Behind the Mic: Adnan Virk Out at ESPN; Mike Tirico To Call First NHL Play-by-Play

Behind the Mic provides a roundup of recent news regarding on-air talent, including new deals, departures, and assignments compiled from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, ESPN fires Adnan Virk over a reported information leak, Mike Tirico will call an NHL game for the first time in his career, Chris Simms joins NBC Sports, the network’s Bay Area anchor Ahmed Fareed is added to NBC Sports national studio, the on-air team for the NBA All-Star Celebrity game is announced, a pair of talent rounds out Fox Sports’ NASCAR coverage for the 2019 season, and the Overwatch League introduces their broadcast personalities.

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According to The New York Post, ESPN’s Adnan Virk has been fired due to allegations of leaking confidential information to the media. A notable baseball, college basketball, and college football personality at the network, the firing comes after Virk signed a four-year contract extension. Virk’s termination stems from potential leaks to Awful Announcing about the future of MLB on ESPN, including the schedule of Baseball Tonight

…For the first time in his career, Mike Tirico will call play-by-play for an NHL game, when the Detroit Red Wings host the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday Night Hockey, on Wednesday, February 20, at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

During an illustrious broadcasting career spanning three decades, Tirico has served in lead play-by-play roles for coverage of the NFL, NBA, tennis, golf, college football, college basketball, and college lacrosse, but NBCSN’s Wednesday Night Hockey telecast will be his first NHL play-by-play assignment.

Tirico, who is synonymous with NBC Sports’ biggest events, is the host for NBC’s primetime Olympics coverage, as well as Football Night in America – the most-watched studio show in sports. He also hosts NBC Sports Group’s Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup coverage, marquee PGA TOUR events and The Open, and serves as the play-by-play voice for Notre Dame Football and select NFL games.

Since joining NBC Sports Group, Tirico has been a part of several NHL events, hosting NBC Sports’ coverage of the 2019 NHL All-Star Game, the 2019 NHL Winter Classic, as well as Games 1 and 4 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

Tirico will be joined in the booth by U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member and analyst Eddie Olczyk, and ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst Brian Boucher.

“I’m thrilled to be calling my first NHL game,” said Tirico. “Growing up in New York, and now living in Metro Detroit, I’ve always loved the sport of hockey as a fan, attending as many games as possible each season. So the chance to call a game is a bucket list item for me. Covering the Stanley Cup Final, Winter Classic, and NHL All-Star Game has given me the chance to work with our great NHL on NBC team, and know I’m in good hands working with Edzo and Brian in Detroit…”

…Former NFL quarterback and current analyst Chris Simms will join NBC Sports Group exclusively in March 2019 to contribute to its NFL and college football coverage across NBC Sports’ broadcast, cable, and digital platforms.

Simms is currently a studio analyst and contributor across numerous NBC Sports TV programs, including Football Night in America, Notre Dame Football, and PFT Live, which he regularly co-hosts with Mike Florio on NBCSN and NBC Sports Radio.

Beginning in March 2019, Simms will also produce daily NFL and college football content exclusively for NBC Sports’ numerous digital and social platforms, a space where he built a popular following while formerly co-hosting Bleacher Report’s digital program Simms and Lefkoe…

Ahmed Fareed, an anchor and reporter for NBC Sports Bay Area for the past six years, will join NBC Sports Group’s national networks (NBC and NBCSN) to work as a host and reporter on a variety of events and properties. Fareed, who served as a studio host for NBCUniversal’s presentations of the 2016 Rio Olympics and 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, begins his new role hosting Premiership Rugby on NBCSN on March 1 (11 a.m. ET).

Most recently, from 2013-18, Fareed served as a host and reporter for NBC Sports Bay Area and NBC Sports California (previously Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and Comcast SportsNet California), covering Northern California’s teams: MLB’s San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s, NBA’s Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings, NHL’s San Jose Sharks, MLS’ San Jose Earthquakes, and NFL’s San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders. A two-time Emmy Award-winner, he served as an anchor and reporter for the Giants Pregame Live and Giants Postgame Live, SportsNet Central, and various studio shows. While at NBC Sports Bay Area, Fareed covered a Giants World Series Championship (2014) and three Warriors Championships (2015, 2017, 2018). …

…ESPN and the NBA today announced the broadcast team for the 2019 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game presented by Ruffles, which will air exclusively on ESPN and the ESPN App, Friday, Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. ET  Cassidy Hubbarth will return as the host with play-by-play voice Mark Jones providing commentary. Chiney Ogwumike will make her first appearance as an analyst, while popular television and radio personality Peter Rosenberg rounds out the quartet. Ogwumike and Rosenberg will serve as roaming analysts and special guests will join the team during the telecast…

… Fox Sports finalized the lineup for their 2019 Fox NASCAR studio schedule. The latest additions to the Fox NASCAR roster are veteran TV hosts Lindsay Czarniak and Sara Walsh, who come aboard as studio hosts for NASCAR Race Hub: Weekend Edition and Thursday NASCAR Race Hub shows. Czarniak and Walsh, who split weekend hosting duties for Fox NASCAR, have forged similar career paths on their journey to Fox Sports.

Czarniak and Walsh will be joining a full cast of characters. Multi-sport broadcaster Shannon Spake continues to expand her on-air resume by hosting Fox NASCAR’s coverage of all Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series races. She also anchors NASCAR Raceday, Fox Sports’ prerace show for the Cup Series, and NASCAR Raceday – Xfinity, its prerace show for the Xfinity Series. Joining Spake in the Charlotte virtual studio for the aforementioned programming are Fox NASCAR analysts Larry McReynolds, Jamie McMurray, Ricky Craven, Bobby Labonte, and on occasion, Michael Waltrip and Regan Smith

…The 2019 Overwatch League unveiled its on-air broadcast talent that will lead fans through this year’s games. Along with the talent returning from the Overwatch League inaugural season, some fresh faces will be joining the team to provide unique insider perspectives and fresh analysis of every exciting Overwatch League moment. Returning to the set are Chris PuckettMalik FortéSoe Gschwind, Josh “Sideshow” WilkinsonBrennon “Bren” HookChristopher “MonteCristo” MyklesErik “DoA” LonnquistMitch “Uber” LeslieMatthew “Mr. X” MorelloAuguste “Semmler” MassonnatRobert “Hexagrams” Kirkbride, and Danny Lim. New members include Wolf SchröderSeth “Achilios” KingEmily Tang, and Mica Burton.