Skip Bayless is leaving ESPN. His expected landing spot is Fox Sports where he’ll be paid handsomely for switching employers. The company has yet to make an “official” announcement but industry insiders say the deal is done.
With Bayless joining FOX Sports as a featured part of the network’s debate driven programming, the question is, who will he team up with? The chemistry he’s had with Stephen A. Smith has been excellent, and whether you like First Take or not, it’s hard to argue against the show’s success.
In recent months, Fox Sports has added opinionated personalities Nick Wright, and Joy Taylor to the mix. Both are excellent and possess very bright futures. But despite their talent, they share no history with Bayless. The network didn’t throw millions at Bayless to develop a show for the future – they’re in this to make an immediate impact. That makes it more likely they’ll add a bigger name with a large profile to share the stage with the new face of their franchise.
Because of that, a strong talent like Clay Travis will probably be removed from the equation. Travis may be established at the network, and one of its top opinionists, but an internal move won’t bring new eyeballs to the channel. It also won’t generate the outside buzz that Horowitz and company are likely to seek with the launch of their new show.
Enter Shannon Sharpe.
According to Mike McCarthy of the Sporting News, the NFL Hall of Famer, and former CBS Sports analyst, has emerged as a leading candidate to sit across the debate desk from Bayless on his upcoming FS1 program.
Ironically, Sharpe has appeared with Bayless on First Take as a fill-in host for Smith, which has given FS1 officials an opportunity to watch the two work together without needing to do so behind closed doors. Sharpe has also appeared as a guest on Colin Cowherd’s show which has allowed Fox Sports executives to get a stronger feel for how he operates.
If FS1 elects to pair Sharpe with Bayless, it would generate buzz and make people curious. Sharpe is known for being outspoken, colorful, funny, and loud, and he adds one thing that even Skip and Stephen A. can’t – a hall of fame resume.
Whether or not audiences will take to the show or listen to Sharpe when he’s discussing other sports such as baseball and basketball is unknown, but if its passion, opinion, and flair that FS1 is looking for, there’s a lot to like by adding Shannon to the mix.
Whomever Bayless picks as his next partner, the show will likely go head-to-head against Smith and First Take. That makes ESPN’s job of finding the right partner for Smith even more important. Regardless, sports fans should have two entertaining options to choose from in the very near future. If however you dislike debate driven programming, you may want to avoid early morning sports television.