Behind the Mic: Tony Romo Secures $17 Million Per Year Bag; NBC Derails ESPN’s MNF Dream Team of Michaels, Manning

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, CBS Sports awards its prized NFL analyst, ESPN’s pipedream for Monday Night Football takes a massive hit, the commentary teams for March Madness are announced, and a Baseball Hall of Famer joins ESPN.

Tony Romo is officially the highest-paid analyst in sports broadcasting. In an announcement made at the beginning of March, CBS Sports reached a long-term extension with the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback to the tune of $17 million per year until the deal expires in 10 years. Despite ESPN’s best efforts to poach Romo for their Monday Night Football broadcasts, he’ll stay put with CBS.

After 14 years in the NFL, Romo was hired by the network in 2017 and has become a notable face in the booth on Sundays alongside acclaimed play-by-play man Jim Nantz

…In other football news, ESPN responded to the Romo news with its own grandiose move by attempting to pair NBC Sports’ Al Michaels with free-agent football talent Peyton Manning. Reported last week by The New York Post, the four-letter network would have to propose a trade in order to obtain Michaels, who is still under contract with NBC. The hypothetical duo of Michaels and Manning would pair two of the greats in their own respective industries.

In a new development, The New York Post now is reporting that the proposal offered by ESPN has been declined by NBC. The contract that Michaels is under is set to expire in two seasons, with the long-anticipated Mike Tirico waiting in the wings to return to the NFL broadcast booth on a long-term basis since his time calling games on Monday Night Football for ESPN…

…Turner Sports and CBS Sports will once again feature a marquee lineup of announcers for their 10th year of combined coverage of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. All 67 games from the 2020 NCAA Tournament will be televised across four national television networks – TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV – and via NCAA March Madness Live, beginning Tuesday, March 17, with the NCAA First Four on truTV.

This year’s NCAA Final Four National Semifinals on Saturday, April 4, and National Championship on Monday, April 6, from Atlanta will be called by Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, and reporter Tracy Wolfson on TBS, with “TeamCast” presentations returning on TNT and truTV. Gene Steratore will return as rules analyst throughout the Tournament.

New commentator roles for this year’s coverage will include:

  • Dwyane Wade joining studio coverage from Atlanta for the Final Four and National Championship
  • Wally Szczerbiak moving into a game analyst role through the Tournament’s first weekend
  • Adam Zucker hosting the Atlanta studio show for the first week of Tournament action
  • Lauren Shehadi serving as a game reporter through the Round of 32
  • Adam Lefkoe joining televised coverage for the first time, providing game updates from New York.

Ernie Johnson and Greg Gumbel will again host studio coverage from the CBS Broadcast Center in New York during the first full week of the tournament, joined by Charles Barkley, Clark Kellogg, and Kenny Smith. Johnson will host studio coverage from Atlanta during the second week of tournament action on Thursday and Friday, while Gumbel will anchor coverage from CBS Studios. Studio coverage originating from Turner Studios in Atlanta, hosted by Zucker during the first week, will feature Brendan Haywood, Seth Davis, Candace Parker, and college coaches to be announced. Lefkoe will provide game updates.

Following is the complete list of announcer pairings:

  • Nantz/Raftery/Hill/Wolfson
  • Brian Anderson/Chris Webber/Allie LaForce
  • Ian Eagle/Jim Spanarkel/Jamie Erdahl
  • Kevin Harlan/Reggie Miller/Dan Bonner/Dana Jacobson
  • Brad Nessler/Jim Jackson/Evan Washburn
  • Spero Dedes/Steve Smith/Szczerbiak/Lisa Byington
  • Andrew Catalon/Steve Lappas/Shehadi
  • Carter Blackburn/Debbie Antonelli/John Schriffen

…Baseball Hall-of-Famer Chipper Jones has joined ESPN to serve as a Major League Baseball analyst. The World Series Champion and eight-time MLB All-Star will debut as part of ESPN’s Opening Day coverage on Thursday, March 26, as the game analyst for the San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers telecast at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Jones will primarily serve as an ESPN MLB game analyst, contributing to Opening Day, weeknight baseball, and Holiday Baseball coverage. In addition to his Opening Day assignment, Jones will be in the ESPN booth for two more opening week games: the New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays telecast on Monday, March 30, at 7 p.m. ET and the World Series Champion Washington Nationals home-opener on Thursday, April 2, at 1 p.m. when they host the New York Mets. He previously made two appearances as a guest analyst for ESPN in 2019…

