Behind the Mic: ESPN Suits Up for 150th Anniversary of College Football With Numerous Editorial Hires

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 strengthens its college football editorial team before the sport’s 150th anniversary, an ESPN icon adds another year to their contract, and multiple networks bring on a trio of former NFL players.

ESPN has signed national college football writer Bill Connelly to a multi-year contract and reached multi-year extensions with fellow writers Heather Dinich and Adam Rittenberg, solidifying’s roster of award-winning college football journalists ahead of the sport’s 150th anniversary season. Connelly will focus on the sport’s national landscape, with his writing appearing on digital platforms and appearing on television and audio. Dinich and Rittenberg will also take a national approach, with Dinich focusing on the College Football Playoff while Rittenberg remains a national college football insider, found regularly on ESPN+ written content. Both will continue to contribute across platforms.

Connelly has covered college football for more than a decade, predominately for SB Nation, gaining recognition through his creation of the S&P+ rankings, which relies on analytics to evaluate teams, and his campaign to become the sport’s commissioner. He was co-host of Podcast Ain’t Played Nobody and has authored two books – Study Hall: College Football, Its Stats and Its Stories and The 50 Best* College Football Teams. A University of Missouri graduate, earning both his undergraduate and masters degree from the school, the newest member of ESPN resides in Columbia, Mo., with his wife and daughter.

Dinich has covered the CFP since the organization’s inception, while also covering other pertinent topics in the sport, and Rittenberg has developed into one of the sport’s most connected insiders. Both have been with ESPN for more than decade, with Dinich beginning in 2007 and Rittenberg a year later. Both appear on television and audio programming, including regularly on the Campus Conversations CFB podcast. Dinich and Rittenberg have been recognized multiple times, including recently, along with ESPN college football writer Tom VanHaaren, by the Associated Press Sports Editors for their reporting on the University of Maryland football program.

The new deals finalize an impressive roster of college football writers for ESPN heading into the season, which also includes Andrea Adelson, Edward Aschoff, Kyle Bonagura, David Hale, Sam Khan Jr., Chris Low, Ivan Maisel, Ryan McGee, Dan Murphy, Alex Scarborough, Mark Schlabach, and VanHaaren…

…Hall of Fame basketball analyst and last month’s Sports Emmys Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Dick Vitale has signed a contract extension with ESPN through the 2021-22 season, adding to his recent extension announced last May.

Vitale, who turned 80 earlier this month, will continue working as a game analyst on notable matchups through the regular season and conference championship play. In addition, his spirited contributions and analysis can be seen across ESPN platforms, including SportsCenter and

Vitale joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season — just after the network’s September 1979 launch — following a successful coaching career. He called ESPN’s first-ever major NCAA basketball game – Wisconsin at DePaul on Dec. 5, 1979 (a 90-77 DePaul win). His storied career includes more than a thousand games and his “Vitale-isms” have become part of the sports lexicon, including “Awesome, Baby!,” “Get a TO, Baby!”, and “PTP’er…”

…Former NFL quarterback Josh McCown, who announced his retirement from pro football after 17 professional seasons, joined ESPN as an NFL analyst. McCown, who played his final two years for the New York Jets, has appeared on NFL Live, SportsCenter, Get Up!, and more. McCown made his ESPN debut Wednesday, June 19, on NFL Live and other shows.

During his 16 NFL seasons, McCown played for 10 different teams. Originally a third-round pick (No. 81 overall) of the Arizona Cardinals in the 2002 NFL Draft, McCown threw for 17,707 yards and 98 touchdowns throughout his career, completing 60 percent of his passes.

In all, McCown played for Arizona (2002-06), Detroit (2006), Oakland (2007), Miami (2008), Carolina (2008-09), San Francisco (2011), Chicago (2011-13), Tampa Bay (2014), Cleveland (2015-16) and the New York Jets (2017-18). In between NFL stints in 2010, McCown played for the Hartford Colonials of the United Football League where he led the UFL with a 79.3 passer rating. A native of Jacksonville, Texas, McCown played three collegiate seasons at Southern Methodist University before transferring and playing his final year at Sam Houston State University…

…Former Pro Bowl defensive back DeAngelo Hall has joined NFL Network. Beginning in July, Hall can be seen as an in-studio analyst on various NFL Network shows such as NFL Total Access and Good Morning Football, as well as on NFL Network’s on-location coverage of such events as the Super Bowl.

A first-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in the 2004 NFL Draft, Hall played 14 seasons in the NFL, amassing 43 interceptions, 132 passes defensed, five interceptions returned for touchdown and 11 forced fumbles during his career. The three-time Pro Bowl defensive back played four seasons in Atlanta before being traded to the Oakland Raiders in 2008. Hall played eight games for the Raiders before his release, after which he signed with the Washington Redskins where he finished his career. Currently, Hall is tied for an NFL record for most interceptions in a single game (four) and holds the record for most career fumble return yards (328) in NFL history.

A native of Chesapeake, Virginia, Hall played three seasons at Virginia Tech where he earned second-team All-American honors in 2003. In 2016, Hall was inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame…

…Former NFL wide receiver and captain Andrew Hawkins has joined NFL Media in a multi-platform role.

Also beginning in July, Hawkins will host a variety of content on NFL Media’s digital and social channels, including new show formats and other engaging VOD content.

The two-time Sports Emmy Award nominee will also appear as an analyst on various NFL Network shows such as NFL Total Access and Good Morning Football.

Hawkins played six seasons in the NFL, three with the Cincinnati Bengals and three with the Cleveland Browns. An undrafted free agent out of the University of Toledo, Hawkins amassed a total of 2,419 receiving yards, 209 receptions and nine receiving touchdowns during his NFL playing career.

Prior to his NFL career, Hawkins played two seasons in the Canadian Football League with the Montreal Alouettes where he totaled 457 receiving yards and five touchdowns in back-to-back Grey Cup championship seasons.

While playing in the NFL, Hawkins earned a master’s degree from Columbia. Currently, Hawkins hosts The ThomaHawk Show podcast on Uninterrupted alongside former All-Pro offensive tackle and current NFL Network analyst Joe Thomas.

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