Paul Finebaum’s contract with ESPN is set to expire very soon. As of now, there is no new deal in place to keep one of the SEC’s top voices with the Worldwide Leader and SEC Network.
The timing is even more notable, given this part of the calendar. There is a fear that ESPN won’t have Finebaum under contract when the SEC Media Days roll around next week.
Finebaum is more or less the face of SEC Network as a whole, and a crucial component as host of the Media Days broadcasts.
Finebaum has one of the most diehard radio fan bases in the country. He’s fielded call after call about his future, and while he obviously has to stay mum on what his future holds, he has remained optimistic in response to those calls. USA Today‘s Dan Wolken also reached out to inquire about his next moves:
Reached by phone Tuesday, Finebaum declined comment on his future, other than to say he expects to be on set Monday in Atlanta when SEC Media Days begins. One person familiar with the matter from the ESPN side, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the discussions, called the story overblown and said the speculation of his departure was unsubstantiated. Even if Finebaum and ESPN can’t come to terms by next week, the plan seems to be business as usual.
The prevailing sense within the industry is that Finebaum and ESPN will find a way to get a deal done because, if nothing else, it makes little sense to end a relationship that has been good for both sides.
In the meantime, Finebaum will likely have to continue listening to the tributes from callers while revealing very little about the situation until the future of his show is certain.
As he said on his show Monday: “I think it’s all going to work out great.”
FOX Sports and the Big Ten Network are believed to be the main competition for ESPN in the Paul Finebaum negotiations.
According to a Sporting News report last week, Finebaum has had “meaningful conversations” with other broadcast networks. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney is reportedly a fan of Finebaum, and FOX Sports, which owns half of BTN, is also a major player in college football.
However, Finebaum belongs in SEC country, and no situation provides him a better fit than the SEC Network. It makes most sense for both sides to mend that bridge and for him to remain there.