Barry Jackson

ESPN replaces Chris Berman with three people; NCAA TV schedule

In this April 28, 2016, file photo, Mississippi's Laremy Tunsil is interviewed after by ESPN reporter Suzy Kolber after being selected by the Miami Dolphins as the 13th pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL football draft, in Chicago. Tunsil cost himself a boatload of money, plummeting in the NFL draft after a video of him smoking from a bong was posted minutes before the selections began.
In this April 28, 2016, file photo, Mississippi's Laremy Tunsil is interviewed after by ESPN reporter Suzy Kolber after being selected by the Miami Dolphins as the 13th pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL football draft, in Chicago. Tunsil cost himself a boatload of money, plummeting in the NFL draft after a video of him smoking from a bong was posted minutes before the selections began. AP

ESPN is taking a three-pronged approach to replace Chris Berman on its NFL coverage, with two of the hires not surprising and one a bit outside the box.

Suzy Kolber, who has been involved in ESPN’s NFL coverage for more than a decade, takes over as host of the Monday night football studio show, which will originate from the site of the game.

Kolber had been the on-site host since 2015, with Berman anchoring the pre-game show from ESPN’s studios and hosting the halftime segment. Kolber now takes over all of those responsibilities.

Kolber’s appointment makes sense, as does ESPN’s decision to have longtime second- and third-day NFL Draft host Trey Wingo also replace Berman as host of the first day of the draft.

The most intriguing development, which has been rumored for weeks, was ESPN’s decision to tab college football sideline reporter Samantha Ponder as the host of the Sunday NFL Countdown pre-game show, a role Berman had held for three decades.

Ponder has appeared as a host of the network’s College Football Live, but ESPN executives believe she has enormous potential as an NFL host.

“I couldn't be more grateful to be a part of the Sunday NFL Countdown family,” said Ponder, who is married to NFL quarterback Christian Ponder. “There is no such thing as replacing Chris Berman, but the chance to build on his incredible legacy while simultaneously taking new risks to serve NFL fans is the opportunity of a lifetime.”

ESPN has never explained why it chose to dramatically reduce Berman’s role, and Berman told me he is both melancholy but also at peace about stepping aside. Berman will contribute historical pieces to Monday Night Countdown and handle a few other assignments.

On splitting Berman’s NFL role among three people, ESPN executive Stephanie Druley said: “We have three exceptional hosts in Suzy, Sam and Trey, who will usher in this new era of NFL studio coverage on ESPN,” said Stephanie Druley, ESPN Senior Vice President, Studio and Event Production. “They each have a unique style and approach, yet they all share a passion for the game of football that is evident to viewers. We look forward to this group being the face of our NFL studio coverage for many years ahead on ESPN.”

NCAA TV SCHEDULE FOR THURSDAY AND FRIDAY

Regional Semifinals – Thursday, March 23 (7 p.m.-Midnight ET)

7:09 p.m.

CBS

Kansas City I

Oregon vs. Michigan

Kevin Harlan / Reggie Miller / Dan Bonner // Dana Jacobson

# # #

7:39 p.m.

TBS

San Jose I

Gonzaga vs. West Virginia

Brian Anderson / Chris Webber // Lewis Johnson

# # #

After conc. I

CBS

Kansas City II

Kansas vs. Purdue

Harlan / Miller / Bonner // Jacobson

# # #

After conc. I

TBS

San Jose II

Arizona vs. Xavier

Anderson / Webber // Johnson

Regional Semifinals – Friday, March 24 (7 p.m.-Midnight ET)

7:09 p.m.

CBS

Memphis I

North Carolina vs. Butler

Jim Nantz / Grant Hill / Bill Raftery // Tracy Wolfson

# # #

7:29 p.m.

TBS

New York I

Baylor vs. South Carolina

Verne Lundquist / Jim Spanarkel // Allie LaForce

# # #

After conc. I

CBS

Memphis II

Kentucky vs. UCLA / Cincinnati

Nantz / Hill / Raftery // Wolfson

# # #

After conc. I

TBS

New York II

Florida vs. Wisconsin

Lundquist / Spanarkel // LaForce

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