Mike Golic Sr. is embracing something he hasn’t grappled with in 25 years: free agency.
The ESPN mainstay is considering his career options after the network canceled his “Golic and Wingo” radio show with Trey Wingo this summer. His contract expires Dec. 31.
The decision ended Golic’s more than 20-year run on ESPN morning radio. It sparked a tidal wave of tributes for the former NFL defensive tackle from listeners and colleagues under the hashtag #ThankYouGolic.
Louis Riddick, ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” analyst tweeted: “Thank you @espngolic for always treating me with respect from the first time I set foot on the set of Mike and Mike, to the last time we talked on Golic and Wingo. A true pro.”
Golic first joined the Worldwide Leader in Sports in 1995 after seven years with the Philadelphia Eagles.
After a stint on radio with Tony Bruno, he shuffled through several guest-hosts before teaming with Mike Greenberg for “Mike & Mike in the Morning.”
They were the odd-couple: Golic was the ex-jock; Greenberg the erudite germaphobe. Together they had a wildly successful run from 2000-2017 that catapulted both into the National Radio Hall of Fame and Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
Since ESPN broke up the duo three years ago, they’ve gone their separate ways.
Golic co-hosted “Golic and Wingo” with Trey Wingo and his son Mike Golic Jr. Meanwhile, Greenberg hosts ESPN’s flagship morning show, “Get Up.” As part of ESPN Radio’s programming revamp that eliminated “Golic and Wingo,” Greenberg returned to national radio with his own afternoon show Aug. 17.
But the Golic family tradition continues on ESPN Radio. His son Mike Golic Jr. co-hosts “Chiney & Golic Jr.” with WNBA star Chiney Ogwumike.
As a former football player, Golic knows what’s like to get cut. When the Turk comes knocking, you turn in your playbook, pack your bags and look for your next team. Golic’s already looking toward life beyond ESPN in January 2021.
The former Notre Dame football captain is calling college football games for ESPN and sister Walt Disney Co. network ABC. That’s a skill that can easily translate to another network.
Since Nov. 10, Golic has also been hosting “The Fan Exam” sports trivia game show, created by Learfield IMG College and SIDEARM Sports.
Front Office Sports asked the 57-year-old Golic if ESPN made a mistake breaking up “Mike & Mike” — and if he’d reunite on-air with Greenberg. Excerpts:
Front Office Sports: How do you like calling college games again?
Mike Golic Sr.: When ESPN said [Golic and Wingo] was going to end, and that it was going to end July 31st, basically I was just going to do nothing for six months. Because I’m under contract until the end of the year.
When they were going to do that, and we had the discussion that it was going to end, I said, ‘Well, I just don’t want to sit on my butt for six months and do nothing. Can I go back and do college games?’
I knew that by the end of July, a lot of [ESPN’s college football announce] teams are set and everything’s in place. I said, ‘I don’t really care what games I do. I just love calling games.’
I mean, I did that when I first got to ESPN in ‘95. And I did it until 2005. I said I wanted to do that until my first kid, who was Mike, got to high school. And then I said I didn’t want to miss any of their high school or college stuff. So I stopped doing games in 2005 to watch Mike and [son] Jake and [daughter] Sydney do all their things. And I hadn’t done it really since the last couple of years.
Mike and I did a bowl game together, the Pinstripe Bowl. So I said, ‘Can I do games?’ And they were like, ‘Yes, you want to do that?’ I said, ‘I’d love to.’
So I got a package of games. And I love it. I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do next once my contract is up. But I can say without hesitation that I hope it involves calling games. Because I love calling games and I can’t wait to get back to the actual sites of the games.
FOS: ‘The Fan Exam’ seems as much entertainment as sports. Sports TV personalities like Michael Strahan have made the jump to entertainment. Could that be one of your next moves?
MG: Oh, absolutely. Like my agent [Lou Oppenheim of ICM Partners] told me, if you’re left to be a quote unquote free agent, you’re going to have some options. You’re going to first need to decide what you want to do. And nothing is off the table.
I certainly love talking about sports. I hope to be involved in that. But absolutely I would think about shifting over and doing something in the entertainment world as well. I’m big into that. I love movies. The entertainment world and the actors and all that?
