Erin Andrews joins FOX Sports in major role

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.

College football on FOX just became must-watch TV this fall as the popular Erin Andrews, one of sports television’s brightest stars, rejoins the FOX Sports family. A versatile broadcaster whose talent bridges sports and entertainment, Andrews’ position includes hosting the new prime time college football pregame show, making significant contributions to the network’s NFL and MLB coverage, along with other marquee sports properties.

“Opportunities to add someone of Erin Andrews’s caliber don’t come along often and we’re thrilled to welcome her back to the FOX Sports family,” said executive producer, co-president and COO Eric Shanks. “Erin is one of the hardest-working, most-respected individuals in sports television and we expect her to have an immediate impact. In addition to having her anchor our new football show and studio coverage, we expect her to be a big contributor to our MLB and NFL coverage as well as other major events.”

Andrews said she is excited about her change of scenery and added responsibilities, which primarily includes a half-hour college football pregame studio show that will eminate from Los Angeles, CA each Saturday.

“To have the chance to not only host the primetime college football pregame show, but cover the NFL, MLB and various other incredible FOX Sports properties is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Andrews said in the network’s press release. “I couldn’t be more excited to get to work.”

She told Sports Illustrated‘s Richard Deitsch on Sunday that being able to be a part of NFL coverage “was a huge thing; it was always a dream. I always wanted to work in the NFL and they are offering me a role in it.” Andrews also said it was a “difficult move” but the “right” decision because it is “allowing me to do so many things that I probably would not have been able to do had I stayed at ESPN.”

News of her potential departure from ESPN broke on Friday; the network quickly announced that she was not returning after noting that a substantial offer was made to retain her services. ESPN did not offer to increase her on-air responsibilities despite the fact that she wanted a larger role with the network.

Andrews will change employers just two years after signing a new deal with ESPN that expanded her role with the network. She received her first hosting gig (the first hour of College GameDay on ESPNU) and did some work for ABC as a correspondent on Good Morning America as well as in other sports and entertainment capacities.

Andrews began her career in 2000 as a freelance reporter for FOX Sports Florida and joined the network full-time as a Tampa Bay Lighting reporter for Sunshine Network in 2001-02. She was then hired by Turner South to cover three of the four professional sports organizations in Atlanta, GA before being hired away by ESPN in May 2004.

Photo Credit: Vanity Fair

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Erin Andrews leaves ESPN; joining FOX Sports

Updated July 1 at 5:00 p.m.

Former Florida Gators dazzler Erin Andrews’s eight-year run with ESPN came to an end on Friday when the network announced that she left to pursue other interests.

“Erin Andrews leaving ESPN. She did great work for us and we made an aggressive offer to keep her. We wish her the best on her next chapter,” the network said in a statement.

Just minutes before ESPN’s announcement, Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch reported that Andrews was being “aggressively” pursued by FOX Sports to take on “a major role in FOX’s college football coverage” and even went so far as to participate in a recent meeting with the network’s executives. FOX Sports is a prominent carrier of Pac-12 and Big 12 Conference games and has recently begun hiring major names (such as play-to-play man Gus Johnson) to broadcast these contests.

Deitsch learned Sunday that Andrews has agreed to a deal with FOX Sports and has been tabbed to host a half-hour primetime college football studio show beginning on Sept. 1. “Andrews will also have other assignments at FOX Sports, including a role in its NFL and MLB coverage,” he added. USA Today reports via a network spokesman that those responsibilities will be “significant.”

In addition to covering college football and basketball for ESPN, Andrews also has experience as a sideline reporter for MLB and college baseball on the national level.

She will join FOX Sports on Monday two years after signing a new deal with ESPN that expanded her role with the network. In addition to her duties as a sideline reporter, she was prominently featured on College GameDay, hosted the first hour of that program (broadcast on ESPNU) and did work for ABC as a correspondent on Good Morning America as well as in other sports and entertainment capacities.

Andrews began her career in 2000 as a freelance reporter for FOX Sports Florida and joined the network full-time as a Tampa Bay Lighting reporter for Sunshine Network in 2001-02. She was then hired by Turner South to cover three of the four professional sports organizations in Atlanta, GA before being hired away by ESPN in May 2004.

