Paul Finebaum’s contract with ESPN is very close to expiring. In late June, Sporting News reported that the famed college football radio host was having “meaningful conversations” with other media companies.
If ESPN can’t get Finebaum locked down soon, he may not be available for the next big event on the schedule: SEC Media Days. Finebaum serves as a host for the event.
Finebaum is probably the most important on-air personality that ESPN has over at SEC Network. Now, according to a new Sporting News piece, ESPN’s main rival could be after him.
Finebaum is apparently a favorite of Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney. Apparently, those “meaningful conversations” sound like they’ve been with FOX Sports and Big Ten Network. FOX has a 51-percent ownership stake in BTN.
“…Fox Sports has a history of poaching ESPN talent, like Colin Cowherd, Skip Bayless, Jason Whitlock and Erin Andrews. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany is said to be a huge Finebaum fan.
Some Big Ten executives have lamented the absence of a “Paul Finebaum-like show” on the network’s programming schedule. Fox owns 51 percent of the Big Ten Network.
In January, Fox Sports hired Mark Silverman, the longtime president of the Big Ten Network, to succeed Jamie Horowitz as president of national networks. Although he’s relocating to Los Angeles from Chicago, according to SportsBusiness Daily, Silverman continues to oversee the Big Ten Network.”
FOX and Big Ten Network are a big player in the college football space, but it would be a weird spot for Paul Finebaum.
He is the SEC guy. One of his books is literally titled My Conference Can Beat Your Conference about the SEC. It is hard to imagine him spending his daily radio show focused on Ohio State and Michigan, without Alabama and LSU lined up against them at least.
Still, content is important, Finebaum can fill it, and more importantly to him, the FOX/Big Ten Network talks could provide him leverage with ESPN.
The Sporting News report also says that new ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro is personally on the case to retain Finebaum, after the negotiations had reportedly broken down.
Reading the tea leaves, it seems like he’ll be staying put, but it is getting extremely close for comfort.