I love that side of it. So I would have no problem if something were to come up to try to do that.
FOS: You got some impressive tributes when your 20-year plus radio run ended this summer. How did that make you feel? Do you miss that daily megaphone?
MG: Oh, I definitely miss it. Listen, I would still be doing if it didn’t end. I’ve equated this time and time again to getting cut by the two NFL teams. I got cut by the Houston Oilers and the Miami Dolphins.
I didn’t think I should get cut — but the coaches, it was their decision.
I didn’t think the show should end, but it wasn’t my decision. So they make the decision and you move on. Given my druthers, I would certainly rather be doing the show and still getting up early, even though sleeping has been pretty nice, I’m not going to lie.
I would love to still be talking sports at 6 a.m. in the morning. Who knows what will happen in the future? Maybe I could do it again in the morning, or maybe in a different daypart. I don’t know. But yes, I miss it.
The tributes? Listen from my peers, it was one thing. It’s fantastic to hear from people that you work with. Or people who work on the same level at other networks. It was really nice to hear things from them.
But in all honesty to hear from the listeners, ‘Hey, you know, for a decade, myself and my kids had you on while we drove to school in the morning.’ One guy was telling me, ‘I used to listen to you when I had a paper route in the morning in high school. Then when I would get up in college before classes. And when I was overseas, when I was in the Army, fighting.’ I thought, ‘Oh my God.’
I mean that’s the stuff that really got me. It also made me feel really old when they’d go through that amount of listening!
But just hearing how it was kind of a family thing. With a father and kids. Or a mother and kids. Or the amount of people who said I started listening to you in middle school — and now I’m in college. So that really kind of hit me like, wow. I was doing it this long and these people liked it enough to listen that long. That really got me. I thought that that was really, really cool.
FOS: Some current ESPN stars tweeted they got their first real exposure on ‘Mike & Mike.’ Was your show a factory line for future talent?
MG: A lot of it was obviously our own personalities, and what we did, that made it a fun show and an informational show. But also what we did is we promoted other shows within our show. Other shows even from other sports.
To do that, you would bring analysts on, experts on, insiders on. More than a few of them were men and women who were just kind of starting out and they would come on our show.
I’ll never forget. I think one of the first things Todd McShay did. Greeny and I did a show in Boston. He came on our show because he’s from that area. So he came on our show. And that was one of the first shows he’d ever done…
So we gave them a voice and let them do their thing. That was fun to do. But that was part of our show, to talk about other shows and to help expand other shows along with our show. And along the way, we got to meet a lot of great people. Again, we just gave them a microphone. They did the rest.
So I know that they said that they’re grateful to us for that. But they did it. They’re the ones that, when they had the chance and the microphone, just like my son, they made the most of it. They’ve risen high in the company — and kudos to them for it.
FOS: Did ESPN management explain to you why they canceled ‘Golic and Wingo?’
MG: As I said, when I got cut from the football teams I got cut from, I didn’t think I should’ve been cut. So do I think I should still be doing a show? Yes, I absolutely think I should still be doing a show.
Now listen, this is nothing against the three guys that are doing the show at all [Keyshawn Johnson, Jay Williams and Zubin Mehenti, who took over his former morning time slot]. The spot was open, they were asked to do it — and they’re doing it. And kudos to them. I wish them nothing but the best of luck for doing that. Just like in football, it’s a management decision, just like this is a management decision.
To them it was just like, ‘We felt we needed a change.’ It’s their right to do. Again, I didn’t agree with it. But it is certainly their right to do it. As you can see, I equate a lot of things with football.
When I got cut by Miami, I couldn’t sit there and worry about it too much longer. I was up looking for a job and I signed with [the] Philadelphia [Eagles]. So you just move on to the next team. That’s what you have to do. I’ll reminisce about it when my career is over.
Right now, I had six months to just kind of sit around if I wanted to. But I wanted to do the games. Then we’ll see what happens starting in the new year.
Yes, I’d certainly much rather be doing the show. But we all don’t get the outcome that we want all the time. It doesn’t go that way.
FOS: Let’s talk about your future. You’re open to a lot of things. Have you or your agent talked to prospective employers? Fox Sports? SiriusXM?
