In a move
that might symbolize how much money Fox is willing to pay talent to join Fox Sports 1, college basketball commentator Bill Raftery is leaving ESPN to join the network, which launches in August.
Raftery has brought his wit and signature phrases to ESPN over the past three decades, notably on Big East games.
His new role will have him sticking with the league on Fox Sports 1 with
play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson. The two will call regular season and tournament games. Raftery, who worked with Johnson at CBS, will continue to do NCAA tournament games on the network.
Among Raftery’s descriptors are “Send It In, Jerome” for dunks and “Onions” when a player shows particular toughness. “Send It In, Jerome” originated when
Pittsburgh’s Jerome Lane broke a backboard on a jam.
There have been reports that Fox Sports 1 has been liberal with salaries in order to lure top talent to its network. ESPN and
Raftery may have agreed, though, that he is identified with the Big East enough to part ways and follow it to the Fox cable outlet.
“I was fortunate to work at ESPN since its
inception, and I’ll be forever grateful to all the talented, professional people who supported me along the way,” stated Raftery. “I leave with nothing but terrific memories and
friendships. Today, though, we turn the page. I’ve been associated with the Big East Conference since it began, and I feel the same excitement and anticipation now as I did way back then as the
conference is re-born with Fox Sports.”
The Big East is losing schools with high-profile football programs and will be comprised mostly of Catholic schools with strong basketball