Ryen Russillo, who has either hosted or co-hosted an afternoon radio show on ESPN since 2009, is leaving the company “to pursue other opportunities,” the network announced Wednesday.
“While we extended an attractive offer for Ryen to continue with ESPN, he has decided to pursue other opportunities when his contract expires next year,” Traug Keller, ESPN Audio’s senior vice president, said in a statement, adding that his final show is Friday and that he will host a weekly podcast through next summer.
“Ryen has been a signature voice for ESPN Audio for more than a decade, also contributing to other ESPN platforms with his work on the NBA, college football and more. I respect his decision and we wish him continued success.”
Last month, ESPN announced that Will Cain would become his permanent co-host and moved the show, to be called “Russillo and Cain,” to a 3-6 p.m. slot to make way for “The Stephen A. Smith Show,” which is expanding to a national platform.
“This was a really tough decision,” Russillo said in a statement. “ESPN Radio means a lot to me. Even though I won’t be sitting in a studio every day like I have for the last eight-plus years, I’m looking forward to working on a podcast and still providing content for the company.”
Russillo first went on the air alongside Scott Van Pelt, who called him “a tremendous talent and better friend. I will have his back wherever, whenever, forever.”
Russillo is likely to have opportunities elsewhere, especially with Barstool Sports getting its own Sirius XM radio channel starting Jan. 15. Russillo’s time at the network was marked by controversy in September, when he was suspended after his arrest in August. Russillo apologized upon his return and acknowledged that the incident would follow him whenever he criticizes an athlete for his behavior.
“It’s all on me. There is no one else,” he said of his Aug. 23 arrest. Russillo, described as “highly intoxicated” by authorities, was arrested on a misdemeanor criminal trespass charge after he entered the wrong condo in Jackson, Wyo., and refused to leave.
“I know, for years, I’m gonna have to own this and wear it because if I say, ‘[Joe] Flacco’s having a hard time finding his receivers,’ you’re gonna say three years from now, ‘Just like you in hotel rooms,’” Russillo said. “So, that’s the price that I pay as a public figure. I understand it. But again, I’m sorry.”
The Russillo move comes during a time of change at the network. Last week, Disney, its parent company, acquired Fox Sports’ regional networks in a bid to stem financial losses from cord-cutting cable customers who have balked at the high prices cable companies are charging. The migration away from cable has cost the network more than 13 million subscribers from its peak of 100.13 million households in 2011. Those losses, combined with steadily escalating sports-rights fees, led it to lay off roughly 550 employees over the past two years, with the most recent round of cuts coming late last month.
The network also has been involved in political debates, with viewers on either side of the cultural divide seeing it as either too liberal or too conservative. Even President Trump has weighed in, tweeting in September, “ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers.”
Adding to the tumult this week, ESPN President John Skipper announced that he is stepping down to seek treatment for what he said is a substance addiction.
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