MG: I certainly haven’t talked to anybody. I’m still under contract with ESPN. I let my agent handle anything. I’m just worried about calling games. I know, as he said, there’s going to be opportunities out there. All he wants me to do, for my part, is decide what I want to do.
‘Do you want to do radio and TV again? Do you want to keep calling games? As you mentioned earlier, do you want to go outside the world of sports?’ So I’ve talked with him about those things.
And then, obviously, what an agent does, is when they’re able to — and allowed to — they try to find some people where that can mesh. Obviously, being under contract, I have to wait for that. My contract ends at the end of the year. Then we’ll see what options are out there…
Now, one of the good things is whatever happens, I’m sure I’ll still be involved somewhat in sports. [January] is when the playoffs are going on for football. So it will still be a good time where football is going on. Hopefully, wherever it’s going to be, I can jump in and be an asset to somebody.
FOS: What if ESPN comes back and says, ‘Mike, here’s a new offer?’ Would you consider it?
MG: Oh, absolutely. There’s absolutely nothing off the table. As I said, I didn’t agree with what they did. But that doesn’t mean I would shun them and say, ‘I never want to work with you guys again.’
As they say, you answer the phone. The phone rings, you answer the phone. And you listen. So absolutely. I’ve been there more than 20 years. I’ve been there a long time. I worked with a lot of great people there. So I would absolutely listen. I have no idea if they will or not. There has been no conversation of that at this point. At least that I know of. But yes, I would certainly listen.
FOS: You and Greeny are in the Radio Hall of Fame for ‘Mike & Mike.’ I remember covering the ESPN upfront a few years ago, where they announced the show was moving to New York City from Bristol. So what happened?
MG: You’re going to have to talk to other people for that. … But you’re right. We were ready to go to New York. Then I think that fell apart, more by Disney saying, ‘OK, we’re going to take that off the table,’ because of whatever was going on with Disney at that point. I don’t really remember. But no, I certainly didn’t want ‘Mike & Mike’ to end.
As I said on-air, and as I’ve said after that, I did not want that to end. So that is not my story to tell. That would be the others involved with that show.
Obviously, management as well. It wasn’t one person deciding it. There had to be a couple of people involved. But as I’ve always said about that, that’s not my story to tell — because I would have loved to have gone on with that show.
FOS: Greeny posted a nice tribute to you on ‘Get Up.’ Would you reunite on the air with him?
MG: When they ended the show, and talked about the new lineup, I offered to do the show with him like a reunion-type thing. That never went anywhere. I don’t know who decided [against it] at ESPN. That’s not my story. But I offered to do a reunion thing. It didn’t happen.
Again, that’s fine. I can say I would do something — but that doesn’t mean everybody else wants to. If they feel that everybody needs to move on from that, that it wouldn’t be as good the second time around, if that’s the thought, then fine. So be it. We move on. But I was open to it.
FOS: You’ve done a lot of TV commercials over the years. Are you working on new endorsement deals?
MG: At this point, no, as far as endorsements. Most of it was through the show at ESPN. Maybe, with whoever I’m with next, those will start up again. Not really right now.
This ‘Fan Exam’ is the first thing outside of calling the college games that I’m doing. That’s why I’m really excited about doing it.
It’s something a little different than what I’ve been doing. So it’s exciting for me.
FOS: Are you traveling for the ‘Fan Exam’ gig? Or shooting it from home in Connecticut?
MG: I’m doing it from home as I’ve been doing all the college games from ESPN. A few of the announcing teams are traveling. I have not. I’ve been doing it from ESPN.
Dave Pasch, my play-by-play guy, has been doing it from his home in Arizona. So it’s been interesting. It’s just something you’ve got to deal with right now. I’ll be doing it from my basement. Right where ‘Golic and Wingo’ finished up.
We were down there, me and Trey and my son, Mike, for three months when the pandemic hit. We basically had a little studio down in my basement. So I’ll just rearrange that now and do this.
FOS: Let’s go big picture. The conventional wisdom was sports TV ratings would shoot through the roof once the months-long shutdown of live sports ended. But it didn’t happen. In fact, just the opposite. Why?
