For the second time in less than a year, it looks like Kevin Negandhi is getting another big promotion at ESPN.
A source with knowledge of the moves confirmed reports that Negandhi, a Temple alum who has hosted various shows on the network since 2006, has been tapped to host the network’s flagship 6 p.m. broadcast of SportsCenter. Negandhi will be joined behind the desk by fellow SportsCenter veteran Sage Steele. The pair’s first day will reportedly be Monday.
The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch was first to report the moves. ESPN declined to comment.
As part of the move, ESPN is expected to return the timeslot back to the traditional SportsCenter branding, completing a failed experiment known as SC6 that lasted just a year and ended with hosts Jemele Hill and Michael Smith walking away from the show over changes to its format.
SC6 producer Jasmine Alexander, a Philadelphia native and one-time Daily News intern, also won’t be part of the new SportsCenter show, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. Instead, she’s working on a yet-to-be-announced new show.
Negandhi, who has worked on SportsCenter since 2008, had been part of a rotating group of anchors ESPN has been using since Smith left the show in March. That group that included Matt Barrie, Michael Eaves, John Buccigross, Linda Cohn and Jay Harris, among others. Steele wasn’t part of the rotation, but was considered one of the frontrunners for the position.
Just last week, ESPN announced that ratings on the 6 p.m. edition of SportsCenter were up 9 percent year-over-year in April.
“The 6 p.m. SportsCenter has focused on including breaking news as well as an emphasis on ‘setting the table’ for the night in sports,” ESPN vice president of network content David Roberts said in the statement. “The response from viewers has been fantastic, as April’s increases indicated an appetite for coverage of the biggest stories in sports.”
As some sports media pundits noted, the released seemed like subtle criticism of both Hill and Smith, who attempted to bring personality and culture into a show that’s been traditionally more focused on highlights and analysis. But Hill became the center of a political controversy for the network, calling President Trump a “white supremacist” and “an unfit, bigoted incompetent moron” on Twitter in September. Hill was later suspended for two weeks after suggesting fans should consider boycotting Cowboys sponsors following comments owner Jerry Jones made about players who protested during the national anthem.
ESPN executive Norby Williamson told James Andrew Miller, an author who has written about ESPN, on Miller’s Origins podcast that the network immediately pushed the panic button in terms of the show’s format, something Smith discussed with Miller on the podcast in February.
“Immediately we started pushing the panic button,” Smith told Miller. “Instead of saying no, this is the vision for this show, this is what we’re doing. This show is about Michael and Jemele and their opinions and their chemistry, and they’re going to do SportsCenter their way. Instead of sticking to that vision, we immediately tried to merge two things.”
While Hill has filled her time as a senior correspondent and columnist for The Undefeated, ESPN hasn’t made any announcements about Smith’s future role with the network. Smith hasn’t made any appearances since walking away from SC6 in March, and his last tweet was sent March 7, after the Eagles acquired defensive end Michael Bennett from the Seahawks.