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And when the bearded and robed man did come down from the mountain, his cleats leaving marks in the dirt where the ground leveled off, he held up one hand, and the fingers on that hand were equal to the amount of on-air analysts that ESPN networks will have by the end of this decade. The company is now losing First Take personality Skip Bayless, who is saying goodbye to allegedly take on some giant paydays over at Fox Sports 1. Cha-ching.
Skip Bayless, one of the network’s more polarizing analysts, will still stick around on ESPN2 until the day after the NBA Finals. There’s no telling when exactly that will be yet, given it’s a tournament, but we can plan on hearing him going back and forth with First Take co-host Stephen A. Smith until somewhere in the middle of June, give or take a few days. Keep an open-ended paper chain, if that’s how you like to handle countdowns.
The reason Skip Bayless is heading out the door might be more complicated when you get inside his brain, but the basic explanation is Fox Sports 1 reportedly offered him a deal that will get him around $5-6 million a year, according to Sports Illustrated. Though ESPN released an obligatory statement about Bayless’ exit that gave him some praise, Fox Sports 1 has been mum on the matter, but that could change soon as deals are worked out.
Though he’d collaborated with ESPN as far back as 1989, Bayless the Journalist didn’t get brought in full-time until 2004, when he started for the website and honed his bloviation skills on ESPN2’s Cold Pizza, which later morphed into First Take in 2007. The show took some time during today’s broadcast to react to the news. Check it out below.
Skip Bayless is only the latest analyst to vacate the company in some shape or form. Sometimes the splits are benign and friendly, as it seems to be going with Mike Tirico, but it’s usually mired in controversy and/or foul feelings. Such was the case with Curt Schilling and Colin Cowherd and Bill Simmons and more. There are always other people willing to talk about sports, obviously, but not as many with the credentials and company history as everyone who left in the past year or two. Expect ratings to get even crazier as time goes on.
And that man did then go back up the mountain, knowing that it wouldn’t be long until he returned to drop another finger.