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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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: Bilas, Lunardi, Young, lacrosse

1 » Speaking with ESPN’s Jay Bilas early in the week, OGGOA was told by the college basketball analyst that he believes the Florida Gators‘ problems begin and end with the players and not head coach Billy Donovan. “I think this is a player issue, I don’t think this is a coaching issue,” he said. “When you’re watching a team and you say, ‘Geez, it doesn’t look like they’re going after it as hard as they’re capable of doing.’ That’s not the coach, that’s the players.” Bilas maintains that Florida losing Will Yeguete is a bigger deal than maybe even fans understood at the time because of “his ability to come in and do dirty work” along with his size, length and the fact that the team does not have to run plays for him while he’s on the court. He is most concerned with the group’s passion, something Donovan has spoken at length about recently.

“I don’t think over the last two-three weeks or so, when I’ve watched them play, they’ve played hard but they haven’t ‘wowed’ you with how hard they played. And they haven’t ‘wowed’ you with how together they’ve been,” he said. “There was a time early in the year where I thought they were really a together group, and they don’t look as connected right now. That probably helps explain it. Maybe Will Yeguete not being there is a part of that. They’ve looked more individual than team lately. They’ve got some really good individual players, but it doesn’t really matter often times how good your individuals are. It’s how good they are collectively. I think Florida is really capable. I’ve watched them a lot this year. I like their team, but they haven’t played nearly as well as they’re capable of playing over the last two-three weeks.”

2 » OGGOA also got a chance to catch up with ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi, who currently has the Gators slotted as a five-seed and No. 17 overall. Lunardi admits that he is “relatively bullish” on Florida compared to some of his colleagues and said that UF’s loss on the road to Georgia did not hurt the team as much as some may think. “I would say [it dropped them] half a seed line,” he said. “It was a road game against a not-terrible team. It’s not like they lost to Georgia Southern on the road. I have them with two losses against teams not under consideration [for the tournament] and that would be at Georgia and at Rutgers, who [are] good but not great BCS teams on the road. Not killer losses in my eyes at all.” Furthermore, Lunardi noted that the Gators could push themselves to a low three or high four seed if they win the 2012 SEC Tournament (which would most likely include defeating No. 1 Kentucky) but must try to avoid losing in the second-round action against either Alabama or South Carolina. “We’ll just have to see where they go out if they don’t’ win the tournament and against who,” he said. “If the team that knocks them out is Kentucky, that’s not going to hurt them.”

3 » After sophomore center Patric Young went through what sounds like his worst practice in a Florida uniform on Wednesday, one in which Donovan came down exceptionally hard on him, he desperately in need of a pick-me-up. Young responded with two quality practices on Friday and Saturday and was then called into the Gators’ coaches offices where there was a phone call waiting to him. According to Florida, former Indianapolis Colts head coach, motivational speaker and mentor to athletes Tony Dungy was on the line to inspire and enlighten Young. “It was unbelievable to think that someone like that would take the time to talk to me,” he told the school’s website. Dungy told Young that he was also stubborn as a youngster but that succeeding in sports requires giving it 100 percent all the time and that he must “suck it up [and] take coaching better and come at it with a different mentality.” Young explains, “My whole life, I guess I didn’t take coaching very well and now, finally, it’s started to affect me. My coach my senior of high school, we butted heads every now and then, too. I wasn’t used to a guy getting on me like that. And Coach D is 10 times worse. He cusses at you and hurts your feelings.”

4 » No. 5 Gators lacrosse (5-2) picked up their first victory against a ranked opponent this season, defeating the No. 15 Georgetown Hoyas (2-1) 12-9 on the road in Washington, D.C. Florida jumped ahead to an early 3-0 lead but fell behind 4-3 before scoring three more goals to take a 6-3 lead with 7:02 left in the first period. The Gators led 7-5 at the break and basically traded goals with the Hoyas the rest of the way though neither team scored over the final 8:15 of the contest. Junior attacker Gabi Wiegand scored five goals on five shots and was supported by two goals each from classmates Kitty Cullen, Ashley Bruns and Caroline Chesterman. Florida will have a quick turnaround as the team returns home to host Temple on Saturday at 1 p.m.

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Billy Donovan says SEC schedule needs balance

When the Southeastern Conference signed a new television deal with ESPN in 2008, the network requested that the league adopt a scheduling format in which conference games were mostly played on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday so as many contests as possible could be aired on ESPN‘s array of channels.

Though commissioner Mike Slive received approval from the SEC’s coaches to adjust the schedule and make the deal, the league has found and continued to do its best to work out kinks in the scheduling ever since.

