ESPN radio host and anchor Scott Van Pelt recently announced that he had renewed his contract with the network, putting an end to speculation that he could be fleeing for a rival network. Van Pelt said that he was glad the process was over and that ESPN was his home.
This is great news for him, the network itself and especially for viewers. ESPN is currently in negotiations with high profile talents such as Erin Andrews and it was just announced that Michelle Beadle will be departing, but Van Pelt, though not as pretty, would have been the most difficult to replace. His daily radio program and regular seat at the anchor desk for SportsCenter fill more airtime for the network than Andrews and Beadle combined.
There's no doubt that Van Pelt is a great talent at ESPN, but he's not the best ever, right? This whole drama got me thinking about SportsCenter and its' countless anchors over the years. Some memorable household names and some…a bit less than memorable. Where does Van Pelt rank among the all-time greats like Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick?
Let's take a look at the 25 greatest SportsCenter anchors ever.
Name: Sage Steele
Years on SportsCenter: 2007-present
Where she was then: WFTS Tampa
The Skinny: After graduating from Indiana University, Ms. Sage Steele got her start in the biz as a sports reporter for WSBT, the CBS affiliate in South Bend, Indiana. Before making her way to ESPN, Steele worked with fellow ESPN talent Jay Crawford at WFTS in Tampa, Florida.
What's to Like: Not only does Sage have a natural ease about her on air, but she's also pretty easy on the eyes—as if you hadn't noticed. The question here really is: what's not to like?
Name: Mike Greenberg & Mike Golic
Years on SportsCenter: 1996-present & 2007-present
Where they were then: CLTV Chicago & the NFL
The Skinny: Greenie worked his way up through the ranks of local Chicago sports affiliates after graduating from Northwestern University. Golic played his college ball at Notre Dame and had a nine-year career in the NFL before joining the worldwide leader in such and such.
What's to Like: I know they have their share of critics, but these two work together perfectly. Greenie is a little girly and Golic is kind of a meatball, but when you put them together, it just works.
Name: Greg Gumbel
Years on SportsCenter: 1979-1988
Where he is now: CBS Sports
The Skinny: Greg Gumbel has been working in sports since 1973—he was selling hospital supplies in Detroit before being informed by his brother Bryant that WMAQ Chicago was hiring a sports reporter. He's bounced around between ESPN, NBC and CBS since making the jump to major networks.
What's to Like: Unlike his pretentious, unlikable brother Bryant, Greg just seems like a good person. He doesn't have an over-the-top personality that attracts attention, but his innocuous presence never offends.
Name: Chris Fowler
Years on SportsCenter: 1989-1993
Where he is now: Still ESPN—working as host of College GameDay
The Skinny: After graduating from the University of Colorado in 1985, Fowler bee-bopped around Boulder's local affiliates for a few years before being hired by ESPN. Fowler has covered almost every sport there is for the network over the years, but he's been doing the college football things for quite some time.
What's to Like: I don't even remember Fowler on SportsCenter, but I know that he's a non-irritating voice of reason on GameDay. So, I can't imagine he would have been anything less back then.
Name: Chris McKendry
Years on SportsCenter: 1996-Present
Where she was then: WJLA (ABC), Washington
The Skinny: After graduating from Drexel University, which she attended on a tennis scholarship, McKendry worked for various sports and news outlets in Washington, D.C. Before being hired by ESPN, McKendry clocked time with TNT, TBS, Fox News, USA Network and the local ABC affiliate in the district.
What's to Like: You can catch McKendry on SportsCenter most afternoons—one of the few anchors that seems to have a regular schedule. Sometimes she goes on alone and it's obvious she's comfortable in the role. The network needs more competent, confident women like her.
Name: Brian Kenny
Years on SportsCenter: 1997-2011
Where he is now: MLB Network
The Skinny: Kenny attended the New York Institute of Technology and St. John's University and got his start at Long Island News Tonight at NY Tech. ESPN hired Kenny when he was working for WTZA Kingston, NY, and he started as an anchor for the East Coast SportsCenter before going on to host a number of specials and programs for the network.
What's to Like: Landing Kenny was a big coup for the MLB Network because he's an entertaining and respected voice in the baseball world especially.
