Todd Blackledge Photo credit: ESPN

In a bit of a shocking move, Todd Blackledge departed ESPN to head up NBC’s Big Ten coverage, alongside Noah Eagle. 

Eagle, who has worked for CBS and Fox over the last couple of years, will be the primary play-by-play voice of the Big Ten on NBC. His partner, Blackledge, was previously a fixture on ESPN’s college football coverage. Most recently, Blackledge has worked with Sean McDonough, though he’s also worked with Mike Patrick, Brad Nessler, and Joe Tessitore (among others) over the years,

It’s understandable why Eagle would jump at the opportunity to head up NBC’s Big Ten coverage, but what about Blackledge? After all, he spent the past 17 seasons at the Worldwide Leader.

He revealed in a recent interview on the Sports Media with Richard Deitsch podcast that ESPN’s cost-cutting measures and the financial situation in Bristol did “not really” have an impact on his decision to depart after nearly two decades at the network 

“That came into play a little bit, as we began walking through the process,” he told The Athletic’s media reporter. “But that initially, no. I was very happy there. I was very confident that my work was well respected and well received there. And I was not looking to go anywhere. I liked the crew. I was there 17 years. I had different play-by-play guys, but I had the same director, Scott Johnson, for all 17 years. We’re great friends… It was a very family-oriented feel and I loved it.

“I would put our games and our work up against anybody doing football at any level. And then doing a playoff game every year, I was comfortable with that. I realized that I was at a ceiling at ESPN that was not gonna change. It took me a while when I first came over from CBS, but I came to grips with that, that that’s what it was gonna be. But when NBC came and kind of started talking to me about what this project was going to be, what this new adventure was going to be and how they were going to try and present it, I was very intrigued.”

Blackledge reiterated that he wasn’t looking to go anywhere, but the further he went down the road, the offer to leave ESPN for NBC just got better and better. 

“They made me feel very, very important and very wanted,” he added. “And I think anybody that does anything, going back to if you’re a kid being recruited to play football or basketball or somewhere, you want to find someplace that’s a great fit and you want to feel wanted. And you want to feel like you’re something very important to them. NBC made me feel that way.”

Blackledge said that he understands negotiating and that ESPN’s initial offer to him was “not a great offer.” As the network realized that there was a legitimate offer on the table from NBC, they changed their approach, but NBC’s offer was too good of an offer to say no to.

“At this point in my life and my career, the length of the contract, the compensation of the contract—I was very happy with both—and to be a part of something new and something different,” Blackledge said. “I’m 62 years old, my partner Noah Eagle is younger than two of my grown sons. It’s going to be an interesting challenge. And I love primetime football games. The idea of doing a primetime game for NBC, covering the Big Ten…I’m familiar with the Midwest and Big Ten football. 

Eagle and Blackledge will be on the call for West Virginia-Penn State on Saturday, Sept. 2.

[Sports Media with Richard Deitsch]

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.