The long wait is over. Nearly four months after Cris Carter was suspended, then left Fox Sports entirely, FS1’s morning show First Things First has a new full-time co-host to hang with Nick Wright and Jenna Wolfe.
Kevin Wildes debuted at the First Things First desk Thursday morning, alongside Wright and Wolfe with Antoine Walker sitting in for NBA analysis. The news of Wildes officially joining the show was reported by Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand Wednesday night. Fox Sports followed up with a coordinated PR rollout, sending the news to trade publications such as TheWrap and Variety.
However, The Big Lead’s Bobby Burack first broke the story two weeks ago, reporting that Wildes was close to agreeing on a contract with Fox Sports.
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) February 27, 2020
Burack also reported that a former athlete would likely fill the fourth chair as an analyst. It appeared that Fox Sports was looking for a permanent analyst in that role, but producers may prefer to rotate analysts with the core trio until settling on a personality.
As mentioned, Antoine Walker was that analyst on Thursday morning. But Chris Canty frequently filled in after Cris Carter’s departure. ESPN’s Emmanuel Acho was mentioned by Burack as a possibility, though it was believed that the network wants to extend his contract. Fox Sports indicated in its official release that more on-air talent would be announced later.
Wildes seemed a bit tentative in his debut but was surely trying to figure out his fit, looking for the best opportunities to jump in without stepping on Wright or Wolfe. At one point, it appeared that his early role could be as a punching bag after giving a questionable or bad take.
Kevin Wildes' role on First Things First: Punching bag for Nick Wright? pic.twitter.com/YNqxlyMlkP
— The Podcass (@thepodcass) February 27, 2020
Before joining First Things First, Wildes was a producer for GMA Day, which then became Strahan & Sara, and is now Strahan, Sara, and Keke. But he worked for more than 10 years with ESPN, where he was a vice president of original content and senior coordinating producer for original programming and production. Among the shows Wildes developed and oversaw were NBA Countdown, The Jump, SportsNation, Numbers Never Lie, and Kobe Bryant’s edition of Detail for ESPN+.
But the producer is perhaps best known as a guest on The Bill Simmons Podcast (and The B.S. Report when Simmons was with ESPN) where he would frequently contribute “Half-Baked Ideas,” such as a basketball bullpen, theme parks in which people could act out criminal fantasies (maybe a precursor for HBO’s Westworld), mobile dolphin tanks, and restaurants that would allow customers to break things.
Simmons podcast fans who have often hoped that Wildes would return with more half-baked ideas, or simply as a guest, probably have to give up that dream now. Or maybe being with Fox Sports frees him up to occasionally reunite with Simmons more easily than he could have with ABC-Disney.
Going from behind-the-scenes producer to on-camera personality resembles the path that NBC’s Willie Geist has taken. Formerly a producer for CNN/SI and shows like Tucker Carlson’s MSNBC program, Geist took an on-air role with Morning Joe before joining the Today show and now hosts Sunday Today. (Coincidentally, Wildes is married to Libby Geist, Willie’s sister, though that’s not why this comparison was made.)