ESPN’s Maria Taylor is nearing a possible deal with rival NBC Sports, sources tell Front Office Sports.
The rising star could become the new host of “Football Night in America” as Mike Tirico transitions into the play-by-play post long held by Al Michaels. With her experience on ESPN’s popular “College GameDay,” Taylor could work on NBC’s broadcasts of Notre Dame football. As an added lure, NBC could provide Taylor a global TV stage as an Olympic correspondent.
“The deal’s at the half-yard line. But that can still be a long way in contract negotiations,” said a source. Talks could still fall apart — or ESPN could raise its offer.
Taylor, who’s currently hosting “NBA Countdown” during the NBA Finals, could also become a news correspondent on NBC’s “Today” morning show, following the trail blazed by former ESPN star Robin Roberts to ABC’s “Good Morning America.” If the deal is not exclusive to NBC, the former University of Georgia athlete could also join Amazon’s “Thursday Night Football” coverage, thus defraying contract costs for NBC.
The 34-year old Taylor has been at loggerheads with ESPN executives over a new contract. While the Worldwide Leader in Sports is offering to triple her salary to $3 million per year, said sources, Taylor is seeking $5 million or more. Those figures could put her ahead of NFL insider Adam Schefter on the salary chart, said sources, but behind Mike Greenberg ($6 million) and Stephen A. Smith ($12 million).
Taylor was the target of controversial comments by ESPN colleague Rachel Nichols about her winning the hosting job on “NBA Countdown,” according to an internal tape obtained by the New York Times.
If Taylor leaves ESPN, it’s bound to raise questions about the number of talented female African-American hosts/reporters leaving the network, including top NFL Insider Josina Anderson, “SportsCenter” anchors Jemele Hill and Cari Champion and Taylor’s mentor and producer Amina Hussein.
At the same, time ESPN has signed a long list of African-American talents, including Elle Duncan, Malika Andrews, Sage Steele, Lisa Salters and Kimberley Martin. Andrews and Cassidy Hubbarth, the NBA reporter and host of “Hoop Streams,” could succeed Taylor in her current roles, said sources.
Taylor could not be reached. NBC and ESPN either declined to comment or could not be reached.