…Announced a few weeks ago via social card and the Houston Chronicle, SportsCenter anchor Hannah Storm has signed a new, multi-year contract to remain with ESPN…

…Golf Channel’s Golf Central Live outlined its plans for the 2020 golf season, beginning at TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course with Golf Central Live From THE PLAYERS (Monday-Sunday, March 9-15). Among the new elements slated for the program this year, five-time LPGA Tour winner (and major champion) Michelle Wie West will join the program as a contributing analyst. Additionally, Golf Channel analyst Justin Leonard (12-time PGA TOUR winner and major champion) will transition to show’s primetime telecasts, beginning at THE PLAYERS.

Wie West, the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open champion, will contribute to Golf Central Live From at THE PLAYERS Championship next week, along with the PGA Championship in May and the Ryder Cup in September. She made her Golf Channel guest analyst debut in 2019 as a studio analyst for the network’s Solheim Cup news coverage on Golf Central.

Leonard joined Golf Channel as an analyst in 2015, and in addition to his role on Golf Central, he also contributes to the network’s PGA TOUR live tournament coverage…

Kimberley A. Martin, who has covered the National Football League as a national writer and team beat reporter for more than a decade, has joined ESPN as an NFL reporter. Martin will cover the league year-round and contribute to ESPN’s NFL shows, SportsCenter,, and more. She officially started on March 9.

Martin joins ESPN from Yahoo Sports where she served as a senior NFL writer since 2018. During her tenure, she co-hosted an all-female weekly football show, Cover 3, conducted regular on-camera sit-downs with league executives and players, wrote columns, features and profiles on industry luminaries such as Hall of Famer Troy Aikman and broadcasting legend Pam Oliver.

Jac Collinsworth, who has covered the NFL for the last three seasons as a host and features reporter at ESPN, is returning to NBC Sports Group beginning in March. He will work across a wide range of NBC Sports properties, including the Olympics, NFL, and Notre Dame Football, on linear and digital platforms.

Collinsworth, the son of NBC Sunday Night Football analyst Cris Collinsworth, rejoins NBC Sports Group, where he previously worked on Notre Dame Football in on- and off-camera capacities. He also served as NBC Olympics’ first-ever social media correspondent at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

With ESPN during the 2017-19 NFL seasons, Collinsworth interviewed star players and coaches – often in unconventional settings – showing their personalities and telling their stories. He also anchored NFL Live and hosted Sunday NFL Countdown segments. In July 2019, he was named host of The Huddle, the signature football program on ESPN’s ACC Network…

…Legal analyst and host Ryan Smith has signed a new multiyear contract extension with ESPN. Smith will continue his duties as a legal analyst, a host on Outside the Lines and SportsCenter and a correspondent on E:60. Smith will also continue as a contributor on ABC News…

…Current INDYCAR driver for Andretti Autosport and fan-favorite James Hinchcliffe has joined NBC Sports as a motorsports analyst for 2020. He will serve as a driver analyst for a majority of NBC Sports’ 2020 INDYCAR race coverage, providing reports from pit road and will make his debut at the season-opener in St. Petersburg, FL, the weekend of March 13-15.

Hinchcliffe’s on-air schedule will include the Grand Prix of Long Beach on the streets of Long Beach, CA; his home race, the Honda Indy Toronto on the streets of Toronto; and the season finale at Laguna Seca in Monterey, CA. He will also be part of NBC Sports’ comprehensive coverage in the week prior to competing in the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 on NBC.

In addition to his role on INDYCAR coverage, Hinchcliffe will provide analysis during NBC Sports’ NASCAR coverage from Indianapolis Motor Speedway during Fourth of July weekend. He will also serve as an analyst for select IMSA races, beginning with Sebring on March 20-21, and will contribute to Indy Lights coverage on NBC Sports Gold’s INDYCAR Pass throughout the year…

…Former unified super welterweight champion Julian Williams and former IBF Cruiserweight Champion Steve Cunningham join Emmy Award-winning host Chris Myers to call FS1 PBC Fight NightL James Kirkland vs. Marcos Hernandez live on FS1 Saturday, March 14. Cunningham and Williams are joined by reorter Jordan Plant and blow-by-blow announcer Ray Flores to call the prelim action.

On Fox Deportes, Jessi Losada and Jaime Motta will be on the call.

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