Photo Credit: Vanity Fair

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FOUR BITS: Nixon, Raymond, Akra, Tebow

1 » Alachua County Court records show that Florida Gators senior offensive tackle Xavier Nixon was cited on April 12 for unknowingly operating his vehicle with a suspended/revoked license for the second time in as many years. Nixon, first cited for the same traffic violation on March 24, 2011, elected to appear in court for the charge and had his hearing held on May 31. He agreed to a partial payment option for the $148 fine (including $86 in court costs) and paid $25 but did not continue making payments, building late fees and having the citation forwarded to a collection agency. Now represented by attorney Huntley Johnson after receiving a second citation on April 12, Nixon again elected to appear in court for the latest charges but has since paid his fines from the initial citation in full. He owes another $148 for his latest transgression. It will be determined how that is paid and how his case will be settled in a scheduled court appearance on June 13 at 9 a.m.

2 » Former Florida tennis player Lisa Raymond made the record books on Monday after she and partner Liezel Huber were anointed the new No. 1 doubles pairing in the world by the Women’s Tennis Association. Raymond, who has been ranked No. 1 at one time or another for 117 total weeks in her career (this will be the 118th), is now the oldest player ever to hold the top spot in the WTA rankings. “It’s definitely a lot more special this time than ever before,” he said. “I’m the fittest I’ve ever been in my career, and I found the right partner, too. Liezel and I always say it’s about the team – you win together and you lose together, and you work hard together. This is gratifying for both of us – and for me at 38, to be back to No. 1 after such a long road, it feels amazing.”

3 » In November, ESPN’s Erin Andrews was caught in the middle of a Gatorade shower as then-No. 22 Baylor celebrated a 45-38 upset of No. 5 Oklahoma. Andrews, who said afterward that it was the first time she had been caught in a Gatorade shower in her career, joked that it was an awesome experience even though her iPhone was not working well after the bath. Another former Gators dazzler, Kristina Akra, has apparently been hit with more Gatorade showers in the young 2012 Major League Baseball season than Andrews has in her career. According to the Washington Post, Akra was nailed with Gatorade for the third time already this season after the Washington Nationals (the team she covers as a sideline reporter for MASN) achieved a walk-off victory on Saturday. Akra previously worked with FOX Sports South helping out with coverage of Southeastern Conference football.

4 » Hip-hop artist Wale said on ESPN‘s First Take on Monday that he only expects New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow to start a maximum of one game this season, noting that he’s seen “ambidextrous ninth graders” throw better than Tebow. He even went as far as to wager cutting his hair on Tebow starting fewer than six games in 2012. In the same segment, Hugh Douglas (who promised to go to church if Tebow beat the Jets on Nov. 17) gave the former Heisman Trophy winner plenty of support and predicted that he will be starting full-time for New York by week four. As the New York Post reports, Tebow already has future Jets cheerleaders on his side.

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SIX BITS: coaches, Beal, NBA, Andrews, Schutte

1 » The Florida Gators recently let their own senior writer, GatorZone’s Scott Carter, in the football meeting rooms for two days as coaches watched film and prepared for spring practice. Three notes in particular stood out in the piece. (1) Former NFL safety Lance Schulters dropped by the facility. (2) Head coach Will Muschamp “fiery” when learning that some of his players’ lean-body mass and fast mass figures were not up to par. (3) Former Boise State backup quarterback Bush Hamdan is a football intern with the team. Doing a bit of research, former Florida graduate assistant Ryan Solesky (2006-09) has also returned to intern with the team.

2 » Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal has the NBA in his future but whether or not he decides to go pro after this season is a decision he has yet to make. “I have no clue,” he said. “I haven’t even really thought about it. Right now, I don’t know. I haven’t put too much thought into it. When that time comes I’m going to talk to Coach [Billy] Donovan and my family and we’re going to have to sit down and talk about it. When that time comes, it comes.” Beal also said he will be happy no matter what he decides. “If I leave, I still played a great year of college. I enjoyed it,” he said. “If I stay, it’s only going to make me get better. Either way it goes, I’m gaining something positive out of it.”

