The upcoming NFL season will be Pam Oliver’s 20th as a sideline reporter for Fox. It also will be her last. And it won’t be with the network’s No. 1 broadcasting team.
Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated writes that Fox has decided to put Erin Andrews on the sideline with its No. 1 team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. Oliver, who turned 53 in March, will join Fox’s No. 2 team of Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch for this season, and then leave the NFL sideline for good to concentrate solely on studio work. She signed a new multi-year contract with Fox last week and “will be doing long-form pieces, specials, major interviews and some producing as well,” Deitsch reports.
In April, Fox executives traveled to Atlanta to tell Oliver that she was being removed from the sideline altogether in favor of Andrews. After her agent, Rick Ramage, began talking to other networks, Fox eventually relented and gave her one final year on the sideline, albeit with the network’s No. 2 team.
Fox Sports President Eric Shanks told Deitsch that the move was part of an overall shakeup of the network’s NFL broadcasting hierarchy. But an anonymous, veteran NFL reporter who has not worked in television said the network wasn’t being totally honest:
“I think in the last five years we have made a lot of changes with the NFL crews,” Shanks said. “We have made changes to keep our coverage across the board fresh, including the addition of Burkhardt and Lynch -– which has been one of the more exciting pairings we have put together. This is kind of the next move in that evolution.”
A veteran NFL reporter -– who has worked in television and asked for anonymity -– offered another reason. “She’s not blonde, nor is she in the demographic,” said the reporter. “I’m not naïve and I understand it’s a business, but I think that Fox did not treat her as befits a woman who has been the female face of their sports operation for the past 19 years.”
Andrews, 36, has been with Fox since jumping over from ESPN in 2012. She has hosted the network’s “Fox College Football” show on Saturdays and has done sideline work during the network’s NFL, MLB and NASCAR coverage. It’s the second time this year that she has replaced an older woman in some broadcasting capacity: In February, she replaced Brooke Burke-Charvet, 42, as co-host of “Dancing With the Stars.”
“I think Erin is solid,” Oliver told Deitsch. “They have made a determination and it just happened to be with a position I had held for almost 20 years. It’s not necessary to feel something [bad] toward the person who is assuming your formal role. You just understand that they have changed. The crews could change too. In a few years I think Fox will look radically different. I don’t know how, but you have your thoughts and opinions. For people to pit us against each other is not necessary and not going to get far if the two us don’t participate.”