Mike Golic’s future at ESPN is clearly not in radio, so what comes next? (2024)

In writing about ESPN Radio over the years, I had a number of a conversations about the “Mike & Mike” radio show with Traug Keller, who at the time oversaw all aspects of the ESPN’s audio business, including talent, staffing, national programming content, scheduling and event production. Keller told me something a couple of years ago that stayed with me when it came to how ESPN management viewed Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic.


“I will tell you that a litmus test of mine for ‘Mike & Mike’ and how it fits in with the brand is I want ‘Mike & Mike’ to be able to be on with the moms driving the kids in the backseat to school,” Keller said.“We get feedback on that, and it matters. It matters to our brand. Do we want to have the sports show of record where commissioners want to come to get their point of view across? Yes. All that stuff matters. It actually allows us to deliver an audience that advertisers feel very comfortable in, and more and more today advertisers are trying to stay away from controversial talk.”

As I wrote at the time for Sports Illustrated, “Mike & Mike” was not a show that had a significant impact on me as someone who lived in a major metro East Coast city (New York City) with multiple pro teams and fans who are very parochial. Too often for my tastes, it felt like a Subway Fresh Take hotline series of conversations between promotions for ESPN. But when I traveled throughout the country for SI, particularly in college cities, I found that “Mike & Mike” was very popular. Keller was correct in that Golic and Greenberg produced a safe, non-confrontational show that appealed to large-scale ad buyers (who were selling to parents). It’s also something I can better understand now as a parent.

No matter how you felt about their content or soft interviewing style, they earn respect for longevity. What started as a morning radio show on Jan. 3, 2000 soon became a television simulcast and one of the company’s most successful on-air enterprises. They gave countless ESPNers significant opportunities to promote their on-air work. They are unquestionably one of the most successful sports radio pairings of all-time.

“Mike & Mike” ended in May 2017 with an acrimonious breakup. Greenberg went on to front the morning television show, “Get Up!” (which premiered in April 2018) while Golic stayed on the ESPN Radio morning show and formed a new partnership with Trey Wingo, and Golic’s son, Mike Golic. Jr. Last week, ESPN management announced that Golic & Wingo will conclude their radio run on July 31 before a new weekday lineup begins Aug. 17.

The new lineup is here:

Mike Golic’s future at ESPN is clearly not in radio, so what comes next? (1)

ESPN Radio’s new morning show will feature Keyshawn Johnson, Jay Williams, and longtime SportsCenter host Zubin Mehenti. While I would bet against this show gaining traction in any major local market, I am happy to see Mehenti get a shot at a high-profile role. He has an excellent reputation among his colleagues as a hard worker and team player. (The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz show losing an hour of national airtime is perplexing given its popularity in the podcast/on demand audio space.)


The lineup includes a return to radio for Greenberg (who will host a show noon-2 p.m. ET) but not Golic. That strikes me as a significant misstep. Golic has massive name recognition and has proven to be relatable to the audience for multiple decades. If ESPN management wanted to retool its morning show, not an unusual occurrence, one would think you could get creative to find a place for Golic elsewhere.

Golic said on his radio show this week that leaving radio was not his choice. “I would have loved to have kept doing the show,” Golic said. “Listen, I didn’t want to be cut by the Houston Oilers, didn’t want to be cut by the Miami Dolphins, you know? What you want and what happens aren’t the same.”

Multiple sources at ESPN told The Athletic that ESPN is interested in making Golic a college football analyst, a role he had early in his ESPN tenure and one he seems open to accepting..

As part of this week’s Sports Media Podcast, I discussed the ESPN Radio changes with Jim Miller, the best-selling author of a book on ESPN (“These Guys Have All The Fun”) and a longtime chronicler of all things Bristol. Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation.

Deitsch: So this week ESPN announced its new radio lineup and probably the biggest news from that was that Mike Golic will no longer be on ESPN Radio. The “Golic & Wingo” show will end for a morning show consisting of Keyshawn Johnson, Jay Williams and SportsCenter anchor Zubin Mehenti. Mike Greenberg, interestingly enough, will be going back to ESPN Radio to become a solo host for a new noon to 2 p.m. show. I want to start with Mike Golic. He’s been a major figure on ESPN Radio and he and Mike Greenberg were part of a massive business for ESPN. What was your reaction when you saw that Golic would no longer be on ESPN Radio?


Miller: Well, I guess it’s a two-part thing. One is if the executives that are in charge made a decision done in part with Golic, that his radio days are over, that is one thing. The other thing, though, is how it gets done, and what you say about somebody who had been such an important part of your operation for so many years and not just in terms of the dollars and sponsorships and all of the airtime and tonnage that he contributed, but also in terms of what he brought to the culture and the fact that he was a valued employee. I didn’t see a lot of communication from ESPN about his years of service. I may have missed it. And that’s fine. If they did it, maybe I missed it. But if they did it, I don’t think they did a lot of it because I certainly kind of watch everything that comes out of there. I thought that was kind of unfortunate. I don’t think it has to be binary. But it’s like, come on, let’s make sure that we take this moment to be thankful and to say some nice things about someone with a lot of years of service.

