Tuesday September 26, 2023
The Best Employers in Sports Survey is Now Open!

ESPN Cutbacks Could Help Rival Skip Bayless

  • Bayless’ FS1 could recruit laid-off ESPN talents.
  • Max Kellerman served as Stephen A. Smith’s debate partner.
Fox Sports
Front Office Sports Today

Writer’s Strike End a Boon for Sports Networks, Agencies

We delve into the potential long-term impact of the five-month strike.
Listen Now
September 26, 2023 | Podcast
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

Misery makes for strange bedfellows. 

The miserable round of slow-motion talent losses at ESPN could provide an opening for rival Skip Bayless and Fox Sports.

With longtime sparring partner Shannon Sharpe out the door, there’s few A-List talents who want to team up with the micromanaging Bayless on FS1’s “Undisputed.” 

Similarly, there are few Bayless himself wants to work with except his “brother from another mother” Stephen A. Smith.

But ESPN’s rolling talent cuts could spring loose some strong candidates to serve as Bayless’ next potential debate partner.

Start with Max Kellerman, who served as Smith’s debate foil on top-rated “First Take” for five years.

Front Office Sports reported that Kellerman would likely lose his weekday afternoon TV time slot to make way for new hire Pat McAfee. 

Kellerman had a long and successful career in Los Angeles radio with Marcellus Wiley. 

As the most experienced “Embrace Debate” talent out there, Kellerman could easily slide into Sharpe’s old chair at Fox’s studios in Los Angeles.

To make the situation even more dicey, the New York Post reported Wednesday that Kellerman’s ESPN Radio morning show with Keyshawn Johnson and Jay Williams is also being scrapped. 

That might not immediately impact Kellerman, Johnson, and Williams contractually. But it’s the kind of insult that might make one, two, or all three, drop a dime to FS1 executives Charlie Dixon and Whit Albohm and ask for an audition with Bayless and moderator Jenny Taft.

On his YouTube show, Wiley said he doubted the network would pair two white men, Bayless and Kellerman, on a “barbershop” style debate show. “Two salon dudes can’t talk barbershop,” he said.

Neil Everett

‘SportsCenter’ Anchor Neil Everett Leaving ESPN After 23 Years

‘SportsCenter’ anchor Neil Everett confirmed to Front Office Sports he’s leaving ESPN…
June 8, 2023

Then there’s former “Sports Center” anchor Neil Everett. FOS reported Everett is leaving ESPN after 23 years. It is easy to envision the Portland-based TV pro sliding into the debate chair for an occasional appearance.

That makes four current or former ESPNers with the chops and experience to take on the enfant terrible of sports TV.

FS1 will likely audition its own candidates, such as Emmanuel Acho and Joy Taylor of “Speak” and Nick Wright of “First Things First.”

And don’t forget former NFL star LeSean McCoy. He’s still relatively green TV-wise. But sources peg him as a strong contender to succeed Sharpe: the three-time Super Bowl winner and Pro Football Hall of Famer (Sharpe himself is in early talks with sports betting giant FanDuel).

Both Bayless and Smith would love to land Michael “The Playmaker” Irvin. But he’s still under contract to NFL Network – although the network has had him on the bench since a controversial incident with a hotel employee at the Super Bowl that has sparked multiple lawsuits.

LeSean McCoy could join Skip Bayless.

LeSean McCoy Could Replace Shannon Sharpe As Skip Bayless’ Partner

McCoy is poised to land audition as Shannon Sharpe’s replacement.
June 5, 2023

What’s the next move? That’s up to Bayless, Dixon, and Albohm.

Bayless could choose to debate a rotating list of guests a la Smith at “First Take.” But he’s a traditionalist who’s been basically doing the same show for 15 years at FS1 and ESPN.

There are rumors Bayless – the self-styled Godfather of sports TV debate – will create a new format where he debates a “team” of opponents. But he will likely settle on just one debate partner as he did with Sharpe for seven years.

Yes, any job candidate will have to accept that Bayless runs the show – and that he’ll have the “final say” on their hire.

But times are tough, with virtually every major media company conducting layoffs. A seven-figure annual debating Bayless in sunny LA might be alright.

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

NFL's Swift Mania Starting To Show Impact Through Merch Sales, Viewership

Taylor Swift stole the NFL's spotlight by attending Sunday's Chiefs game.
First Take vs. FS1

Sharpe: 'First Take' Would Still Beat 'Undisputed' Without Stephen A.

Even if Smith leaves, Sharpe said he will still beat Skip Bayless in the ratings.

ESPN Reportedly Closing Studios In Aftermath Of Layoffs

ESPN's Seaport studio will reportedly close by 2025.

Fox Opts For College Sports Over WWE Post-UFC Merger

Fox has plenty of college sports to lean on in WWE's absence.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

Writer’s Strike End a Boon for Sports Networks, Agencies


Featured Today


Oakland-MLB Relationship Devolves Into Next-Level Toxicity

Commissioner, mayor have very different accounts of July meeting
Jacksonville Jaguars Team President Mark Lamping addressed community members at Strings Sports Brewery on Main Street for the first of 14 planned town hall sessions to present the team's plans for the new "stadium of the future" complex and address the public concerns.
September 25, 2023

Jacksonville Jaguars President Walks Back Stadium ‘Threat’

"Viewing those comments as a threat to leave Jacksonville isn't correct."
Chatri Sityodtong
September 25, 2023

ONE Championship's Quest To Challenge Rival UFC Through U.S. Expansion

Leveraging its Amazon deal, ONE Championship seeks to expand in U.S.
September 24, 2023

Savannah Bananas Break All The Rules To Hit The Mainstream

Team concludes 2023 tour with even-bigger plans for next year


Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Chicago Cubs
New York
Tri Star Sports and Entertainment Group, Inc.
USA - Multiple Locations
Could ESPN lose events such as the NBA Finals if it sold ABC.

Selling ABC Poses Billion-Dollar Dilemma for Disney and ESPN's Future

Losing ABC would create complications as ESPN enters NBA rights negotiations.
September 14, 2023

NBA Cracks Down On Player Rest Ahead of Multi-Billion Dollar Rights Talks

NBA rest days will be regulated as league prepares for rights talks.
Skip Bayless
August 28, 2023

Skip Bayless Struggles In Role As Soft-Spoken Moderator On FS1

A neutered Skip Bayless struggled to get a word in on new 'Undisputed Live.'
Shannon Sharpe
August 24, 2023

Shannon Sharpe Positioned As Perfect Successor To Stephen A. Smith

Sharpe could inherit a morning show that nearly triples Bayless’ audience.
August 15, 2023

Skip Bayless' New 'Undisputed' Cast Not Well-Received Inside Fox

Skip Bayless' proposed new cast for "Undisputed" is not likely to throw a scare into "First Take."
United States Women's World Cup disaster.
August 7, 2023

Carli Lloyd's Brutally Honest Analysis Shines Amid World Cup Disaster

Fox Sports analyst Carli Lloyd correctly warned that a cocky, complacent USWNT was headed for World Cup fall.
Women's World Cup
August 3, 2023

Fox Sports And Fox News Have Split Narratives On The World Cup

Rupert Murdoch's Fox Corp. is telling two stories about Women's World Cup.
Pat McAfee at Disney Upfront
August 1, 2023

Welcome To ESPN: Pat McAfee Now Judged By Stricter Standard

McAfee will have to adjust from answering to himself to answering to the Mouse.