Erin Andrews is moving to Fox Sports. SI.com has learned the network hired the former ESPN personality to host a new 30-minute prime-time college football studio show, which premieres Sept. 1 before Fox Sports' coverage of Hawaii at USC. Andrews will also have other assignments at Fox Sports, including a role in its NFL and MLB coverage.
"This was a difficult move but it was the right move because it's allowing me to do so many things that I probably would not have been able to do had I stayed at ESPN," Andrews told SI.com on Sunday night. "It's a different way to expand my role. I'm not tired yet. I don't want to hang it up. I just need to get better and these were different opportunities that I would not be able to find anywhere but at Fox Sports."
Andrews would not say what her specific role is on the NFL (Fox has sideline openings) but that announcement is expected to come this week. "The NFL was a huge thing; it's always been a dream," Andrews said. "I always wanted to work in the NFL and they are offering me a role in it."
As first reported by SI.com, Fox Sports executives met with Andrews in Los Angeles earlier this week to discuss a role in Fox's college football coverage. Andrews' agents at IMG informed ESPN on Friday that she would not be returning to the network after the expiration of her contract at the end of June. Shortly after SI.com reported that Fox was aggressively pursuing Andrews, ESPN released a statement Friday night. "Erin Andrews is leaving ESPN," an ESPN spokesperson said. "She did great work for us and we made an aggressive offer to keep her. We wish her the best on her next chapter."
Andrews said that ESPN was very aggressive in trying to keep her, but there was not one job at the network that would have convinced her to stay. "This wasn't easy for me at all," she said. "I have had two days of difficult phone calls and I will probably have another week of that. They wanted me back and a lot of my co-workers thought it was happening. They were expecting I was coming back. I thought ESPN was wonderful. [ESPN president John] Skipper and [ESPN executive vice president of production John] Wildhack worked very hard and asked what they could do. They were fantastic. This has not been an easy decision at all."
Unlike ESPN, which has plenty of high-profile college football talent, Fox Sports is relatively light on name broadcasters in the sport. Last year, Fox hired Gus Johnson as its lead college football game-caller, and Andrews represents another well-known broadcasting figure to compete with ESPN. Andrews said that she would not close out the idea of doing sideline reporting on college games for Fox, though hosting the prime-time show is her priority.
Fox invested heavily in college football over the last 24 months, including entering a 12-year agreement with the Pac-12 this year covering broadcast, national and local cable, and digital assets, and will air a minimum of eight regular-season football games on Fox Sports, at least four in prime time. Last year, Fox Sports and the Big 12 reached a 13-year agreement for exclusive cable rights to 40 football games per season. Fox will air the Pac-12 championship game on Nov. 30, the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 1 and the Big 12/SEC Cotton Bowl Classic on Jan 4, 2013.
Andrews, 34, joined ESPN in 2004 and had covered Major League Baseball and the College World Series in addition to college basketball and college football for that network. When she re-signed with ESPN two years ago, her role expanded with the addition of a hosting position during the first hour of an expanded College GameDay program on ESPNU. Joining Fox is somewhat of a homecoming: Andrews began as a sports reporter at Fox Sports Florida in 2000.
Two years ago Andrews appeared on Dancing with the Stars, and the possibility exists she could be involved in some entertainment option under the Fox umbrella. Earlier this year, Andrews appeared in the Adam Sandler comedy "That's My Boy" and has worked as a correspondent for Entertainment Tonight. During her interview with SI.com, Andrews said she wants to expand her role in entertainment and is opening looking for opportunities. "But I wanted to take care of my sports contract before I worried about anything else," she said. "There are some things we are talking about right now and possibly looking at."
Asked who she thought would take her sideline role at ESPN, Andrews predicted Tom Rinaldi. "I think Tom Rinaldi is one of the best," Andrews said. "The guy is amazing. I don't know anything but that's my vote, even though it [my vote] doesn't matter anyway."