Name: Steve Levy
Years on SportsCenter: 1993-Present
Where he was then: WFAN New York
The Skinny: Unlike a lot of ESPN talent, Levy started with the network just a few years out of college without having to log a decade at local affiliates making a name for himself. Levy was the NHL guy at the network before ESPN lost the rights to televise the league's games more than a decade ago.
What's to Like: Levy is just funny and likable and his "This is SportsCenter" commercials are some of my favorites.
Name: Karl Ravech
Years on SportsCenter: 1993-Present
Where he was then: WBNG-TV Binghamton, NY
The Skinny: Ravech struck while the iron was hot, joining ESPN in 1993 as the network surged in popularity. While he is an anchor on Sportcenter, he also hosts Baseball Tonight, and lends his baseball expertise to such events as the Little League World Series.
What's to Like: Ravech is one of the key members of the Sportcenter talent nucleus that defined the appeal of the broadcast. He's naturally funny and rarely grating.
Name: Reischea Canidate
Years on SportsCenter: 2011-Present
Where she was then: WNYW, NY
The Skinny: A former collegiate athlete who was a high jumper at USC, Canidate worked her way up through the ranks. She anchored the weekend sports desk for New York City’s Fox affiliate in New York City, before getting an opportunity as an on-air reporter for ESPN’s First Take and Mike and Mike morning radio show; a move that eventually translated into a full-time position with SportsCenter.
What's to Like: Canidate is part of the “women’s movement” on ESPN—another talented, fresh face who’s making her mark on the network. I think she's one of the best female talents on ESPN and wish we could see more of her.
Name: Neil Everett
Years on SportsCenter: 2000-Present
Where he was then: KITV, Honolulu
The Skinny: Unlike many of his anchor colleagues, Everett dedicated a significant part of career to world of sports outside of journalism. He served as an athletic administrator at Hawaii Pacific University before moving on to become the sports director and reporter for KITV. In 2000, after a suggestion from a friend, he interviewed with ESPN and was hired as an anchor. In 2009, he became co-anchor of ESPN’s Los Angeles edition of SportsCenter.
What's to Like: His collegial demeanor and breadth of knowledge complement a dry, sardonic wit that truly fits the SportsCenter brand. Everett reminds me a lot of Kenny Mayne, but with a broader appeal.
Name: Charley Steiner
Years on SportsCenter: 1987-2001
Where he is now: Los Angeles Dodgers Radio Network
The Skinny: Joining SportsCenter in 1987, Steiner quickly gained a reputation as one of the funniest personalities on the program. His wit and face became a signature part of SportsCenter’s irreverent style, creating such memorable moments as referring to Carl Lewis’ awful rendition of the national anthem as being written by “Francis Scott Off-Key.”
What's to Like: Steiner was part of a group that made SportsCenter must-watch television and starred in one of the funniest commercials of all time, the ESPN “Evander Holyfield” spot.
Name: Jay Harris
Years on SportsCenter: 2003-Present
Where he was then: WPGH-TV, Fox Pittsburgh
The Skinny: There was a time when ESPN was just ESPN; now ESPN is ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN News, etc. More is not always better, but Harris did his best, becoming a familiar face on ESPN News in 2003 before joining SportsCenter in 2006. Drawing from his early career experience on local radio, Harris has built his reputation on goofy catch phrases and voice work.
What's to Like: Anyone can finish a sentence with a sad attempt at witty irreverence (“Boom goes the dynamite”) but Jay Harris may be the best at it.
Name: Chris Berman
Years on SportsCenter: 1979-Present
Where he was then: WVIT-TV, Hartford
The Skinny: What he did before ESPN is completely irrelevant because If anyone has become synonymous with SportsCenter, and ESPN itself, it’s Chris “Boomer” Berman. Hired in 1979 just a month after the network was launched, Berman has been there from the beginning and shaped many of the broadcast elements that have made the program the juggernaut it is today. He was one of the originals who struck a unique balance of hard journalism, personality and humor.
What's to Like: What would SportsCenter be—what would the NFL highlights be—without, “He. Could. Go. All. The. Way.”? Yes his shtick can feel tired and excessively loud at times, but it's hard to imagine ESPN without it.
