New FOX Sports host/reporter Erin Andrews: “Change is always hard…I had to do it for myself.”

Ending an eight-year run with ESPN in which she became one of the most popular figures in sports media, former Florida Gators dazzler Erin Andrews left the “Worldwide Leader In Sports” on Friday and was announced as the newest FOX Sports employee in an official statement released by the network Sunday evening. On the brink of the greatest undertakings of her career – hosting a weekly college football studio show and roaming the sidelines of NFL games for FOX Sports – she took time out of her hectic schedule to go in-depth with OGGOA about her deal with FOX and the excitement she feels moving forward with a new employer.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: So, have you caught your breath yet?
ERIN ANDREWS: “No, and I’m still not sleeping very well to be honest. I’m just so – not anxious – but I think it’s just been really high-charged for the last month and really month-and-a-half. I’ve been seeking a lot of advice, making a lot of phone calls, doing a lot of soul searching. I’m just waiting for the crash. I’m waiting to be able to sleep through the night and for me to crash and relax. That really hasn’t happened yet.”

AS: I can understand that. I heard you on Dan Patrick [Tuesday] morning and he of course made a very good point that it is always easier to stay where you’re comfortable instead of trying something brand new. What would you say was the catalyst that made you decide to make this move and how difficult of a decision was it for you in the end?
EA: “The thing that was most attractive about FOX was the opportunity to be able to work events that I wouldn’t get to do with ESPN. It was important to still stay involved with college football because it’s my religion, it’s my life. I’m proud of where I went to school. I’m proud of the connections I’ve made. I’m proud of my relationships that I have in the sport. I’ve been getting text messages from Coach [Will] Muschamp to Coach [Les] Miles to Chip Kelly to Lane Kiffin. Everybody has really been wishing me well and congratulating me.

“It was important for me to keep [being involved in college football] because I feel like that’s really where I made my mark, but FOX has the NFL. They have the best games and they have the playoffs and they have the Super Bowl next year. They also have the baseball All-Star Game and the [League Championship Series] and the World Series. These are all events that, when I was in high school and I went to UF, I wanted to work these events. To be able to do all this and more – it all really messed up the whole picture with re-signing with ESPN and made me start thinking long and hard over the last month-and-a-half.

“Really over the last week was when I just got very emotional and started calling my friends and family and guys like Dan Patrick and Rich Eisen. I got advice from Coach K. I got advice from a lot of coaches and a lot of people just said, ‘I think it’s time for you to grow. I think it’s time for you to get better. You’ve done this. You’ve got the sideline reporting – now try something else.’ That is what was the most attractive about this opportunity.”

AS: Obviously you grew extremely close with Chris Fowler and the guys on College GameDay. How hard was it to break the news and let them know what you decided?
EA: “They were shocked. Actually Kirk [Herbstreit] told me he thought the deal was done. I think that a lot of people at ESPN were very shocked. I think that everybody expected I was coming back. Chris kind of had an idea what was going on. He’s here in New York and I’ve spent a lot of time with him and his wife, so he had a sense what was happening. I just called them the other day and I was hysterical. I was crying very hard. It was very important for me to let them know that I know there are a lot of people in their career that would love to work with guys like Chris and Kirk and Coach [Lee] Corso and our producers and David [Pollack] and Desmond [Howard].

“It was just very important for me to let them know that I felt very lucky and very spoiled. I was just so thankful that I had the opportunity to work with them. With College GameDay, I camped out at that show for four years at UF. To be able to be a part of that show – go to college campuses, take pictures with kids and really do what I was camping out for when I was at UF – it was a big deal for me. That show means the world to me. It makes me very emotional just to think about it.”

Read the rest of our in-depth interview with Erin Andrews…after the break!

AS: Is there a moment either on or off the air that you will always remember when thinking back about College GameDay a few years from now?
EA: “I think just leaving the Superdome all together after the LSU/Alabama game at the National Championship. We all just worked so hard postseason and the bowls and we all stayed out there until probably 1:00 a.m. with the coverage. And just walking back to the hotel together – I will miss those times greatly. The college campuses and talking football [with them]. Those men became brothers to me. I looked up to them and I wanted to be them, so I will always kind of remember our last final walk together.”

AS: How long is your new deal with FOX? Did that have anything to do with your decision – perhaps longer with more security?
EA: “No, not really, both networks were offering multi-year deals.”

AS: FOX announced that you will be an on-field/dugout correspondent during the MLB All-Star game. Is that the anticipated role you would have in future MLB broadcasts as well? Are you also working the playoffs this year?
EA: “Yes, it is – All-Star [Game] and the Playoffs this year, yes.”

AS: What has been discussed in regards to your role with the network as it pertains to the NFL? Sideline reporting?
EA: “Yes. It is going to be sideline reporting, and I’m also during the week going to do features and sit-downs that will air on the pre-game show.”

