SBJ/June 9 - 15, 2003/This Weeks Issue

Eisen: End at ESPN ‘surprising’

Rich Eisen says he never expected to leave ESPN and would have accepted an assignment to host the ESPN2 morning show "Cold Pizza" next season, but in the end he could not accept the contract terms ESPN offered.

"I couldn't have envisioned a scenario under which things would fall apart," he said. "I found it disappointing and surprising."

Eisen's contract with ESPN expired June 1, ending his seven-year tenure as a host of "SportsCenter."

He would not comment specifically on what contract terms were unacceptable, but his agent, Lou Oppenheim, said money was not the main reason Eisen turned down ESPN's offer.

Eisen

Eisen, a former stand-up comedian, said he's interested in trying to get into "more than just sports," either hosting a talk show or pursuing some opportunity that will represent a progression in his career.

ESPN had wanted Eisen to remain as a host of "SportsCenter," but late in the negotiating process the network presented the idea of hosting "Cold Pizza," a new morning show on ESPN2.

Both sides say Eisen was willing to host the show and also make appearances on "SportsCenter," but they still could not come to terms.

"We put an offer on the table for a commitment to 'Cold Pizza' and financial compensation to stay with the company," said Norby Williamson, ESPN's senior vice president and managing editor. "It came to terms of commitment to the show and finances, I'm assuming, where Rich made his decision to not take the opportunity."

Eisen shared duties as the anchor of the 11 p.m. Eastern edition of "SportsCenter" with ESPN veteran Dan Patrick. Following Eisen's departure, ESPN reshuffled the lineup, moving Patrick to the 6 p.m. slot and Scott Van Pelt from 6 p.m. to 11.

Both Eisen and Williamson stressed that the discussions were all amicable, and Eisen said he is in no way bitter.

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