Pat McAfee Credit: The Pat McAfee Show

As fans wonder if Pat McAfee fits alongside ESPN’s corporate suits, know that McAfee used to have the same questions.

The announcement that McAfee is going to ESPN has been met with a myriad of questions over whether he’ll continue to receive the same freedom he enjoys as an independent podcast host. McAfee, however, pushed back on those criticizing his decision to join ESPN. He said he believes he’s earned trust, especially as he’s already moved the show from several platforms in recent years.

This week, McAfee joined the latest episode of Jimmy Traina’s Sports Illustrated Media Podcast. And during the interview, McAfee was asked if doing College GameDay helped him lean toward putting his show on ESPN.

“I went into conversations with everybody about what I saw ESPN do for GameDay every Saturday,” McAfee said. “I went in knowing that I wanted to go to a network.”

But while McAfee admitted doing College GameDay probably did make him comfortable with the prospect of joining ESPN, the former NFL punter also acknowledged he previously didn’t think he would fit with a network like ESPN.

“I had never wanted to go to a network,” McAfee continued. “I didn’t think anybody at any networks got it. I didn’t think there was a chance the things we would want to do would be OK by anybody. Because basically, every television suit I had ever encountered has been like ‘No. A swearing punter from Indiana who’s been arrested and wears tank tops. F*** this guy.’ Which is why I represent myself, because I’m a tough sell to a lot of people.”

But that’s exactly why fans have been critical of McAfee for joining ESPN. They don’t believe anybody at any networks get his show, and they certainly don’t think there is a chance the things McAfee wants to do will be OK on ESPN. Even Aaron Rodgers mocked McAfee for being on ESPN’S College GameDay last year, chiding him as a real “media personality.” If Rodgers questioned McAfee working for ESPN and McAfee questioned the prospect of ever working for a network like ESPN, why wouldn’t his loyal audience do the same?

McAfee knows the negotiations he had with ESPN. After having those conversations, he’s obviously confident his show will remain largely unchanged. But fans haven’t been privy to those conversations. When McAfee’s show launches on ESPN in September, if it sounds the same, all the questions and criticism will fade. But if it’s overrun by commercials, censors and ESPN personalities, McAfee’s loyal listeners will be ready to say, ‘Told ya so.’

[Sports Illustrated Media Podcast]

About Brandon Contes

Brandon Contes is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously helped carve the sports vertical for Mediaite and spent more than three years with Barrett Sports Media. Send tips/comments/complaints to