Former ESPN Legend Tim Brando Wonders What The Hell Is Happening At Ex-Employer

Videos by OutKick

The Mother Ship, aka ESPN, has been a mother at releasing talented cargo in droves of late.

On June 30, Disney-owned ESPN let go of such on-air talent such as Suzy Kolber, Todd McShay, Steve Young and Keyshawn Johnson with NFL coverage, Jeff Van Gundy and Jalen Rose with NBA coverage, and David Pollack and Gene Wojciechowski with College Football’s GameDay.

Latest ESPN Layoffs Claimed Big Names From Big Shows

There were 20 layoffs in all that followed a previous round of layoffs totaling about 100 last April. That one included public relations master Mike Soltys, who worked in the network’s public relations office for more than 40 years. Another 300 were laid off in 2020, approximately 150 in 2017, more than 100 in 2016 and 300 in 2015.

Tim Brando rips Alabama football coach Nick Saban's handling of Jermaine Burton. (Credit: Getty Images)
FOX Sports Tim Brando calls it like he sees it – on Alabama coach Nick Saban not suspending wide receiver Jermaine Burton last year, or on ESPN’s recent layoffs. (Credit: Getty Images)

“I feel badly for everybody. I know a lot of those people,” said FOX Sports play-by-play man Tim Brando, who worked at ESPN from 1986-94 and was the original host of the network’s iconic GameDay jewel in 1987.

Suzy Kolber Was A Surprising ESPN Layoff

“They’re friends of mine. I’m biased,” Brando said. “Suzy Kolber was a breakthrough talent in sports. I will say I’m surprised someone of her ilk and someone of Jeff Van Gundy’s ilk would be people that would be let go. That surprised me. Van Gundy is great as the main analyst of the NBA Finals.”


Brando understands the business side of ESPN, which recently hired Pat McAfee of FanDuel for this fall at $85 million over five years and pays Stephen A. Smith – one of the busiest talkers in the business – $12 million a year. Those are the best of the content creators.

Former ESPN Monday Night Football NFL announcer Suzy Kolber before a game between the Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

“I was surprised that anybody who played large roles on their best shows like Pollack with GameDay and Kolber with NFL Monday Night Countdown or Van Gundy with the NBA Finals were on their hit list,” Brando said.

Kolber is 59. Van Gundy is 61.

Some layoffs may have been age related. Wojciechowski, a long accomplished writer who worked previously at the Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, Denver Post and the Los Angeles Times, is 66. He had been at ESPN since 1992.

“Great writer,” Brando said.

“I’m trying to stay off the grid for now,” Wojciechowski told OutKick Friday. Like most leaving, he had nothing but good things to say about ESPN.

Some of those let go were younger, though. Pollack, a former Georgia linebacker, is just 41. He has had little to say.

“I thought David was really good when he was cutting his teeth on CBS’ cable network and doing Conference USA and Sun Belt games,” Brando said. “He was like a sponge. He wanted to learn. He would ask us for critiques. I wasn’t surprised when GameDay hired him. He’s very talented.”

Layoffs from GameDay surprised Brando.

“The parts of that ensemble like Pollack or Wojciechowski make GameDay so great,” he said. “You can’t just do that with two or three people. You’ve got to have a strong ensemble as they had.”

Another rising star let go was ESPN Radio’s Jason Fitz at 46 after starting at the worldwide leader n 2016.

“As most of you know by now, ESPN parted ways on Friday with a ton of really talented people — and me,” Fitz tweeted on July 5. “Didn’t see it coming, shocked, all of those things — of course. I’m thankful for what ESPN gave me, for the platform that I had, for the amazing people I got to work with behind the scenes and on camera and for the memories that I made. I don’t know what’s next. When I figure out what’s next, I hope you’ll come and hang out with me there.”

There are landing spots out there. Many conferences like the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and the ACC and many others have had their own networks for years. They tend to be filled, though. What about local television markets?

“That’s the tough part,” Brando said. “I hope they all find their niche or their golden parachute, because they’re all very talented. The problem is the the industry now is soft. The economy is a reflection of how our industry is going to react. And the economy is soft. The landscape is difficult. It’s a corporate thing, and these are largely Disney layoffs.”

In February, Disney CEO Bob Iger said there would be 7,000 layoffs across the company. A third round of 2023 is expected as Disney struggles.