3 » Two former Florida players had top-notch performances in the NBA on Tuesday. Memphis Grizzlies center Marreese Speights scored a season- and team-high 25 points on 12-of-20 shooting with seven rebounds, five assists, a steal and a block in a 116-111 double-overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Just under 500 miles away, forward Chandler Parsons scored a team-high 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting with seven boards, six dimes and a steal to lead his Houston Rockets over Oklahoma City. Parsons also registered another impressive dunk, this time over Serge Ibaka.

4 » Could Erin Andrews’s time at ESPN be drawing to a close? The network confirmed to SportsBusiness Journal this week that the ACC Tournament was “the last scheduled assignment for Erin Andrews” as her “contract [is] coming up.” However, the Worldwide Leader also said that they “hope to renew her.” Andrews signed a two-year deal with ESPN in 2010, one that saw her duties increase. In addition to doing sideline reporting and working on stories for College GameDay, Andrews was given hosting duties for the first hour of the program on ESPNU and a role on Good Morning America on ABC. She was even on the red carpet interviewing celebrities prior to this year’s Oscars. Andrews had a number of intriguing offers for her services in 2010 and is expected to have as many – if not more – as she is set to become a free agent again this year.

5 » No. 4 Gators softball’s title chances have taken a hit as it appears that junior catcher Brittany Schutte, the team’s batting average leader (.477) who also has three homers and 23 RBIs in the young season, broke her jaw on March 2 and is out of action indefinitely. “If we get her back at all this season, it won’t be for a long time,” head coach Tim Walton told The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley. Schutte has already missed eight games and “had surgery on March 5 to insert a plate in her jaw and wire it shut.” With Florida losing so many power hitters to graduation last season, Schutte’s bit bat fit in nicely in the middle of the lineup. The Gators will be unable to replace her hitting but have classmate Kelsey Horton filling in for her behind the plate.

6 » Florida women’s basketball earned an at-large berth to the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Monday, learning that they will be participating in the event for the 13th time in school history and first since 2009. The Gators will take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in first-round action on Sunday with the winner likely facing the undefeated and top-ranked Baylor in second-round action. Below is a video courtesy of GatorVision.tv of the team celebrating their berth.

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FOUR BITS: Noah, McDonald, Haden, Andrews

1 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah has had a star-studded last few days. In addition to being introduced along with the rest of his team by comedian Will Ferrell before Wednesday night’s game (“He’s a Scorpio and a horrible dancer,” Ferrell said of Noah), he was also name-dropped during the latest episode of the sitcom Whitney on NBC. Following a Chicago-Philadelphia game last week, Noah met up with champion eater Takeru Kobayashi, a greeting that was captured by his YouTube channel.

2 » Speaking of Noah, the Bulls’ star center told the Chicago Tribune last month that his rough start to the 2011-12 season was in part due to the pressure he felt after signing a five-year, $60 million contract extension in 2010. “Sometimes you feel like because you’re given so much money you’re expected to do things. That’s not the right mentality to have as a player,” he explained. “I have to play my game. I have to have fun out there. If I don’t, I’m not the same player.” Without an offseason to work on some of the kinks in his game, Noah started exceptionally slow, shooting poorly and turning the ball over more often than he should be. Now back into the swing of things, he has posted double-digit points in eight of his last 10 games (including five-straight double-doubles from Jan 23-30). “I’ve always been a player who reacts well to criticism and doubters,” Noah said. “I feel my teammates were always behind me. But I knew as well as anyone how poorly I was playing. And not only wasn’t I playing well, but I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. I wasn’t playing loose out there. I was playing tight. In the beginning of the year, I was overthinking a lot. I was going through a lot of things personally. I feel a lot more comfortable now. I have to stop overthinking and just play.”

3 » San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald, who was a full-time starter in 2011 for the first time in his career and played exceptionally well throughout the season, was arrested early Wednesday for an outstanding warrant after being pulled over by police for a traffic violation. McDonald had been arrested in 2010 for suspicion of driving under the influence to which he pleaded no contest and was sentenced to probation that included a fine and a requirement to complete a first offender’s DUI class. With no proof of that class having been completed, a warrant was issued on Aug. 9, according to the Sacramento Bee. Police said McDonald was cooperative with authorities upon being pulled over and arrested and was released early the next morning. He is not expected to face any additional discipline from the NFL or his team.