During No. 13/14 Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan‘s press conference on Monday, he spoke at length (nearly nine full minutes) about one major flaw in the schedule – teams being forced to play late games on Thursday and early games on Saturday. This type of scheduling, he argues, provides the players with little (if any) time to rest and the coaches with even less time to put a solid game plan in place.

Florida is set to face Ole Miss Thursday at 7 p.m. on the road before turning around and returning home to take on No. 16/18 Mississippi State on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

Donovan’s complete thoughts on the issue and how he believes it makes the SEC schedule unbalanced for some of the teams in the league is available…after the break.

Continue Reading » Billy Donovan says SEC schedule needs balance

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Tebow takes over SportsCenter for another hour

ESPN spent the vast majority of the 11 a.m. edition of its flagship program SportsCenter taking a look at Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow from a number of different angles on Thursday. The network spoke about Tebow for approximately 50 minutes while covering the some other news of the day in between his segments.

The show began with a highlight package of clips from Denver’s victory over Pittsburgh in the wild card round of the 2011-12 NFL Playoffs, capped by Tebow’s 80-yard touchdown pass in overtime to ice the game.

Read the rest of this TebowCenter post…after the break!
Continue Reading » Tebow takes over SportsCenter for another hour

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Top 11 for 2011: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2011 (check out Saturday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players ending their accomplished careers to coaches and current players being part of some of the biggest news stories this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2011. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 11 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

11 » LEGAL ISSUES/EMBARRASSMENTS HANG OVER PROGRAM
Like 2009 and 2010, Florida could not escape its share of unfortunate arrests and embarrassing incidents in 2011. It started simply enough early in February when a pair of Gators swimmers – Lily Ramirez and Daniela Victoria – were arrested and indefinitely suspended from the team after being accused of shoplifting from Nordstrom at the Orlando Mall. Next up was Florida senior outfielder Bryson Smith, who was picked up on March 13 for driving under the influence. Oakland Raiders wide receiver Louis Murphy was arrested in Gainesville, FL three weeks later and charged with a trio of misdemeanors for failing to obey a police officer, possession of a drug (Viagra) without a valid prescription and resisting arrest without violence. The month of April was a tough one for the basketball team. Forwards Erik Murphy and Cody Larson were arrested in St. Augustine, FL and charged with third-degree felony burglary charges after allegedly breaking into a car, and team manager Josh Adel was also arrested for principal to burglary for allegedly serving as a lookout. Charges against the players were eventually reduced and each settled their respective case, while Adel had all charges against him dropped. Additionally, former Florida F Dan Wener was charged with a DUI even though he blew below the legal limit (0.08) on the Breathalyzer twice. The State Attorney’s Office eventually dropped his charges due to insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction.

Unfortunately the year of brushes with the law was just getting started for the Gators. It surfaced on April 24 via a news report that both linebacker Chris Martin and defensive end Kendric Johnson were cited with misdemeanors for possessing approximately two grams of marijuana each in their respective vehicles on separate occasions. Former Florida WR Reche Caldwell was arrested one month later for possession of marijuana and driving with a suspended license. Gators runner Andries Dumisane Hlaselo had the darkest arrest of the year, being picked up in June after being accused of rape and sexual assault. He was immediately dismissed from the team. The Florida football team had the remainder of the year’s arrests. Sophomore safety Matt Elam was cited for underage drinking for the second time in as many years in July, and an August report noted that freshman defensive back De’Ante Saunders was cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana in May. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finely was arrested on Sept. 13 on a first-degree misdemeanor for driving a scooter with a suspended license as well as a third-degree felony for resisting arrest without violence, and freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson was served with a written arrest for underage drinking just one day later. Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley had the last brush with the law of 2011 as he was accused of attacking a former Alabama player early in October but was cleared of the charges one month later. All-in-all, for every positive thing accomplished by the Gators in 2011, there always seemed to be something negative about the program just around the corner.

10 » SIX BECOME A PART OF THE GATOR NATION IN THE SKY; THREE SUFFER SERIOUS MEDICAL ISSUES DURING THE YEAR
It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2011 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place or suffered through serious medical issues in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon or had plenty to deal with as the year went on. Jimmy Carnes (76), a former Gators track and field coach, passed away in March after losing a four-year battle with prostate cancer. Former linebacker/safety and three-time Super Bowl winner Godfrey Myles (42) suffered a massive heart attack in June and, while in the hospital on life support, had a stroke that took his life. Former punter and 12-year NFL veteran Don Chandler (76) also lost a long battle with cancer in August. Mike Heimerdinger (58), who was diagnosed with cancer early in the year, passed away in October. He was a former graduate assistant and wide receivers coach at Florida and won consecutive SEC titles with the team from 1984-85. Ending the year on a sad note, beloved Gainesville, FL businessman and former Gators long snapper Harold Monk III (42) died suddenly in December. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.

