The exodus of talent from ESPN to Fox Sports 1 has mainly been of the low impact variety, with Charissa Thompson probably being the network's biggest hire from the mothership thusfar. However, The Big Lead broke the story today that college basketball analyst Bill Raftery would be joining Fox for the network's launch, mainly due to their new deal with the Big East.
A press release states that Raftery will be the lead analyst for Big East games on Fox Sports 1 alongside play by play announcer Gus Johnson, who Raftery worked with when Johnson was employed by CBS. Raftery will still work the NCAA Tournament games on CBS, which he's done since 1991.
Raftery's first day of game duty on Fox Sports 1 will likely be on Friday, November 8th, when the Big East non-conference schedule starts. Raftery and Johnson will also be a part of the first day of Big East conference action on New Year's Eve, with all ten teams taking part in a five game, all-day marathon.
This is a big blow to ESPN, but not something that will mean the end. Raftery mainly worked alongside Sean McDonough and Jay Bilas calling Big East games on ESPN, and while the trio was excellent, McDonough and Bilas should be fine on their own. It's more of a coup for Fox than anything else, and now their basketball schedule has a solid backbone to build off of.
UPDATE: ESPN had the following statement:
"We completely understand his interest in remaining associated with the core group of schools that he’s been part of for 30+ year. We wish him the absolute best in his next chapter and thank him for his incredible contributions to ESPN."
He will be calling basketball games. Fox Sports just signed a contract with the new Big East. Fox Sports 1 debuts on August 19th.
Biggest hire to date so far for the network. If they could get one more big hire, I expect them to really make a serious run at ESPN.
Wow this sucks, really going to miss him calling college bball games, I don't even know where to find fox sports 1