Name: Craig Kilborn
Years on SportsCenter: 1993-1996
Where he is now: Anybody's guess
The Skinny: Craig Kilborn had a brief, but memorable stint on SportsCenter in the mid 90's. Kilborn hosted the late broadcast of the show and coined a number of goofy catchphrases…and then he left.
What's to Like: Kilborn just hasn't resonated with the public in any real way since ditching ESPN for what he hoped would be green pastures. His smarmy fratboy charms really worked well on a fratboy sports network.
Name: John Buccigross
Years on SportsCenter: 2009-Present
Where he was then: NHL 2Night, ESPN
The Skinny: Buccigross is a native of Pittsburgh, PA, who attended Hedelberg College before being hired by the network. Before ESPN decided to throw a tantrum and take its ball home after losing NHL television rights, Buccigross was the long-time host of NHL 2Night—the go-to hockey program for American fans. Filling in at other positions as a broadcaster and writer, Buccigross took over the afternoon shift of SportsCenter in 2009.
What's to Like: A funny guy who loves and knows hockey on SportsCenter. Hopefully Buccigross gets the opportunity to host NHL 2Night once again.
Name: Suzy Kolber
Years on SportsCenter: 1993-96, 1999-Present
Where she was then: CBS Sports
The Skinny: Kolber graduated from the University of Miami in 1986 and worked for local network affiliates in West Palm Beach, Greenwich, Irving and Miami before landing with the worldwide leader. Kolber has become one of the most recognized and well-liked women in the sports media over the last two decades; covering everything from NASCAR to the NHL. But more often than not, you (and Joe Namath) will find her covering the NFL.
What's to Like: Everything but that hair.
Name: Trey Wingo
Years on SportsCenter: 1997-Present
Where he was then: KSDK-TV St. Louis
The Skinny: Wingo actually grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, so adjusting to life in Bristol probably wasn't much of an adjustment at all. Before making his way back to CT, Wingo attended Baylor University and got that coveted degree in communications in 1985. Although, that was back when a college education meant more than a 50k mountain of debt.
What's to Like: What's not to like? Wingo's playfully adversarial relationship with Merril Hoge, Mark Schlereth, Mel Kiper and anyone else he encounters on the network is one of the highlights of my ESPN-watching day.
Name: Scott Van Pelt
Years on SportsCenter: 2001-Present
Where he was then: Golf Channel
The Skinny: Scotty VP grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and attended the University of Maryland. Van Pelt got his start at WTTG-TV, Washington's local Fox affiliate, before ditching them for the Golf Channel and later ESPN.
What's to Like: The man. The myth. Van Pelt is one of the best hosts working on ESPN today. Obviously his passion is for radio, but his presence on SportsCenter is always a more than welcome addition.
Name: Keith Olbermann
Years on SportsCenter: 1992-1997
Where he is now:
The Skinny: The first two decades of Olbermann's career were spent in sports. He got his start on the RKO Radio Network before moving on to CNN in 1981. He bounced around some local network affiliates in Boston, New York and Los Angeles before joining ESPN in 1992. Olbermann eventually left the network in favor of publicly trading venom with Bill O'Reilly.
What's to Like: Well…I'm not sure how much there is to like about Olbermann these days. His combative and condescending manner has gotten him canned twice in the last year. But, much like Craig Kilborn, Olbermann's shtick worked well on ESPN and he remains one of the most popular anchors in the network's history.
Name: Stuart "Boo Yah!" Scott
Years on SportsCenter: 1993-Present
Where he was then: WESH-TV, NBC Orlando
The Skinny: Scott grew up in Winston-Salem and stayed close to home by attending the University of North Carolina. He worked for the student-run radio station in college and went on to work as a sports reporter for local network affiliates in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida before being hired by ESPN.
What's to Like: Maybe more than anyone else on this list, Scott has his share of detractors. I've never understood what the problem is though—I love Stuart Scott and I think he's funny, upbeat and reliable in whatever work he does for the network.
Name: Linda Cohn
Years on SportsCenter: 1992-Present
Where she was then: ABC
The Skinny: Cohn grew up on Long Island, but smartly became a Rangers fan, and graduated from SUNY Oswego in 1981. She got her start as a sports anchor on AM radio after college and made history when ABC hired her to be the first woman to be hired as a full-time sports anchor on national radio in 1987. Obviously ESPN took notice because she was hired by the network in 1992.
