If you’ve been reading this website for the last two years or so, you’d know that media news is a big play around here. So that’s why a bulletin that came out on Wednesday afternoon was intriguing enough to get some traction here at Big East Coast Bias.
Since the Big East and FOX Sports agreed to terms on a longterm media rights deal back in 2013, there have been two prominent sideline reporters for the conference. The first was renowned reporter Erin Andrews who spent only one season tagging along with famed voices Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery back at the 2014 Big East Tournament. After EA was taken out of the equation from college sports and put up in an NFL coverage-only role, Molly McGrath was next in line. Not only did McGrath work courtside at basketball games - including the last two Big East Tournaments as well as a slew of high-profile regular season battles - she also was the lead sideline reporter for FOX’s college football coverage.
Wednesday, we learned that change could be looming. Shannon Spake, a lead reporter for ESPN who spent time working NASCAR, college football and college basketball games, will be leaving the Worldwide Leader to join FOX Sports for this upcoming season. The press release from FOX Sports would suggest that Spake, a veteran in the business, will be assuming the previous role held by McGrath to work as the lead SLR for college football and will also partake in college basketball game coverage, be in the pit during NASCAR events as well as work NFL games.
FOX Sports announces the addition of veteran sports reporter Shannon Spake, who joins the network as a sideline reporter for its college football and college basketball coverage and serves as a member of its NASCAR broadcast team on pit road and in the NASCAR RACE HUB studio. Spake also will report from the sidelines for select FOX NFL broadcasts.
Spake makes her return to FOX Sports during the 2016 college football season, joining the network’s lead college football broadcast team of play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson and analyst Joel Klatt.
Spake is an excellent reporter with hoards of experience as the press release from FOX indicates. She’s worked in the business since 1999 and was formerly a member of the SPEED Network, which of course would later turn into FOX Sports 1 back in the summer of June 2013.
The press release’s wording is somewhat intriguing. The most prominent of roles discussed were college football and NASCAR coverage as well as her role for the NFL on FOX. Whether that means she will be assuming McGrath’s role on college basketball coverage as well is left to be seen.
Remember: FOX did acquire the rights to Big Ten coverage this offseason as well. So with three major conferences now filling up hoops coverage - Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12 - perhaps Spake and McGrath will both be working courtside later this year, mixing it up on coverage. Jenny Taft has gotten reps in the past too, notably so during the Pearl Harbor games last year which featured eventual 2016 national champions, the Villanova Wildcats.
Then again, SI’s media ace Richard Deitsch tweeted this yesterday:
If you want a prediction, I would not be surprised if Fox Sports significantly reduces its NFL and college sideline reporters in 2016/17.— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) July 5, 2016
Will that mean reduced roles across the board? Will Spake replace McGrath entirely? Time will tell.
Needless to say, this is a good move for FOX Sports to add a reporter of Spake’s craft and talent. What comes next will likely be what happens with Molly McGrath, who I would guess - based on nothing that I know, and merely making assumptions - will likely be slotted into NFL coverage with Andrews and Pam Oliver among others.
It’s been quite a busy spring and summer with media news all over the place. As the summer wears on, it looks like we’re not stopping any time soon.