ESPN’s latest version of ‘SportsCenter’ is now officially dead
In January, embattled ESPN host Jemele Hill announced she was leaving the network’s 6 p.m. SportsCenter to take on more “writing and reporting” at the Undefeated, which explores the intersection of race, sports and culture. Since then, her former co-host Michael Smith has dutifully (if not begrudgingly) anchored the show on his own.
Now, Smith is following her off the set.
ESPN has confirmed that Smith will host his last SportsCenter Friday night. Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch was first to report the news.
“Michael is a talented commentator and we greatly appreciate and value his contributions and creativity,” said Norby Williamson, ESPN’s executive vice president and executive editor, studio production. “We are in the process of discussing with him potential next ESPN assignments.”
Like Hill, Smith still has several years left on his contract with ESPN, but it’s unclear where the former ESPN2 host and frequent Around the Horn guest will land. As for replacements, ESPN hasn’t made any decisions on a permanent team, but Sportscenter: AM host Sage Steele and 11 p.m. SportsCenter anchor John Anderson have been floated as possible replacements.
Until permanent replacements are decided, ESPN will staff the show with variety of anchors from the SportsCenter team. Next week, Matt Barrie and Michael Eaves will host the show on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Temple grad Kevin Negandhi will pick up hosting duties through the rest of the week, and will be joined by Eaves on Thursday and Elle Duncan on Friday.
Jasmine Alexander, a Philadelphia native and one-time Daily News intern, will remain the producer of the 6 p.m. SportsCenter, whatever form it ends up taking, two sources with knowledge of the move confirmed.
The sources didn’t want to be named because ESPN hasn’t made an official announcement.
The show, which ESPN dubbed SC6, was one of the network’s largest content initiatives last year, touted as an attempt to reinvent the flagship program for an audience that gets news and highlights immediately on their phones. Smith and Hill were also the first African-American duo to host SportsCenter on a regular basis, and the network promised the show would go beyond sports to discuss “news, culture and social issues.”
But Hill became the center of a political controversy for the network,…