on to accuse ESPN of “pushing the panic button” and giving up on the network’s vision for SC6 instead of working to perfect it. In the end, he said, “They got what they wanted, which was Michael and Jemele being muted. And that frustrated the shit out of us.”
Hill was a bit more diplomatic in explaining why she chose to leave SC6 for a role that will see her writing commentary about race and culture for The Undefeated.
“I said to Norby, I know what SportsCenter needs to be, but I know what I need to be too. And I don’t think those two things are on the same page.”
Smith wasn’t exactly hiding his displeasure; the James Miller podcast wasn’t the only one on which he made an appearance.
— We Leave You This (@WeLeaveYouThis) February 9, 2018
That dovetails with what Awful Announcing has heard from people who work on the show. As one staffer put it, “He’s drowning out there.”
SC6 launched last February, and just over a year later, both hosts are moving on to other projects at ESPN.