Syracuse, N.Y. — Shock waves were felt in the sports broadcasting world on Monday with the report that Syracuse University alum Mike Tirico would be leaving ESPN for NBC Sports.
The move has not yet been confirmed by Tirico, ESPN or NBC, who all declined comment on the story on Monday to various sources, including Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated and John Ourand of Sports Business Daily.
Tirico’s departure would be a major shakeup at ESPN, where Tirico has worked since 1991 after working as a sports anchor at WTVH-5 following his graduation from Syracuse University in 1988.
Tirico is one of the most respected sports broadcasters in the industry, starting as a “Sportscenter” anchor at ESPN but soon rising in the ranks as a play-by-play announcer and studio host with his versatility on display.
Tirico is a lead NBA play-by-play announcer for ESPN. He also calls NCAA basketball and was a studio host for ESPN’s golf coverage, including “The Masters,” and the network’s tennis coverage.
ESPN would be left with a lot of holes to fill should Tirico leave as reported, but there is no question the gig with the most on the line would be “Monday Night Football,” were Tirico has served as the main play-by-play voice since 2006.
ESPN pays the National Football League an average of $1.9 billion a year to air the Monday night package. While the game is always the star, Tirico’s chemistry with analyst Jon Gruden has been credited with helping ‘Monday Night Football’ become the highest-rated show on cable television.
Who should replace Tirico on “Monday Night Football” and join a list that includes Keith Jackson, Frank Gifford and Al Michaels to get the call in primetime?
Here are some names to consider:
McDonough seems to be the leader in the clubhouse to replace Tirico on “Monday Night Football,” which would put back-to-back Syracuse University alums in the booth.
McDonough is currently a lead college football voice for ESPN and would be a solid choice to replace Tirico. McDonough is a rock solid play-by-play announcer. His booming voice adds weight to a game’s big moments.
McDonough has also developed great chemistry with his on-air partners over the years. Who can forget the three-man booth of McDonough, Jay Bilas and Bill Raferty on college basketball? That said, McDonough and Chris Spielman have turned into a great pair calling college football for ESPN and ABC.
McDonough is a true pro and the guess here is he would have no problem continuing the chemistry with Gruden in the ‘MNF’ booth that Tirico built.
McDonough would also provide an easy transition to the ‘MNF’ booth as he just re-signed with ESPN last month and has been calling NFL games for ESPN Radio since 2013.
The Syracuse University grad has a pretty good gig on the No.2 NFL announcing team with Dan Fouts on CBS, but Eagle deserves a top spot. “Bird” remains one of the more underrated play-by-play men in football.
Eagle’s call of NFL games are sharp, detailed and move at an excellent pace. He is also one of the best in the business at injecting humor into a broadcast and his enthusiasm calling NFL games would also be perfect for ESPN’s marquee event. His voice would bring authority to one of the NFL’s biggest games of the week.
Chemistry is also a strong suit of Eagle’s. His relationship with Fouts on-air is one of the best in football since John Madden and Pat Summerall. Seeing Eagle work with Gruden would be intriguing.
Eagle also does college basketball for CBS and is the play-by-play voice of the Brooklyn Nets for the YES Network. I’m not sure if there is an opening in his contract, but if there is, ESPN should think long and hard about adding him to the ‘MNF’ booth.
The ‘MNF’ booth has had it fair share of outside the box visitors over the years, including Dennis Miller and Tony Kornheiser.
If ESPN wants to take another shot at shaking things up, how about the first woman to call play-by-play on a regular basis in the National Football League?
Mowins, a Syracuse native and graduate of Syracuse University, became the second woman to call an NFL game last year when she did play-by-play for the Oakland Raiders during the preseason.
That’s not to say Mowins hasn’t had plenty of football play-by-play experience. Mowins has called college football on ESPN since 2005 and is really good at it. Mowins is always prepared, calls the game with ease, adds excitement to big moments and sets up her analysts with good questions and insight.
Mowins, who recently re-signed with ESPN, has worked a number of high-level events for the network. She would handle a high-profile gig like “Monday Night Football” with ease.
ESPN would take shots from critics who would say they were only making the move for headlines, but Mowins ability as a broadcaster would soon shoot those voices down.
Burkhardt, 39, has been a fast-riser at Fox Sports in recent years, taking the play-by-play spot on the network’s No.2 NFL announcing team, along with John Lynch and Pam Oliver, and has called playoff games for the network.
Burkhardt would bring a polished call mixed with energy to the booth, but he also has a great sense of humor. New York Mets fans will remember him as the sideline reporter for SNY broadcasts from 2007-2014.
Burkhardt signed a three-year contract with Fox in 2015 and also serves as a studio analyst for the network’s Major League Baseball coverage. He may be tough to pry away from Fox at the moment, but would be a great fit in the ‘MNF’ booth.
» Who would you like to see ESPN pursue to replace Tirico in the “Monday Night Football” booth?
Drop below in the comments section or contact me at the info below to offer your suggestions.
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