4 » Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden is a unique guy both on and off the field. In addition to being one of the best secondary players in the NFL, he has also found a soft spot for the city of Cleveland and has embraced his fans nationwide through his Twitter account. Below are a few pictures he has tweeted recently (clockwise) of him shooting pool on a table filled with his sneakers, hanging out with Erin Andrews (“We should have done the @TimTebow pose!), “Tebowing” in front of his Rolls-Royce Phantom and showing off his newest draft day tattoo. He did not tweet the final picture, which has been spread online via a variety of sports blogs.

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Erin Andrews caught in Baylor Gatorade shower

Coaches are not the only ones getting Gatorade showers these days. Working as a sideline reporter for No. 22 Baylor’s 45-38 upset of No. 5 Oklahoma Saturday night on ABC, ESPN’s Erin Andrews was caught in the crossfire of one just seconds after interviewing Robert Griffin III (21/34, 479 yards, four touchdowns, 72 rushing yards) on the field in the middle of the school’s student body. She appeared rather happy afterwards seeing as it was the first time it had happened in her career. Andrews posted the following video on YouTube shortly after being covered in Gatorade.

Erin Andrews on Twitter:
Such an awesome night..even tho my iPhone is not working well after G’ade bath..so blessed to be doing what I’ve always wanted to do..

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FOUR BITS: Tebow’s billboard, Hill’s thoughts, Brown’s new gig, Andrews on Kimmel

1 » The billboard in downtown Denver, CO featuring words and images supporting Denver Broncos back-up quarterback Tim Tebow has finally arrived – just not by the hands of those who promised to erect it in the first place. According to the Denver Post, a company named Multiline International Imports decided to utilize a large digital sign by their business (located just east of the I-25 highway) for this purpose. Check out the Post’s story on the billboard, which also includes one additional picture of it.

2 » Former Florida Gators safety Will Hill, who signed with the AFL’s Arizona Rattlers on Wednesday, told the Palm Beach Post Friday that he did not regret leaving Florida early and he would have made the same move still knowing the path his career has taken. He also said that his use of marijuana at the University of Florida was the main reason teams did not sign him even as an undrafted free agent.

“I had smoked in college,” he told the Post. “It wasn’t about failing drug tests, but the coaches knew I smoked, and that’s what the NFL asked about. My problem was off the field. By me doing this I can stay in shape and still look at the NFL. I had off the field problems like partying and things. That’s what kept me from the NFL. If I clean up my act and show I can still play, I can still get there.”

Read a BIT on Jenn Brown and watch another of Erin Andrews…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Tebow’s billboard, Hill’s thoughts, Brown’s new gig, Andrews on Kimmel

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No. 22 Florida Gators vs. FAU Owls Gameday

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 72°F, partly cloudy
Time: 7:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPNU/ESPNUHD
SiriusXM: 205
Online Audio: GatorVision.tv
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(22) FLORIDA GATORS FLORIDA ATLANTIC OWLS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Howard Schnellenberger
Record: 0-0 Record: 0-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Sun Belt
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -34.5; O/U 50

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on the Gators after a long offseason? No problem. OGGOA has been here the entire time. Check out the links below and do your homework on the team’s offseason before the final exam Saturday evening.

Latest depth chart | Weis comments on offense | Quinn comments on defense

ESPN COLLEGE GAMEDAY

As first reported by OGGOA last Friday, former Florida dazzler now ESPN reporter Erin Andrews was in Gainesville, FL on Monday to interview Muschamp. The segment will air live on College GameDay (which starts at 10 a.m. ET on ESPN) and will be followed by a discussion between Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso about Muschamp and what impact he will have on the team in 2011 and going forward.

