CNN’s sports reporter Rachel Nichols is returning to ESPN as an anchor and reporter starting early next year, including participation in SportsCenter. Jim Miller, author of best-selling oral history Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN, broke the news on Twitter this morning:
Nichols was a big “get” for CNN chief Jeff Zucker in January 2013, when she was announced as his first official hire at the cable news network just four days after he officially took over. He also said at the time that she would anchor a new weekend sports program on CNN, which was the first new show announced under his regime. Unguarded with Rachel Nichols ultimately premiered nine months later to weak ratings and in June 2014 posted a 14-year time-slot low for CNN in the 25-54 demo. Unguarded was canceled in October 2014 amid a slew of programming announcements by the network, including the second cancellation of Crossfire.
Back in May, Nichols made headlines for being among a handful of reporters whose press credentials for the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao fight had been either denied of revoked due to pressure from the Mayweather camp. Nichols did a contentious interview on Unguarded with the undefeated champion in September 2014, during which she questioned him at length about his legal troubles.
Her move comes as ESPN continues to sting from a slew of recent departures of big-name on-air talent. Popular radio host and occasional TV personality Colin Cowherd was shown the door in July, a couple of weeks after the Disney-owned sports net announced that it wouldn’t renew the contract of Keith Olbermann. Two months before that, the company parted ways with Bill Simmons, who founded the Grantland site and was a popular fixture on TV and online.