Clay Travis of Outkick the Coverage is reporting that the relationship between Paul Finebaum and ESPN has soured to the point that the biggest star on ESPN’s SEC Network is threatening to sit out SEC Media Days entirely. The SEC isn’t happy about it and Finebaum certainly isn’t happy about it. Travis reports that Finebaum is seriously looking at his other options.
According to sources Finebaum, who declined comment to Outkick, was told in October of last year by then-president of ESPN John Skipper not to worry about his soon to expire contract. Nine months later, with limited contact from ESPN executives, Finebaum has now reached the limits of his patience with the network and is preparing to depart. That’s despite substantial efforts by an increasingly frustrated SEC office over ESPN’s inability to get the deal done.
Not signing a contract extension with Finebaum is only the latest in the SEC’s list of frustrations with ESPN. Travis reports that the league feels it was mislead by ESPN and its relationship with the ACC.
This exacerbates recent tension in the SEC-ESPN relationship that has threatened to explode into public view over ESPN’s decision to launch the ACC Network, a move undertaken despite what sources say was a promise made by former ESPN president John Skipper to former SEC commissioner Mike Slive that ESPN would never partner with another conference to create a network.
In an effort to repair the relationship new ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro traveled to the SEC spring meetings in Destin, Florida and told everyone there that the SEC was one of his top priorities. So, many wonder, how is it that Finebaum’s contract is close to expiring?
As for Finebaum’s grievances with the World Wide Leader in Sports, Travis says there are many. The report at Outkick the Coverage details Finebaum’s desire for ESPN to lay out their vision for his future and for the network to find ways to expand his profile in a way that makes him relevant to a larger audience than just Southern college football fans.
Finebaum already skipped ESPN’s upfront presentation to advertisers. Skipping SEC Media Days would be another matter entirely considering the wall-to-wall coverage the SEC Network provides and the daytime coverage on ESPNU in the past.
What would be Finebaum’s plan should he exit ESPN? According to Travis’s report, there is no shortage of options.
Finebaum, who hosts a daily radio show simulcast on TV on the SEC Network as well as appearing on the SEC Nation pregame show and as a commentator on ESPN’s SportsCenter, has explored a syndicated radio opportunity and a move back home to Alabama which would provide more creative freedom for his show. In addition to that opportunity, another conference is also willing to hire away Finebaum to do his show on their channel, broadening the show’s appeal from just the SEC to all of college football. Finebaum, whose radio show on JOX in Birmingham prior to his departure for the SEC Network, was a rollicking carnival of excess which received a glowing six thousand word profile in “The New Yorker,” has sometimes bristled over the heavy-handed management exerted by ESPN on his show’s content.