Report: Theismann Won't Return to 'MNF'

Monday, March 26, 2007

Joe Theismann is out as a "Monday Night Football" analyst after one season, a person familiar with the decision said yesterday.

Reached on his cellphone, Theismann declined to comment on the Newsday report "until I fully understand what has taken place." But he did not deny the news and hinted that it came as a shock.

Theismann is believed to have been informed Friday. An ESPN spokesman said only "we have nothing to announce."

The likely replacement alongside Mike Tirico and Tony Kornheiser will be Ron Jaworski. He worked one end of a Monday night doubleheader last year and is calling Arena Football League games.

Many critics noted a lack of chemistry between Kornheiser and Theismann in their first season together, but the two believed it improved as the season went on. When Kornheiser said in January he would return to the booth, it was assumed the trio would remain intact.

Theismann, 57, has been an analyst for ESPN since 1988, beginning on the network's Sunday night NFL package. An official announcement of his ouster could come today. . . .

The NFL set a paid attendance record for the fifth straight season, surpassing 22 million for the first time.

Total attendance was 22,199,712, up more than 400,000 fans from the 2005 season. The regular season numbers for 2006 were 17,340,879, another record.

ยท TENNIS: Grand Slam champions Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams played for the first time since the 2005 Wimbledon semifinals, and Sharapova was slightly less erratic, winning, 2-6, 6-2, 7-5, in the third round of the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Fla.

Sharapova overcame 13 double faults to exact a measure of revenge from the Williams family. She was drubbed by Serena Williams in the Australian Open final in January.

Sharapova is seeded No. 1, even though she lost the top ranking to Justine Henin on Monday. Henin lived up to her new billing -- barely -- when she came from behind three times in the third set to beat Virginie Razzano, 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (7-5).

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