What's to Like: Linda Cohn is just legit. She's a legit journalist, a legit sports fan and one of ESPN's most legit talents—and not just among the women, among the men as well. Oh, and how about the fact that she played on the boy's hockey team in high school?
Name: Kenny Mayne
Years on SportsCenter: 1994-Present
Where he was then: KSTW-TV Seattle
The Skinny: Mayne was an All-American quarterback in high school and played college ball at UNLV,where he backed up future NFL QB Randall Cunningham. After stints with local affiliates, he was hired by ESPN in 1994 and has been there ever since. Mayne splits his time between SportsCenter and other hosting duties and more comedic endeavors like Kenny Mayne's Wilder World of Sports.
What's to Like: I'll concede that Mayne's acerbic wit and sarcastic/dry sense of humor isn't really for everyone. If Larry the Cable Guy or Dane Cook appeal to you, Kenny Mayne probably does not. That being said, I think Mayne is the funniest man in sports and it's not even close.
Name: Rich Eisen
Years on SportsCenter: 1996-2003
Where he is now: NFL Network
The Skinny: Eisen grew up in Staten Island before attending the University of Michigan and later Northwestern University. He worked for the Chicago Tribune and KRCR-TV in Redding, California in the early 90's before being hired by ESPN. Eisen was one of the most popular on-air talents at ESPN when he was lured away to be the face of the NFL Network in 2003.
What's to Like: Eisen is just a really likable guy and is pretty much the only reason I'll ever tune into the NFL Network for anything besides a football game.
Name: John Anderson
Years on SportsCenter: 1999-Present
Where he was then: KPHO-TV Phoenix
The Skinny: Anderson grew up on the frozen tundra, better known as Green Bay, Wisconsin. He was a track and field athlete at the University of Missouri before graduating and moving on to local network affiliates in Oklahoma and Arizona. Anderson was hired by ESPN in 1998 and later hired by parent company ABC/Disney to co-host the crazy-lawsuit game we all know as Wipeout.
What's to Like: John Andersons don't grow on trees—he's a talented anchor and television host and he's absolutely hilarious. He's got natural comedic timing and is a pretty decent actor too. There's a reason he's featured in so many "This is SportsCenter" commercials.
Name: Dan Patrick
Years on SportsCenter: 1989-2006
Where he is now: Sports Illustrated, NBC Sports
The Skinny: Ohioan Dan Patrick grew up in Mason and was an all-state basketball star who later attended the University of Dayton. He worked for a few local radio stations before being hired by CNN as a sports reporter in 1983. Patrick was hired by ESPN in 1989 where he remained for almost two decades before departing—unlike many others who fled ESPN, Patrick remains as visible as ever today.
What's to Like: Patrick definitely played the straight man over the years on ESPN. First with Keith Olberman and later with Rich Eisen, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Every duo needs to have one half complete anchored in reality and Patrick can be that anchor without dragging anything down.
Name: Todd Grisham
Years on SportsCenter: 2011-Present
Where he was then: WWE
The Skinny: Grisham grew up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the town made famous as the off-season home of Brett Favre. After graduating from the University of West Georgia, Grisham worked at a few local affiliates before debuting in WWE in 2004. He was hired by ESPN in late 2011 and I think he's got potential to be one of the network's biggest stars or get fired for saying something offensive. Suppose only time will tell on that one.
What's to Like: Grisham is still very new to ESPN and still isn't featured with any regularity. That being said, the humor and showmanship he brings with him from the WWE definitely distinguish him from most of the other faces that pop up sporadically on the network.
Name: Lindsay Czarniak
Years on SportsCenter: 2011-Present
Where she was then: NBC 4 Washington
The Skinny: Czarniak grew up in the DC Metro area and after graduating from James Madison University in 2000, she got her start as an intern for WUSA Washington. She bounced around cities and networks for a few years before landing the sports co-anchor job at NBC Washington. ESPN stole her away in August, 2011 and the nation's capital was never the same.
What's to Like: What's not to like? Czarniak was the best sports reporter in Washington DC before being hired by ESPN. She's confident, capable and, though she may be stunning, she got the job based on her resume, not her short skirt.