AS: Is that something you really wanted to continue doing – being a sideline reporter – or is it something that you want to eventually transition away from?
EA: “I still very much love being at games and that was something that was important for me to let FOX know. There was a need, obviously, to have me work the college football studio show and I wanted to be a part of it because it is a huge challenge for me and it’s another place to grow, which is very attractive. But I want to try the NFL; I have always wanted to try the NFL. And they offered me a chance to do so, so I’m very excited.”

AS: I know you just moved to New York but considering the college football studio show will be in Los Angeles, CA, the network has Pac-12 games and the fact that FOX has the NFC package which includes a lot of teams on the West Coast, are you planning to move to Los Angeles?
EA: “I’m going to stay in New York for right now. During college football I don’t have a life anyway – it’s typically at an airport or on a plane – so this won’t be any different except the flight will be a lot longer. For right now I’m going to stay put. We’ll see how it goes the next couple of years, but I love New York so we’ll see how it goes.”

AS: An issue you encountered toward the end of your tenure with ESPN was your Reebok endorsement; the network felt it was a conflict of interest and basically forced your hand there with some of their policies. Have you had any conversations with FOX about situations in which you may be approached about being a spokeswoman and and how that might work?
EA: “Oh yeah. They’re fabulous. Their philosophy is a little different – I think a lot of the networks are pretty different about their philosophy with sponsorships versus ESPN. I’ve talked to guys like Joe [Buck] and Troy [Aikman] about stuff like that. It’s the same policy where we definitely let them know that we have been asked to sponsor or endorse something, and they give you permission. I think FOX out of probably all the networks, I’ve heard they are a little bit more lenient. But I’m somebody that I like to get approval anyway.”

AS: Is it fair to say that you might be able to take advantage of significantly more opportunities as a FOX employee than you could previously at ESPN?
EA: “Yeah. I think with FOX in general, it’s just more opportunities in general. Of course the sports side, there’s also the entertainment side, which I’m really looking forward to. And yeah, they have so many shows on their network – entertainment and sports. Exactly – all the different sponsorships that could follow as well.”

AS: I’m sure you’ve seen the rumblings and reports about you auditioning for and possibly being a finalist for the hosting job on X Factor. Is that true and where in the process is that at this point?
EA: “We are really interested in trying a bunch of different things. I don’t know where they are with all of that but my goodness, it’s on FOX. I would definitely love to also try to be a judge on So You Think You Can Dance? for one episode, too, because I’m obsessed with that show. We’re really open to a lot of things right now. It doesn’t even really have to be those two shows. There’s just this whole new kind of pot of gold with all these different things that are shining and sparkling. And we’re definitely excited about trying all of them – just sitting and talking to a lot of people. The most important thing for me was getting the sports contract done. I needed to get that done because that is my bread and butter – that’s where I’m most comfortable and that’s where I wanted to be. That was the biggest thing. Now that we’re going to breathe for a couple of days, we’re going to figure out where to go next.”

AS: It is nice that the sports side is open to letting you take advantage of other opportunities both from the network and outside of FOX as well.
EA: “They are. The one thing with FOX and talking to them about maybe some future possibilities at other places, they said [Michael] Strahan has worked a lot with Kelly Ripa on that show, Joe Buck did his HBO show. They are just very open to their guys trying different things.”

AS: Let’s talk about your cameo in That’s My Boy starring Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg. How much fun was being on the set, attending the premiere and hanging out with those guys?
EA: “It was great! Everybody was so cool and very down to earth. I had a lot of fun. The after party was such a good time because there were a lot of people from Saturday Night Live, and I’m such a huge Saturday Night Live fan. Adam and Andy were in town right before the movie hit the theaters; they were doing some press out here so I went to dinner with those guys.

“Actually talking to Sandler a lot about my decision if I was going to stay at ESPN or go. He was giving me a lot of advice about what it is like leaving Saturday Night Live and how you kind of feel like it’s the end-all-be-all and you feel like it’s your time to branch out. Andy Samberg had just left the show and we were talking a little bit about that. I actually just hosted an event with Seth Meyers and I was talking to him about that as well. It’s kind of funny how the Saturday Night Live guys are like the ESPN guys – do you decide to stay or do you branch out and do your own thing? The That’s My Boy experience was very cool. I think the best part about it is all those guys are such sports fans and they just wanted to talk sports, and I of course love doing that.”

AS: The first time I interviewed you, you told me your most unforgettable moment as a Gators dazzler was Mike Miller’s buzzer beater against Butler in the NCAA Tournament. Did you watch him in Game 5 of the NBA Finals and what kind of memories did that bring back for you seeing him shoot the ball like he was 19 again?
EA: “I did. I was so happy for him. It obviously seems like he’s going through so much right now with his back and not feeling well. He seems to be in a lot of pain, and I was so happy for him. I wanted the series, selfishly, to go to Game7 because I love all the drama. But I was so happy for Mike. It did – the ball was looking really good going through the net, so I was very happy for him.”

AS: So to wrap it up: Change is good?
EA: “Change is always hard but I’m such a competitive person that I just had to do it for myself.”

OGGOA Related (07/24/10): Gators dazzler, ESPN reporter Erin Andrews: “I really don’t think I’m that big of a deal.”

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