Deitsch: There was some of that and maybe more will come at the end of that show’s run. But we have yet to see the fanfare that I think would be indicative of a guy with that kind of service. I have to admit I am surprised that management could not create a solution where Golic continued to appear on an ESPN Radio product. He’s 57 years old. This is not a 95-year guy. He could have a lot of years left in radio, he has familiarity with the audience, and there’s a comfort level with the guy. If you want to end this morning show, I understand that. But could they not retro-fit him somewhere? That surprised me.

Miller: So I have not done any reporting on this, but there are a couple of independent variables that we could quickly look to. One is, was there a financial aspect to this? A contract is expiring in say eight months or whatever and to renew it is going to be a big chunk of change. I’m not sure if that was the case here. Second is, was there just too much water on the bridge in terms of the dynamic between the person and management. Again, I’m not saying that’s the case with Golic. People were asking me, “Wait a second. If Greenberg is coming back to radio, why couldn’t Greenberg and Golic get back together again?” That’s one of the things that we’ve seen in a lot of different partnerships through the years — sometimes you just can’t go back. There’s just too much bad. There’s too much ill will. There’s just too many difficulties. Or people have moved on in their own ways which it makes it impossible and prohibitive for the magic of that dynamic to be re-created. Certainly, this is a guy (Golic) who seems like they could have found a way.

Deitsch: Yeah, so I’ll just give you a couple of things that I know. One: ESPN is very interested in Mike Golic continuing with the company in what looks to be as a college football analyst. I think that would be something that they would want. I don’t know how he personally feels about that but I think he would have interest in that from what I understand. So there could be a partnership there.

Miller: So if that is the case, if it’s a possibility, then executives are paid to make decisions and make things happen. So all you have to do is sit down and say, “Okay, look, radio is over. We want you to go to college football. Are you interested? Yes, you are. Okay, let’s make a deal and then make that part of the overall announcement.”

Deitsch: I agree. But I also think the Golic camp clearly would have been amenable to working with Mike Greenberg again. Based on the Twitter feed of Mike Golic’s wife (Christine Golic), it seems ESPN or Mike Greenberg wasn’t necessarily interested in that kind of reunion. (ESPN declined to comment on that.) I know you just said sometimes you can’t recreate the magic and I wrote about the acrimony on “Mike & Mike” near the end of the run. You’ve talked to ESPN management many times over the years. Would that not be a mega-success story for ESPN to put Golic and Greenberg together again in the middle of the day, a nontraditional place where maybe they can get some traction? They’d have a great positive story to spin. You would think that Mike Greenberg and his representatives would want to make it work for ESPN given they paid him a sh*t ton of money. How come a management person doesn’t say, “Listen Mike and Mike, we want to make this work again. How can we make this work for two hours a day from noon to two?” Why doesn’t management make that happen?

Miller: Okay I’m going to answer that under the scenario that what you just suggested before is true, that Greenberg didn’t want to do that. So management says we want to do “Mike & Mike” again. I don’t want to do it. But we think would be fantastic. Yeah, I don’t want to do it. … We are paying you a lot of money. For six million dollars a year, we expect you to do what we want. I’m a bigger personality now than I was back then when we did that. I don’t want to be part of a team anymore. I want to be my own guy. I want to be able to do my own show. I mean, what do you do as an executive at that point?


Deitsch: I understand. If you’re not going to blow the talent out, you don’t have any leverage is what you’re saying?

Miller: I think the only way you do it is if you have it in the contract. Let’s just say that Greenberg has a contract where if at any point ESPN management wanted to put “Mike & Mike” back together, he would be obligated to be on the show. He’d say, “OK, I’m telling you right now, I didn’t want to agree to that in the contract. If you’re going to really try and enforce that, go ahead.” And they do that first show and he’s not Laurence Olivier. I mean, if he’s not into it, he’s not going to be into it. For a show like that to work you need to understand that both people have to come with all cylinders firing and they really want to recreate the partnership. You’d be an idiotic executive if you forced the guy into it. So basically, you’re sh*t out of luck.

Deitsch: That’s well said, and you argued that well. But, man, I feel like that would be beneficial to both of them. I will just end on this: The change in the ESPN Radio lineup that I think has the most promise is Chiney Ogwumike, a current WNBA star from an amazing basketball family, and Mike Golic Jr., from 4-7 p.m. ET. That’s a show to watch in terms of two talents that could develop. I think that has a shot to be very good. But regardless, it is very hard for any national radio show to have any kind of traction locally. Sports radio is local in nature and if you have a very strong local program in morning or afternoon drive, it’s just going to be very hard for any ESPN national personalities to get traction.

Miller: The judo move nowadays is for those personalities — and it is exciting to see that show because they are both great young talents —to make it more about themselves and less about actual sports content. So if you are in car or somewhere during those times, you just want to hang out with those two people because you find them so engaging. If you go there trying to figure out why the Yankees are having problems because of the bullpen, you might as well just go to local radio.

(Photo: Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

Mike Golic’s future at ESPN is clearly not in radio, so what comes next? (2)Mike Golic’s future at ESPN is clearly not in radio, so what comes next? (3)

Richard Deitsch is a media reporter for The Athletic. He previously worked for 20 years for Sports Illustrated, where he covered seven Olympic Games, multiple NCAA championships and U.S. Open tennis. Richard also hosts a weekly sports media podcast. Follow Richard on Twitter @richarddeitsch

Mike Golic’s future at ESPN is clearly not in radio, so what comes next? (2024)


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