The Pat McAfee Era at ESPN will begin in earnest this fall,with the popular punter-turned-media-sensation taking his talents to the worldwide leader in sports after years of building his brand on Barstool, WWE, Sirius, Fox Sports and, most recently, FanDuel.
According to contract details obtained by media insider Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, McAfee will earn a reported $85 million over the length of his five-year deal at ESPN. That deal includes 230 shows annually, as well as weekly appearances on College GameDay.
Among the network’s roster of on-air personalities, only Monday Night Football’s Troy Aikman will take home a higher salary than McAfee. Still, the dollar amount McAfee is getting from ESPN ($17 million a year) represents a noticeable pay cut from the $30 million annually he made at FanDuel. He agreed to a four-year, $120 million deal there in December 2021, only to abandon ship a year and a half later.
Taken at face value, McAfee’s decision to leave FanDuel for greener pastures at ESPN is puzzling, bordering on inexplicable. It seems to leave significant money on the table, while also sacrificing much of his creative freedom including the ability to curse freely without fear of repercussion. However, McAfee, despite his uniform of tank tops and gold chains, has always been a shrewd businessman who sees the whole picture, and that suggests there’s a method to the 36-year-old’s madness.
Not only does ESPN offer McAfee a larger platform to grow his audience, but he’ll also have available to him a near-infinite well of behind-the-scenes resources. That’s a stark contrast from FanDuel, where McAfee was fronting most of the production costs himself. Apparently, that was an important sticking point for McAfee, who is already stretched thin by his responsibilities as a new father.
Even if McAfee’s bottom line isn’t as fat as the fortune he was making at FanDuel, he’s still extremely well-compensated. And he’s a rising star with potential to emerge, alongside Stephen A. Smith, as one of the most prominent voices at ESPN.