“There are a lot of people who you haven’t heard about who have their contracts coming up at the end of this month, and they’re really scared right now,” Brando said. “There are landing spots for people, but for those who have worked on premium ESPN shows who have grown accustomed to being a part of something of that magnitude, it’s going to be hard to find anything to compare to what they were doing.”

Brando knows what it’s like to be out of work. When he left CBS in 2013, there was a nine-month gap before he started at FOX in 2014 after turning down the SEC Network.

ESPN had a number of layoffs last month, many of which were surprising. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

Tim Brando Says One Must Be Patient, But Ready

“Not a lot of young execs were looking to hire 58-year-old men,” said Brando, who is 67 now with three years left on his FOX contract. “They just have to understand that you have to be patient, but at the same time, keep your head on a swivel and make sure you’re covering all your bases.”

ESPN let go of OutKick’s own Dan Zasheske in 2020, but he more than survived to tell about it.

“As someone who experienced an ESPN layoff and knows a lot of people who faced similar fates, there is one thing I have never heard in my life. ‘ESPN laid me off [X number of years ago], and I still wish I worked there,'” Zaksheske wrote recently. “Nope, universally people say, ‘ESPN laid me off, and it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I make more money, and/or I work for a much better company, and/or I live a healthier lifestyle.'”

Brando offered advice.

“This is the message to all young broadcasters. Two words – Content Creator,” he said. “If you’re a content creator, then there’s a future. That’s what Stephen A. and Pat McAfee and Colin Cowherd are. They create their own content, and they’re good at it. If you’re attracting that many eyeballs, people are going to want you. If not, you better have dreams beyond SportsCenter. Three more words – Live Event Broadcaster. If you’re not a Content Creator, you better be a Live Event Broadcaster.”

Brando said he was not in a position to say who should have been kept or not kept at ESPN. But he was specific about what shows should be laid off and what shows should be kept and perhaps brought back.

ESPN’s Shows Tend To Be Loud And Redundant

“I’m not a big fan of today’s shows,” he said. “These embrace debate shows they have on ad nauseum, they just get old. They’re regurgitating the same stuff every day, talking about the same issues. And I just don’t get it. I really think college football gets short-changed. College athletics in general gets short-changed. The national shows only talk about the NBA or Tom Brady or LeBron this, LeBron that. We need more shows like The Sports Reporters on ESPN.”

The Sports Reporters was a roundtable of sportswriters that aired from 1988 through 2017. Dick Schaap was the original host, then John Saunders. The show ended not long after Saunders’ death in 2016.

“Those were award-winning journalists (Bob Ryan, Mike Lupica, among others) on those shows,” Brando said. “And they weren’t yelling at each other. The best show on ESPN now is PTI (Pardon The Interruption). It’s sad to me we don’t have more substantive shows like The Sports Reporters and PTI.”

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau joined OutKick as an SEC columnist in September of 2021 after covering LSU and the Saints for 17 years at USA TODAY Louisiana. He has been a national columnist/feature writer since the summer of 2022, covering college football, basketball and baseball with some NFL, NBA, MLB, TV and Movies and general assignment, including hot dog taste tests.

A New Orleans native and Mizzou graduate, he has consistently won Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) awards since covering Alabama and Auburn at the Mobile Press-Register (1993-98) and LSU and the Saints at the Baton Rouge Advocate (1998-2004). In 2021, Guilbeau won an FWAA 1st for a game feature, placed in APSE Beat Writing, Breaking News and Explanatory, and won Beat Writer of the Year from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA). He won an FWAA columnist 1st in 2017 and was FWAA's top overall winner in 2016 with 1st in game story, 2nd in columns, and features honorable mention.

Guilbeau completed a book in 2022 about LSU's five-time national champion coach - "Everything Matters In Baseball: The Skip Bertman Story" - that is available at, and Barnes & Noble outlets. He lives in Baton Rouge with his wife, the former Michelle Millhollon of Thibodaux who previously covered politics for the Baton Rouge Advocate and is a communications director.


Leave a Reply
  1. Sports Reporters was a great show. ESPN has chosen their target market, and I will freely admit I am as far from it as possible. I choose not to watch. I also won’t watch ANY game with Mark Jones as PxP guy, he’s nothing more than a race-baiting piece of garbage and an announcer who detracts from the game; he says literally nothing I don’t already know, often times ignoring things I DO know. But, their target market seems to like him. Fortunately, I’m usually tailgating then at a game, so I am not camped out in front of the TV listening to fools like Jones.

Leave a Reply