Jay Williams will remain with ESPN with a big new role as a game analyst and as a main panelist on the hoops version of “College GameDay,” The Post has learned.
Williams, 41, could re-emerge as one of the top faces of college basketball, along with Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale.
Williams’ original ascent at ESPN was on college hoops. He had much more success as a college player — he won a national championship with Duke in 2001 — than in the NBA.
Here’s what you need to know.
1️⃣ Williams’ future had been in doubt after ESPN released Keyshawn Johnson and Max Kellerman during the network’s summer layoffs. Williams, Johnson and Kellerman formed the ESPN Radio morning radio team.
He said on social media Friday he was returning to ESPN. Williams was unsure whether he wanted to stay at ESPN, and there were some questions about how badly ESPN wanted to keep him.
2️⃣ Williams will join Rece Davis, Seth Greenberg and Bilas on GameDay each week. LaPhonso Ellis was on the program, but was dismissed in late June during the layoffs.
3️⃣ Williams will also call games.
4️⃣ This number might surprise. How long do you think Williams has been at ESPN? 15 years. He started full-time in 2008.
The biggest TV story of the opening Sunday of the NFL season was Sunday Ticket’s debut on YouTube. From my watching experience Sunday, I’d give it 3.98/5 clickers, which is a solid score. My Sunday setup: I was in a hotel, so I had the local affiliates on the big screen and then Sunday Ticket on my iPad. The positive was the clarity of the picture, and I found it pretty easy to use. The big negative was multi-view — the ability to watch multiple games at once — only was available on a smart TV. You also can’t pick which games you want on multi-view, though the selections were said to be pretty good. A new service always has some kinks to work out, but it was a bit frustrating — ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky and CBS’ Maggie Gray had a similar issue — trying to figure out whether you could get multi-view on mobile or tablet. Overall, I think the first day went pretty well.
… Super Bowl year for CBS, so they get extra attention all season, causing me to focus on their pregame, which included TV rookie J.J. Watt’s debut. He was solid. One point that was pretty good was how on the quarterback sneak, the offense’s main advantage is just knowing the snap count. Seems obvious, but never heard anyone say that before. … Kind of think Fox Sports’ Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt should just refer to Colorado’s Deion Sanders as coach Sanders, as opposed to coach Prime. It’s not the biggest deal, but comes across a little too promotional. … How big has Sanders made Colorado? Both ESPN’s “College GameDay” and Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff” will be in Boulder next Saturday. This is the third week that Big Noon will be at the Buffaloes game. The difference for this Saturday? Fox doesn’t have their game. … From the “Everyone wants to cover sports media” department: On Bengals-Browns, CBS’ Ian Eagle was identifying Cincinnati receiver Charlie Jones and made reference to the late, great NBC play-by-player of the same name, who Eagle mentioned did many Bengals-Browns games in his day.
… Greg Olsen and Mark Ingram II could have been on The CW’s “Inside the NFL,” according to sources. It was happening, but Fox said no. Olsen is Fox’s No. 1 NFL analyst (though, as you may have heard, they have signed someone else for next year). Ingram II is the newest member of Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff,” talking college football. Inside The NFL went with Ryan Clark as the host, joined by Channing Crowder, Chris Long, Jay Cutler and Chad Johnson. Fox Sports executives’ point of view is they are paying their top guys a lot of money, so they don’t feel the need to share them.
… Pat McAfee made his debut on ESPN last week, and, not unexpectedly, the show did not seem much different. The McAfee program is sometimes a bit of a show about the show, so the fact that the f-word would be bleeped out on ESPN was already a bit. They even began the ESPN premiere with a disclaimer read by cast member Ty Schmit doing his Lou Holtz impression. The show still feels like a YouTube program, which may be the point. The top ESPN bosses, Jimmy Pitaro and Burke Magnus, wanted McAfee to make the network feel different, younger and hipper. The latter two qualities will take some time, but, two days in, the first one — it feels different, YouTube on the cable — is already true.
… Milestone Monday Night: When Joe Buck and Troy Aikman call the Jets game on MNF, it will mark their NFL-record 22nd year together, which moves them past the legendary team of Pat Summerall and John Madden, who had 21 years together at two different networks (CBS and Fox). Buck and Aikman are at their second network after leaving Fox last year.
… We wrote a long feature on Jason and Devin McCourty and how they may be starting a media empire. Jason has been on the air for a year, and really has some seasoning from his “Good Morning Football” and radio games. On opening night Thursday for NBC, what stood out about Devin was how relaxed he was on the air. He looked comfortable, smiling and ad-libbing. He needs to clarify his top point in his first sentences more, but the potential was all evident.
… Everyone seemed to hate NBC’s idea of Lions star defensive end Aiden Hutchinson’s parents being mic’d up for Thursday, except me. I thought it was creative. It’s not as if they went to the Hutchinsons every five minutes. The issue was NBC didn’t really get anything that great — but they could have. It was just an extra, and I thought it was worth the effort. That said, when I say “everyone hated,” I’m speaking about social media, which we all know can be on the negative side.
Speaking of social media, my mentions were on fire after I reported Mina Kimes’ new contract with ESPN that will put her total earnings in the neighborhood of $2 million per year. As I reported in the story, ESPN executives were nervous about losing Kimes this summer. I nearly wrote about the staredown at a couple of points, but ended up not doing it. I couldn’t fully find out who else wanted her. NFL Network was rumored, but I received denials on that. Anyway, Kimes staying at ESPN seems like the best outcome for both sides.
Clicker Book Club
As Mets and Yankees fans endure difficult 2023 seasons, Papa Clicker writes that Chris Donnelly’s “Road To Nowhere (The Early 1990s Collapse and Rebuild of New York City Baseball)” highlights the Yankees’ return to championship level and the Mets’ move toward respectability. Readers will enjoy reliving the up-and-down era that led to success. It may bring some more hope for the current state of the clubs. Papa Clicker gives Donnelly a very nice 4.5 out 5 clickers.