We’ve written a lot over the years about the end of Mike and Mike, the end of Golic and Wingo, and the end of Mike Golic’s 17-year-run with ESPN in January (following college football announcing assignments last fall). Golic has since said some more on his departure, doing so to Richard Deitsch of The Athletic in a podcast published Wednesday, and some of what’s particularly notable there are his comments about ESPN not wanting him around in any capacity. Here are those remarks, which come from around the 7:30 mark of the podcast, starting with Deitsch asking “Why are you no longer at ESPN from your perspective?” Here’s Golic’s response:
“Listen, this has been the easiest thing for me to equate. And I equated a lot of things to the sports world which certainly worked, because I was in the sports industry. I got cut from the Houston Oilers and Miami Dolphins, and the reason was they didn’t want me anymore. It’s that simple. They didn’t feel I had worth to their team, so they cut me. I thought they were wrong in both instances, but it doesn’t matter what I think. When they call you into the GM and head coach offices, they are going to release you. There’s no sense in saying ‘I could do this or I could do that.’ They made their decision. With ESPN it was the same thing. When Mike and Mike ended, they still felt there was value to having me there. That’s why the new morning show with me and Trey and my son got going, but after that deal and contract was up, they just felt there wasn’t any worth.”
“And, not even from a monetary point, Richard, because they didn’t even talk about taking less money. We knew everybody was taking pay cuts. We didn’t even talk about that. Again, I was the one on July 31st when the show ended, they were just gonna let me sit there for 6 months and collect a paycheck and I said “No, let me go back and call college games. I love doing college games.” And they said “Well hell, I guess he wasn’t gonna work and was gonna get paid anyways.” So I did that. And we’ve gone back to them since. There were probably 3 or 4 different entities we were talking about college and ESPN was one of them. And their last conversation with my agent was “No, don’t want it.” Not even a talk of we can’t pay much. It was just nothing. Like those teams cut me, they felt I had no more worth to them. And I’m sure ESPN felt the same way, I had no more worth to them. Shit, is it a blow to the ego? Sure. To anybody it would be. But when you are there for as long as you are, and all of a sudden it’s not even discussed to keep you there. Yeah, that’s a blow to the ego. But that’s life. I can’t sit here and cry about it. You move on. It was a nice break and other people want me to do some things and I’ll eventually go to that. But that’s why it ended. That’s an easy question to answer.”
After a follow-up question from Deitsch, ending with” Is it really just a matter of certain management made a decision that we don’t want Mike Golic on ESPN Radio anymore? Which, if that’s the decision, and I’ll be very blunt, that’s just bad business in my opinion,” Golic agrees with that.
“That’s absolutely what happened, right? It had to. They knew what I was making. They knew what I was making with Mike and Mike and that went down when I went to Me, Trey, and my son, and I knew that if I was gonna stay there it would go down again. But like I said, there was never that discussion. So that’s the two people I deal with at ESPN, that’s a question for them. Just what you asked, it would be put to them. Because when I put it to one of them, I said why… the first response was “We don’t have to tell you.” And I was like Ok, and then it was ‘Well we just felt it was time for a change.'”
“Again, if that’s the reason, if you were to ask them and that’s what they said, ‘he’s been there 20-some years and we felt it was time for a change.’ Ok, listen that’s their decision. Decisions like that are made all the time. Do I agree with it? No, but again I wasn’t asked. Richard, that may be their answer. Their answer may be he’s been there long enough and we don’t feel there’s… he’s worth it being here anymore. Obviously they felt that because I’m not there. That would be a question for them. They could probably give you an answer to that easy and not get into any more, more if there is anything more. And I have no idea if there is.”
Golic goes on to say that the two executives he mostly dealt with at ESPN in recent years were Norby Williamson (currently titled as Executive Vice President, Event and Studio Production & Executive Editor) and Dave Roberts (Senior Vice President, Production). So those are presumably the people making that decision. And that’s an interesting decision, especially with Golic saying they never got into conversations about money. (It’s also fascinating to hear that his college football work last fall was at his instigation, and that ESPN’s initial plan was to have him just sit there and get paid for nothing.)
Golic certainly has name recognition, and he has fans. And he’s found some opportunities since ESPN; he hosted college sports trivia show “The Fan Exam” for Learfield/IMG College last fall (while still calling games for ESPN), and he told Deitsch later in that conversation that he’s “deciding between a couple of different podcasts, a couple of different college football things, and something that I think will be a lot of fun.” So there clearly are people in the sports media world who do think he has some worth.
With that said, though, it should be noted that “They didn’t offer me anything” is not necessarily “They think I am worth zero dollars.” While Golic says he was willing to take a further pay cut, it seems pretty likely he wouldn’t work for next to nothing (and nor should he, after this many years in the industry). Thus, it’s possible that ESPN didn’t actually make an offer here because they knew the amount they had in mind wouldn’t be accepted (and a low-ball offer has the potential to make them look worse than no offer if it gets leaked).
It also should be noted that every network hire or extension comes with other costs. You’re not only paying that particular talent, you’re using all sorts of production resources for whatever show they’re on, or giving them a college football announcing slot that could have gone to someone else, and you’re giving them airtime. The airtime factor is less important in an era of ESPN+, but there’s still a limit to how many shows ESPN can effectively do and how many on-air talents they can have and promote. Golic’s analogy to the times he was cut in football has some bearing here; it’s not that those teams decided he was worthless, it’s that they preferred someone else in his slot. Networks are less constrained by roster sizes and salary caps than NFL teams, but they still have to choose which people to invest in. In this case, that wasn’t Golic.
Is the end of the ESPN-Golic partnership going to work out for both sides? That remains to be seen. Golic seems to have some projects in the works, and he can enjoy a more normal sleep schedule than that of morning radio (he also discusses that with Deitsch), so it seems like not being at ESPN may be okay for him. As for ESPN, they’ve taken a lot of criticism for moving on from Mike and Mike, and some criticism for moving on from Golic altogether, and some of that’s certainly going to continue. The big question’s going to be what they get from Golic’s replacements on radio (Keyshawn, Jay and Zubin) and on college football (undetermined at this point).