Behind the Mic: ESPN Re-Signs Two Personalities in Linda Cohn, Paul Finebaum; Brent Musburger Returns to Booth With Oakland Raiders

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 re-signs Linda Cohn and Paul Finebaum to new deals, Brent Musburger reportedly is making a return to the booth, Marcus Spears and Laura Rutledge join Finebaum on ESPN with multiyear extensions of their own, Rutledge will continue her ESPN duties on the Monday Night Football braodcast of Jets-Lions with Beth Mowins and Brian GrieseSean McDonough heads ESPN’s college football broadcast assignments, Jonathan Vilma reups with ESPN for College Football Saturdays, Fs1 adds former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans to their coverage of UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Smith, and Abner Mares will join the team at Boxeo Telemundo.

Hall of Fame sportscaster Linda Cohn, a fixture on ESPN for more than 26 years and the longest-tenured anchor for the network’s signature news and information program SportsCenter, has signed a new deal to remain with the company.

Cohn joined ESPN in 1992 and anchored her first SportsCenter on July 11, 1992. She was recognized in 2016 for her 5,000th episode of SportsCenter, the most of any anchor in ESPN history. And in 2017, she was inducted into the National Sports Media Association (NSMA) Hall of Fame.

“Linda continues to deliver outstanding work for us on SportsCenter and everything else she does,” says Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president and executive editor, studio production. “She’s hosted more SportsCenters than anyone else and her passion and devotion have made her a legend, but it’s the quality of her performance every time the red light goes on that makes her such a valuable member of our team.

“We’re delighted that she’ll still be connecting with sports fans on ESPN platforms for many more years.”

Fittingly, Cohn used a sports analogy to express her happiness with the new deal.

“It means a lot to me to stay with one franchise and one place for my entire career,” says Cohn. “I wanted to be with ESPN and am so happy to have this opportunity. I don’t feel like someone who’s been at ESPN for 26-plus years. I’ll always have a passion for sports. It’s part of my DNA. It’s still an adrenaline rush for me.”

As part of her new deal, Cohn will not only remain a SportsCenter anchor but also will increase her role in ESPN’s coverage of hockey. She will continue as primary host of the ESPN+ hockey program In the Crease, which debuted during last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs and will expand to five nights a week for the entire NHL season. In addition, she will do hockey-related interviews and features for SportsCenter and other ESPN platforms.

“What a success and breakthrough it was to get hockey back and host In the Crease,” she says. “The response not only from hockey purists but from casual sports fans was tremendous because with ESPN+ they can now watch this show when they want to watch it. I’m known for my love of hockey and the NHL and I can’t wait to continue to share that experience.”

Cohn has displayed her versatility during her ESPN career with hosting, reporting, commentating, interviewing, writing and calling play-by-play. She also has appeared in many of ESPN’s iconic “This Is SportsCenter” commercials.

“I’m excited to create new memories here at ESPN,” Cohn concludes…

…ESPN has reached a multiyear contract extension with radio personality Paul Finebaum to remain a key contributor on ESPN and SEC Network. Finebaum will continue his presence across a number of high-profile network shows and programming, including as the host of The Paul Finebaum Show and as an analyst on SEC Nation. In addition, Finebaum will continue to be featured on a variety of additional ESPN programming, including Get Up!, First Take, SportsCenter, College Football Live, Finebaum Film Room, and College GameDay.

Finebaum also will be part of SEC Network’s special summer edition of SEC Nation from SEC Summerfest Presented by Regions Bank, with the July 15 show kicking off 45 hours of live coverage from Atlanta ahead of next week’s SEC Kickoff…

Brent Musburger is reportedly agreeing to return to the broadcast booth as the radio voice of the Oakland Raiders. After retiring from ESPN’s college football telecasts, Musburger was anchoring the Vegas Stats & Information Network. The deal is said to be for 3 years…

…ESPN has also reached multiyear contract extensions with SEC Nation host Laura Rutledge and Thinking Out Loud’s Marcus Spears to continue in their multifaceted roles with ESPN and SEC Network. The duo, who share the SEC Nation desk on Saturday mornings, will continue to contribute across a number of high-profile network shows and programming.

Rutledge finished her first year as SEC Nation host last fall and her second year with the show overall. She also contributes to ESPN and SEC Network’s live-event programming for college football, basketball, gymnastics, baseball, and softball. In addition to his weekly seat at the SEC Nation desk, Spears served as one half of SEC Network’s debut studio show, Thinking Out Loud. He is also a regular on College Football Live and makes several appearances throughout the week on SportsCenter and SEC Now. He contributed to SEC Network’s coverage of National Signing Day and was a field analyst for several SEC spring football games in 2018…

…ESPN play-by-play voice Beth Mowins, analyst Brian Griese and sideline reporter Laura Rutledge will call the New York Jets vs. Detroit Lions NFL game from Ford Field to kick off ESPN’s season-opening Monday Night Football doubleheader on Sept. 10.

Mowins returns to ESPN’s NFL booth for the second straight year. In 2017, she became the first female announcer to call a National Football League game in 30 years and the first female broadcaster to call a nationally televised NFL game when she handled the play-by-play for ESPN’s Los Angeles Chargers vs. Denver Broncos telecast to open the season. Mowins also called four more NFL games for CBS in 2017…

…ESPN has announced their college football broadcast teams for the upcoming season. Sean McDonough will head the Saturday Night Primetime telecasts with Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe. McDonough just recently departed the network’s Monday Night Football and was replaced by former college football voice Joe Tessitore

…ESPN has signed college football analyst Jonathan Vilma to a new multi-year contract heading into the 2018 season and will shift the former first-team All American linebacker from ESPN2 to ABC studio coverage on Saturdays this fall. The University of Miami Hall of Famer joins fellow national champion-turned-analyst Mack Brown and host Kevin Negandhi each week for Saturday Night Football and the network’s noon and 3:30 p.m. ET games, replacing Booger McFarland who was named an analyst on Monday Night Football in May. The former first-round NFL Draft selection will also appear on studio programming surrounding the network’s biggest college football events including the New Year’s Six and College Football Playoff…

…Fox Sports announces former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans and retired contender Kenny Florian serve as analysts alongside host Brendan Fitzgerald for FS1 UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Smith programming in a rare Sunday afternoon broadcast on July 22. Live from Hamburg, Germany, John Gooden and former title contender and analyst Dan Hardy call the fights on FS1 and the Fox Sports app, while Heidi Androl reports and interviews fighters on-site. Victor Davila and Marlon Vera call the fights in Spanish on Fox Deportes…

…Telemundo Deportes announced three-division World Champion and former Olympian athlete Abner Mares returns to join Boxeo Telemundo’s announce team and serve as a special correspondent for all major fights for Titulares y Más, the #1 sports news, entertainment, and commentary show in Spanish-language television, after having served as an analyst for Telemundo’s coverage of the 2016 Rio Olympics. Mares returns to the network alongside Rene Giraldo and Edgar Lopez during the upcoming Boxeo Telemundo Boxing Championship.

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