A clip of Andrews’s interview with Muschamp is available below:

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is 1-0 in the all-time series against Florida Atlantic, defeating them 59-20 in 2007, the only time the teams squared off.
» The Gators have never lost a game against a current member of the Sun Belt and are 13-0 against such opponents.
» Florida is 77-27 all-time to start the season and 62-6 in the friendly confines of Florida Field. The Gators have won 21 consecutive season openers, the second-longest streak in the country (Nebraska, 25) and best in the SEC by 10 games.
» Muschamp will take the field with Florida as the team’s head coach for the first time on Saturday. He has never served as a head coach on the collegiate level before and, at 40-years-old, is the second-youngest to hold said position in the SEC (Dan Mullen, 39).
» On the other side, Schnellenberger will be beginning his 27th year at the helm of a college football program – his last as he will retire at the conclusion of the 2011 season. He is 157-140-3 all-time and 57-63 at FAU since taking over the team 11 years ago.
» After defeating the Gators the first three times he faced them with Miami (1979-81), Schnellenberger has failed to notch another win. All four of his losses (1982, 1983, 1992, 2007) were games played in Gainesville, where he has not won in 31 years.
» The Gators’ have half as many upperclassmen (17 seniors, 17 juniors) as they do underclassmen (36 sophomores, 35 freshmen) on the roster heading into the season.
» Florida has won 88 percent of its home games (117-16) since 1990, the best home winning percentage in the nation. In that period, the Gators are 55-4 against non-conference opponents and 92-4 against unranked teams.

LAST TIME OUT

Florida and Florida Atlantic have only met on one other occasion – Nov. 17, 2007 – when the Gators stomped the Owls 59-20. Quarterback Tim Tebow went 25/34 for 338 yards with three touchdowns and an interception through the air and also rushed 11 times for 31 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Andre Caldwell did most of the receiving with 13 catches for 164 yards, but tight end Cornelius Ingram corralled a pair of touchdowns and 60 receiving yards. After UF scored 21 unanswered points in the first quarter, FAU answered back with 13 points to start the second quarter. However, the Gators outscored the Owls 38-7 the rest of the way to hold on for the victory.

INJURIES

» Active: Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (back)
» Questionable: Redshirt junior cornberback Jeremy Brown (knee), redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finley (shoulder), redshirt junior receiver Omarius Hines (hamstring)
» Inactive: Freshman tight end A.C. Leonard (torn meniscus)

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Brantley…who completed only 60.8 percent of his passes (200-of-329) for 2,061 yards with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2010 butis said to have been revitalized by offensive coordinator Charlie Weis’s pro-style system.
» Running backs senior Jeff Demps and redshirt senior Chris Rainey…who are co-starters in the backfield and two of the most dynamic and explosive players in the SEC. Demps and Rainey, both of whom missed game time in 2010, combined for 917 rushing yards (6.4 yards per carry) and five touchdowns on the ground as well as 332 receiving yards and three scores through the air.
» Sophomore Trey Burton…who is the team’s most versatile player and proved that fact last year, scoring 12 touchdowns as a true freshman including 11 on the ground. Burton will line up all over the field for the Gators and could be found as a running back, fullback, H-back, tight end or wide receiver.
» Sophomore safety Matt Elam…who stood out all offseason as the most valuable member of Florida’s secondary. Elam played in all 13 games in 2010 and is looking to make a name for himself this year.
» Sophomore buck linebacker Ronald Powell…who steps into a brand new position somewhat unique to Muschamp’s defense. Powell only started one game as a true freshman but will be entrenched from the get-go in 2011 as a hybrid player.
» Sophomore defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd…who is a defensive tackle but moved to defensive end this year to help the team. Floyd also started one game as a true freshman but plenty of pressure on his massive shoulders as a full-time starter in 2011.
» Redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard…who is the man in the middle for the Gators and is the most experienced player (17 starts) on his side of the ball.
» Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs…who returns for Florida after missing the final eight games of the 2010 season with an injured back. His consistency on special teams should help the Gators be more confident overall.

FLORIDA ATLANTIC
» RB Alfred Morris…who was the team’s leading rusher in 2010 with 928 yards and seven TDs. A redshirt senior, Morris is being counted on as the Owls’ primary playmaker.
» QBs Graham Wilbert…who will make his first start for FAU. The signal caller battled for his job all spring and summer but is very inexperienced only having thrown five passes in his college career.

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