Tom Rinaldi on ESPN's College GameDay in October 2020.

Another well-established ESPN figure is heading to Fox. There have been plenty of moves in that direction over the years, from Skip Bayless and Colin Cowherd through Marcellus Wiley through Adam AminEmmanuel Acho and Jonathan Vilma (with those latter three coming this year). The latest move is Tom Rinaldi, known for his features on ESPN’s College GameDay and other NCAA coverage (including conducting the first national in-depth interviews with Art Briles and Urban Meyer following scandals in 2015 and 2018) and other properties (including golf, where he recorded the network’s first interview with Tiger Woods post-car accident in 2010). As per Andrew Marchand of The New York Post, Rinaldi is now headed to Fox, and will appear on many of their different sports properties:

Tom Rinaldi, one of ESPN’s top on-air reporters, is leaving for Fox, where he is expected to be featured across all of its major events from the Super Bowl to the World Series to the World Cup and college football, according to sources.

Update: Here’s a statement on this from Stephanie Druley, ESPN executive vice president (event and studio production):

“We’re proud of the work we’ve done with Tom through the years. He is an award-winning storyteller and a skilled reporter, and we wish him continued success. While we are disappointed to see Tom move on, the moment we find ourselves in demands an even more disciplined approach to our business, and we are blessed with an exceptional group of storytellers who will lead us forward.”

The “disciplined” there is perhaps notable, as this is certainly an era of financial restraint at ESPN. They just underwent another round of layoffs, and parent corporation Disney is facing some major challenges with this pandemic (while they outperformed analysts’ estimates in Q4, the news there still wasn’t great). Awful Announcing has learned that ESPN did want to keep Rinaldi and offered him a salary increase, but that Fox offered him significantly more; James Andrew Miller’s tweets on this also illustrate that.

As Miller says, this is a notable move, as Rinaldi had so long been associated with ESPN. He’d been there since 2002, joining the network after a stint at the CNN/SI joint venture. And Rinaldi’s exit will definitely be noticed on ESPN’s college football (where Fox’s newly-expanded Big Noon Kickoff has been trying to compete with College GameDay over the past few years) and golf coverage in particular. AA has learned that ESPN plans to have multiple people fill Rinaldi’s various current roles, including Jen Lada and Gene Wojciechowski on College GameDay, Wojciechowski and Marty Smith on golf, Jeremy Schaap on tennis, and a wide cast of reporters handling SportsCenter features and reporting.

It’s certainly significant to see Rinaldi making this jump. It’s also interesting to see him expanding his role to other sports, including MLB, the NFL, and soccer. We’ll see how this move works out for him and for Fox.

[The New York Post; Rinaldi photo from an ESPN clip from October 2020]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.