Florida freshman linebacker Neiron Ball was the first of three members of the Gators family to suffer serious health issues during the year. He was rushed to the hospital in February after a blood vessel in his brain ruptured as part of a congenital vascular condition. The doctors were able to stop the bleeding and Ball was released from the hospital four days later, but he was forced to miss the entire season for recovery purposes. In the middle of the year, Miami Heat guard/forward Mike Miller was lucky enough to have his wife give birth to a daughter named Jaylen. Unfortunately for the family, she was forced to spend two weeks in a pediatric intensive care unit after doctors found that she had five holes in her heart upon being born. The Millers eventually brought Jaylen home with them in a bit of a coincidence considering they actually donated $1 million to a pediatric intensive care unit at children’s hospital in his home town in 2007. Later that month, former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, which he is currently still recovering from and will continue to do so over the next few months.

Continue Reading » Top 11 for 2011: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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ESPN’s Hoge offers mea culpa on Tim Tebow

ESPN NFL analyst Merril Hoge, who sounded off on Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow on Twitter in August, writing that “it’s embarrassing to think the Broncos could win with Tebow,” began to change his tune about the second-year signal caller in an interview Monday with ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike in the Morning.

Though Hoge once believed that “college credentials do not transfer to NFL, rah-rah speeches do not work” and that someone like Tebow “must possess a skill set to play [and win],” he is beginning to rescind some of those comments.

“My analyst eyes have been clouded by something that’s more important in sports than trophies and Super Bowls,” Hoge said at the beginning of a two-minute exaltation (audio). “I wrote a book last year called “Find a Way,” and those words have always inspired me to help me live the dream and fight to live. The living part of the dream was playing in the NFL; the fighting part was to beat cancer when I was diagnosed with cancer.

“As I watch what Tim Tebow – and actually the Denver Broncos – are doing, I’m not saying they’re going to win a Super Bowl, but the lessons that they are showing what sports is about. Regardless of your skill set – and I’ve been obviously hard on Tim Tebow, very critical of him as a quarterback and his skill set. Those eyes have clouded probably something that’s more important in sports than a standard skill set but how you maximize that skill set. What you do with what you’ve been given and how you work at it, how you harness it, how you build it.

“Once guys get in the NFL, you can’t teach them anything anymore. They know everything. To watch a guy that has worked as diligently, a coaching staff that has molded an offense around what they do well, it’s a great life lesson. If they don’t win a Super Bowl, does that mean they’re not champions or they’re not winners? Absolutely not. In fact, I think that’s one of the wrong things in sports – if you don’t play in a Super Bowl or win a Super Bowl, you weren’t a champion or you weren’t a winner. There are so many people who never play there that are winners and are champions.

“And I’ve been wrong on a lot of levels with him. The opportunity now is to shed light on what an amazing story on how he has worked, persevered, changed, his diligence. All of those [are] things that you try to teach young people, that you want sports to really be about. What makes sports great is there are life lessons to be taught there.

“You have a certain skill set. Will you work hard on that skill set and will you give it all you have? You can look in the mirror [and say], ‘I gave it all I had, and I don’t have anything to be ashamed about or embarrassed by.’ That to me is what I see in the Denver Broncos and in Tim Tebow. I’ve been wrong on a lot of levels, and I’ve become now a huge fan in watching not only the Broncos play but Tim Tebow play.”

Hoge’s rants on Tebow did not conclude with his August tweets as he continued to dismiss the player’s success on numerous occasions via the network’s various media outlets. However, like so many others who once doubted Tebow’s ability to win, it appears as if Hoge is finally willing to let the results speak for themselves.

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ESPN going all-in with Tim Tebow on Wednesday

ESPN announced Tuesday that the network has decided to spend one full hour of SportsCenter on Wednesday (2-3 p.m.) highlighting, discussing and debating one man – Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.

The hour, which is expected to feature at least 10 separate segments on Tebow, will cover the NFL’s most debated player from a number of angles.

There will be highlights of his fourth-quarter comebacks, a live report from the Broncos facility, a touchscreen segment, a feature from Ed Werder “Winning the Tebow Way,” a top 10 consisting of Tebow’s greatest moments, and a segment dedicated to his fantasy football impact. ESPN will also have former players and current NFL analysts debating Tebow’s development on the field as well as his future in Denver.

OGGOA will feature live coverage of TebowCenter for the entire one-hour period on Wednesday via Twitter with a complete recap here on OnlyGators.com.

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