Is He Staying or Going? Michaels Isn’t Definitive


The blitz was on and Al Michaels had to do some fancy sidestepping. On a conference call with reporters this week to promote Sunday’s Super Bowl telecast on ABC, Michaels was hit with questions from all directions.

Michaels, who will handle the play-by-play, is under contract to announce “Monday Night Football” next season, its first on ESPN. However, it has been reported that he may instead end up announcing Sunday night NFL games on NBC.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Feb. 4, 2006 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday February 04, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 1 inches; 43 words Type of Material: Correction
Broadcasting -- An article in Friday’s Sports section said CBS had not renewed the contract of Bonnie Bernstein, a sideline reporter on NFL games. In fact, Bernstein said that she had three years left on her contract and that she chose to leave.

“I’ll tell you I am under contract for next season at ESPN,” said Michaels. “I can’t do anything about the swirling rumors. ... I’m not going to be a party to anything that is remotely distractive to our crew and what we’re trying to do on Sunday.”


Michaels reportedly has had a change of heart and is trying to get out of the ESPN contract he signed in July.

Sources said one reason is because Michaels would like to continue to work with his old “MNF” team -- commentator John Madden, producer Fred Gaudelli and director Drew Esocoff. All three are now headed to NBC. Another factor is that NBC has the 2009 Super Bowl and wild-card playoff games beginning this season; ESPN has no playoff games.

What started out as an unattributed story in the New York Post is now a hot topic in sports television. It’s not the only one, though.

The Times has learned Fox’s James Brown, currently in contract negotiations, could be headed back to CBS, where he used to work. Exactly what Brown’s role at CBS would be is not known, and his agent, Sandy Montag, declined comment. Fox spokesman Dan Bell said only that contract negotiations are continuing.

If Brown were to leave Fox, Terry Bradshaw might be moved into the host’s chair on the network’s NFL pregame show, leaving an opening for another studio analyst.

The Times also has learned that ESPN’s Andrea Kremer and CBS’ Armen Keteyian are moving. Kremer will become the sideline reporter for NBC’s Sunday night telecasts. And Keteyian, CBS’ top NFL sideline reporter, is headed for CBS News. Another CBS sideline reporter, Bonnie Bernstein, did not have her contract renewed.

As for Michaels, his deal with ESPN, reportedly worth about $4 million a year, was announced on July 26 -- only hours after negotiations with NBC broke off. NBC reportedly offered around $3 million.

If Michaels does bolt to NBC, then Mike Tirico would probably take his spot in the ESPN “Monday Night Football” booth alongside commentator Joe Theismann and possibly Tony Kornheiser as well.

Mike Breen is said to be in line to replace Michaels as ABC’s lead play-by-play announcer on NBA telecasts if Michaels leaves the Disney fold. Walt Disney Co. owns both ABC and ESPN.

As the questions mounted during this week’s conference call, Michaels said, “I wouldn’t read anything into anything. There is a lot of stuff out there, and it’s not attributed to anyone. I can’t stop what is swirling around.”

Michaels -- who at one point said, “I may sound like the State Department” -- was asked why he thought he couldn’t stop all the speculation. Couldn’t he just come out and say he was going to be with ESPN next season?

“Whatever I address at this point, everyone will run with it and it will get parsed,” Michaels said. “I have too much respect for everybody on this show. I don’t want to become any sort of an issue in regard to anything because once you start, the questions just keep coming from different angles.”

They were coming anyway.