Undisputed's highest-viewed day ever on Nov. 29, 2019 drew 52 percent of First Take's audience.

Shannon Sharpe’s tenure with Fox is coming to an end, the result of his deteriorating relationship with Undisputed colleague Skip Bayless.

If you think Bayless’ act wears thin on audiences, just imagine how it must be for the person who sits across from him. Controlling and abrasive with an ego unparalleled in his chosen field, Bayless has no problem playing the villain, a role that’s made him both extraordinarily rich and widely hated. A shameless contrarian prone to unhinged tantrums, Bayless is almost singlehandedly responsible for dumbing down the sports discourse, popularizing “debate” television at the expense of nuanced analysis.

We’ve seen the writing on the wall for months, with Sharpe’s patience dwindling by the day, making little effort to hide his disdain for a coworker who needled him at every turn, provoking Sharpe by diminishing his on-field accomplishments in the NFL while rudely interrupting him to further his own arguments. With Sharpe finally tapping out after seven, exasperating years of sharing a studio with a man he couldn’t bear to spend another second with, the question now turns to who Bayless will anoint as his new sparring partner.


It’s a thankless job, one that requires a special kind of crazy, though the show must go on, with Bayless champing at the bit for a worthy adversary, a foil with the fearlessness and bravado to not only tolerate but match Bayless’ brand of manic performance art. While Fox has plenty of in-house options to choose from—Nick Wright, Emmanuel Acho, and Joy Taylor to name a few­—according to Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports, Bayless will have the “final say,” with the network granting him carte blanche to handpick his new teammate.

“Nothing happens on that show without Skip. They chose Skip over everything else. You can’t tweet about him, talk about him, anything or they call you into the office,” one source told McCarthy. “Skip is not going to hire anybody who challenges him—and he’s going to make the hire.”

In letting Bayless call his own shots, Fox has afforded him the same dominion over his kingdom as ESPN counterpart Stephen A. Smith, who, in flexing his veto power as the face of Bristol, had Max Kellerman removed from First Take. While working with either of these high-maintenance gasbags (who, ironically enough, were paired together on First Take from 2012-16) seems like a sure way to lose your sanity, it can also be quite lucrative and, potentially a career stepping stone for a lesser name in need of exposure. Though it’s too early to speculate on who will fill the void left by Sharpe, McCarthy suspects it will likely be a “person of color,” noting the “difficult” optics of casting another white male beside Bayless.

[Front Office Sports]

About Jesse Pantuosco

Jesse Pantuosco joined Awful Announcing as a contributing writer in May 2023. He’s also written for Audacy and NBC Sports. A graduate of Syracuse’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications with a master’s degree in creative writing from Fairfield University, Pantuosco has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. He lives in West Hartford, Connecticut and never misses a Red Sox, Celtics or Patriots game.