MG: I think a lot of that is because of the election year. Even if there was no pandemic going on right now, anytime we’re in an election year, ratings are down. Obviously I’ve been doing this long enough to go through a few election cycles.
That’s been the same all the time. In an election year, a lot of people are listening to the news stations. Understandably so. …
So I never thought the ratings for anybody would be all that high. I think, initially, maybe coming out of the gate when sports started, just because we hadn’t had sports. …
I mean, the last three months on my show were basically when the pandemic started. We were talking about anything but sports.
FOS: You’re closely associated with Notre Dame. Should the Fighting Irish, or any college football team, be playing this year during the COVID-19 pandemic?
MG: Anybody who thought we weren’t going to have hiccups wasn’t really looking at the big picture — and understanding what we were going to see. We’ve heard from the medical profession. We need to listen to them. They said it was going to spread. When colleges got back, it was going to spread. But the whole thing then is keeping it under control. …
So it’s not surprising that these things have come up. Listen, you want the main concern to be the health of the student-athletes. You don’t want to see hospitalizations or ventilators or anything like that involved. So I don’t think there’s any doubt there was a risk of that.
But there was also the thought that in younger people, it wasn’t as bad as how the elderly were affected by it. So I do think it was a chance. It was a bit of a chance to do. Now we’re seeing the Big Ten come back and the Pac-12 coming back. You know, there’s going to be some games missed there. It’s just inevitable. It’s just a matter of which teams get pegged by it.
I’m not going to lie. It was a little dicey with me. I know they wanted to do it. I know there’s a lot of money involved. You know they’re going to say that the health and safety of the players is number one. And I believe that’s important to them. They’re not monsters out there. They do have concerns for the athletes. But there was a lot of money involved as well.
You already saw schools that were dropping a lot of sports because of the lack of money that was going to be coming in. So I’m OK with them going forward. As long as they [follow safety] protocols. They’re sitting people, they’re isolating people. And they’re certainly doing that. They haven’t been afraid to postpone games in the Big Ten or Pac-12. Or cancel games. They’re not trying to keep it under wraps. ‘Oh, if they test the positive, we’re not going to tell anybody.’ They’re not doing that. We’re out there and it’s laid out in front of us. And we’re seeing the effects of it.
FOS: We recently interviewed Chiney Ogwumike about her show with Mike Jr. Proud of him?
MG: Oh, I mean, are you kidding me? I worked with Tony Bruno. Unfortunately, it was a short time, because Tony and I have known each other forever. He was the first partner I had for ESPN morning radio. Then Greeny for all those years. And Trey, who I’ve known forever. Then my son was involved in that show. I can easily say that my favorite part of all of it was being able to work with my kid.
I mean, to be able to flip on the mics at 6 A.M…even though we don’t always agree on everything. Just to be able to see how your kid has evolved, to where he is, to the point where he’s now been given his own show. I think it’s great. Working with him was fantastic.
As I said, it was the best part of my career. But now seeing him on his own, co-headlining his own show, I think is fantastic. I think he and Chiney do a great job. Young hip show. They have a lot of fun while still giving you great insight into sports because they’re two former athletes.
You know what? [Mike] wanted to play in the NFL. He went to a few camps. Unfortunately it didn’t work out for him. So I was bummed that it didn’t work out for him. But then this is an area he wanted to go into — and he’s succeeding. He’s the first to say. ‘Listen, I know how I got my start in this, because the last name certainly helped.’ Connections like that? That happens in a lot of places. This is not the only place it happened.
But it’s one thing to have a door maybe open for you a bit, then you have to go prove yourself. I think he has, without question, done that. Incredibly. He’s proved himself. He’s one of the rising young analysts and/or talk show hosts and former athletes in this business.
FOS: That scene with wife Christine and kids on your last radio show choked me up — especially when Mike Jr. said, ‘You still get to be our Dad.’ Your response?
MG: Oh, man. I didn’t see that coming from Mike. I was getting ready to do a little talk at the end thanking everybody. Then Mike jumped in. I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ That was something…That caught me man. There’s no doubt it. So that was obviously great to hear. He made me feel like money after that.