Pam Oliver never saw it coming.
“I was shocked, floored, a monumental surprise,” says Oliver. “The call came out of the blue.”
The call was from Fox Sports president Eric Shanks and executive vice president John Entz, and it came the second week of January prior to the NFL divisional playoffs. And the call came with a question.
Would Oliver consider coming back to do NFL sideline reporting for Fox in 2015?
“I think I was silent for a good 10 seconds and then screamed out, What?” Oliver recalled on Monday afternoon. “I thought: ‘This makes no sense. What are they talking about?'”
On the surface, what were they talking about? Last year Fox announced that Oliver would be replaced by Erin Andrews on Fox’s top NFL team. Furthermore, management initially planned to remove her from the NFL sidelines entirely. As she recounted to this column last July, “To go from the lead crew to no crew was a little shocking. I said I wanted to do a 20th year [on the sidelines]. I expressed to them that I was not done and had something to offer.”
The backstory did not make Fox Sports management look good. In April 2014 executives traveled to Atlanta, where Oliver is based, to tell her in person that she would no longer hold the job that has been her professional life for two decades. They initially informed her that not only was she being removed from Fox’s No. 1 NFL team, but also that she was being taken off the NFL sidelines completely in 2014.
“The emphasis at the meeting was always placed on how they saw what was next for me versus what I saw would be next for me,” Oliver said. “I felt I was not done. I still felt I had more to offer with sideline reporting. I think that took them by surprise a little bit.”
After meeting with her bosses, Oliver spoke with her agent, Rick Ramage. They held meetings with other outlets—for sports and news roles—before she ultimately worked things out with Fox and got one final year on the sidelines as part of a new multi-year contract including longform pieces, specials, major interviews and some producing as well.
Oliver spent last year on a farewell tour of sorts, working with a new broadcast team (announcers Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch) and production crew (led by producer Pete Macheska and director Artie Kempner). It took her a long time to mentally accept that this was her final NFL go-around, but she entered last season in a healthy place and had a strong year. Her bosses noticed. Shanks and Entz told her they really liked the chemistry of the No. 2 team, they thought she had a good year, and they wanted her back.
“The call was so completely out of the blue,” Oliver says. “I also felt it was one of those things like, ‘Why would we go back to this possibility?’ I felt we had all come through a pretty big ruckus and that door had been closed, dead-bolted, chained up. I had fully weaned myself from that role so to have that door open again, and I had difficulty wrapping my brain around it. So I put the decision on the shelf.”
Oliver took a couple of weeks to think about the decision. She solicited opinions of family, her mentors, her agent and some friends. Finally, she decided that she wanted to continue and told her bosses on Feb. 3 that she would come back to the sidelines. Here’s the kicker: The new assignment isn’t just for 2015. She will be part of the No. 2 team of Burkhardt and Lynch for the 2015 and 2016 NFL seasons, which is the duration of her contract with Fox Sports.
“I wasn’t that interested in just one year,” Oliver says. “So this is great. I know that for the next two years we are a true team and I am not some guest. I think we will really take it to another level next season.”
To read the rest of the story visit Richard Deitsch on SI where it was originally published