Chris Berman to leave longtime ESPN gigs at end of 2016 NFL season
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One of ESPN’s foundational on-air talents will be stepping aside from his longtime gigs at the end of the 2016 NFL season.
Chris Berman will not return as the host of Sunday NFL Countdown, Monday Night Countdown and ESPN’s NFL draft coverage, coinciding with the end of his current contract. What has not been determined is whether Berman will retire in full from ESPN. According to ESPN sources, the possibility exists for Berman, 61, to have some sort of broadcasting emeritus role in 2017–18, which could include working on the network’s NFL postseason or Super Bowl coverage.
The news of Berman stepping down from ESPN was first reported by The Big Lead. An ESPN spokesperson declined comment to SI.com. Late on Thursday night, Richard Sandomir, The New York Times sports business reporter, tweeted out a quote from Berman’s agent, Lou Oppenheim: “Chris is not retiring. Loves what he’s doing too much and is too young to hang ’em up. Perhaps people with an agenda put it out there.”
As for possible replacements for Berman, an ESPN source said that no decisions or discussions have happened yet as far as taking over Berman’s chair on Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown. The two host roles could very likely be split between two people and there is a possibility ESPN would look outside its own company. Trey Wingo would be the logical replacement for Berman on the NFL draft’s Day 1 coverage.
Berman joined ESPN in October 1979, one month after the company’s inception, at the age of 24. The 2015 season was his 31st consecutive as studio host of Sunday NFL Countdown, having doubled Brent Musburger’s 15-year record as the longest-running host of a weekly pro football studio show, according to ESPN. He and longtime colleague Tom Jackson teamed together from 1987 to 2005 to host the critically acclaimed NFL PrimeTime. The host has anchored ESPN’s annual NFL draft telecast since 1987 and has taken part in the overall coverage of the draft since ’81.
Among his non-NFL assignments: Berman served as a play-by-play commentator for ESPN Major League Baseball games, including division playoff coverage from 1996 to 2006 (He called Cal Ripken’s 2,131st consecutive game Sept. 6, 1995). He has also hosted Baseball Tonight and the Home Run Derby, and 2016 marks his 30th World Series for ESPN, including the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. Berman covered the U.S. Open golf tournament from 1986 to 2014 as well as the 2002–03 and 2003–04 Stanley Cup Playoffs for ESPN and ABC.
As for ESPN’s flagship news show, SportsCenter, Berman served as a host from 1979 to ’90 and also made various guest spots in later years.
“I never could have dreamed that ESPN would be my home as a young man in his 20s all the way to a not-so-young man in his 60s,” Berman said when he re-signed a contract in 2012. “It’s always been a privilege to work alongside thousands of colleagues who love the sports we cover and the people who make them so special.”