Michelle Beadle has no idea what she wants to do.
Despite her aspirations outside of sports (which are real), and despite the growing sentiment that she’s on the way out at ESPN, she sounds like most other people whose contract with an employer expires in less than two months:
Really unsure of what’s about to happen.
“I 100% don’t know what I’m doing,” she told SportsGrid on Friday. “I’m not trying to be coy or cute or anything. I really don’t.”
Beadle won’t be in the room with the notoriously tough ESPN higher-ups during contract negotiations. Her current deal ends on May 31st, but today she is officially allowed to entertain offers from other potential employers. She will be blissfully unaware of what’s going on behind closed doors until her agent comes to her and says “these are your options.”
So, what are those options? Beadle herself doesn’t know. But what’s unique for the upcoming crop of ESPN free agents — Beadle, SportsCenter and radio host Scott Van Pelt, and College GameDay sideline reporter Erin Andrews all have contracts that expire soon — is that they have other options.
Both NBC and CBS have recently launched 24-hour sports networks (FOX may soon have one as well), which is great news if you’re an agent for any of those big names. Because there are more sports channels than ever before, you — and your client — are going to get paid. Just ask Jim Rome.
“ESPN was not about to spend the money on Jim Rome that CBS was,” said Jim Miller, the co-author of Those Guys Have All The Fun: Inside the World of ESPN. “But it was instructive. Instead of ESPN being the only real cable shop, these agents are starting to see alternatives, and they must be thrilled by it.”
Options sometimes beget departures. So who among these highly visible ESPN faces stays, and who among them goes?
Van Pelt is known as a smart, low maintenance guy who’s well-liked and just wants fulfillment from his job. Although there is a reported disagreement among ESPN bigwigs about whether he’s as valuable to the company’s radio arm as he is to SportsCenter, the general feeling is that he will stay.
Ditto for Andrews. Some inside Bristol were surprised when she didn’t end up taking Suzy Kolber’s vacated Monday Night Football post (Lisa Salters did), but she’s most comfortable doing what she does now: college football with ESPN.
Then there’s Beadle, the first expiring contract of the bunch and the one who’s most likely to jump ship. There’s no decision to make yet, but that doesn’t change the fact that the decision is coming soon. Again, when we spoke with her on Friday, she had no idea what she was going to do.
There are reasons to stay (a comfort level with what she’s doing) and reasons to go (you’ll soon see how the desolate dating scene at ESPN will play into this one). So let’s review the pros and cons of both choices.
Next: reasons to stay, and reasons to go — including the Berman Rule.