07/20/18: ESPN staple Linda Cohn renewed her deal with the company

Good morning. It’s Friday July 20, 2018 and this is your first early morning Sports briefing.

Lots of news out of Bristol yesterday, including ESPN locking in Hall of Fame sportscaster Linda Cohn, the longest-tenured anchor for the SportsCenter, has signed a new deal to remain with the company in a multi-year agreement. Cohn originally joined ESPN in 1992 and anchored her first SportsCenter on July 11, 1992. Deal points will see Cohn will not only remain a SportsCenter anchor but also will increase her role in ESPN’s coverage of hockey. She will continue as primary host of the ESPN+ hockey program In the Crease and will do hockey-related interviews and features for SportsCenter and other ESPN platforms.
“Linda continues to deliver outstanding work for us on SportsCenter and everything else she does,” said Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president and executive editor, studio production. “She’s hosted more SportsCenters than anyone else and her passion and devotion have made her a legend, but it’s the quality of her performance every time the red light goes on that makes her such a valuable member of our team.

Meanwhile, ESPN also announced that it had signed college football analyst Jonathan Vilma to a new multi-year contract heading into the 2018 season. He will now shift from ESPN2 to ABC studio coverage on Saturdays this fall, joining Mack Brown and host Kevin Negandhi each week for Saturday Night Football and the network’s noon and 3:30p games. He will also appear on studio programming surrounding the network’s biggest college football events including the New Year’s Six and College Football Playoff.
ESPN also announced its 231-game Little League Baseball and Softball lineup for the 2018 season, which will also include an increase in Little League Softball coverage with a total of 104 United States regional and World Series games. The record-breaking slate across ABC, ESPN’s linear networks and ESPN+ will once again showcase all the Little League Baseball US regional and World Series action in addition to five other divisional tournament championships. ESPN’s coverage of Little League Baseball begins August 2, with the first game of the Southwest Regional tournament.
Intersport announced that four men’s college basketball teams will hit Fort Myers from Nov. 19-21 to compete in the inaugural Fort Myers Tip-Off at Suncoast Credit Union Arena live on FS1. The early season tournament field includes Boston College, Loyola Chicago, Richmond and Wyoming.
Monday Night Football will open the new NFL season on Sept. 10 with play-by-play voice Beth Mowins, analyst Brian Griese and sideline reporter Laura Rutledge on microphone duties to  call the Jets/Lions matchup to kick off the network’s doubleheader that day. The Jets/Lions game at 7:10p will lead into the Rams/Raiders battle at 10:15p where ESPN’s new MNF team of Joe Tessitore, Jason Witten, Booger McFarland and Lisa Salters will make its debut.
Fox Sports is reportedly developing a sports gambling-driven show starring Charissa Thompson, Brent Musburger, oddsmaker Todd Fuhrman and Clay Travis, according to Sporting News. The weekday show is expected to premiere this fall on Fox Sports 1 in the 5-6p hour after Jason Whitlock’s expanded Speak for Yourself moves to an earlier time slot at 3-5p. 
The women’s and men’s final matches of the first-ever Special Olympics Unified Cup presented by Toyota will be televised live on ESPN2 today at 6p. The Special Olympics Unified Cup will feature 24 soccer teams – 8 women’s and 16 men’s – representing countries from around the globe.
Tennis Channel will carry eight World TeamTennis matches in the 2018 season, including the season-ending championship match. The network will have seven straight days of World TeamTennis beginning on Monday at 9p on Tennis Channel. Former players Leif Shiras and Rennae Stubbs will be the on-air team for the majority of the matches, with Luke Jensen joining Shiras for the final.
In baseball news, MLB on TBS weekly game coverage will feature a full national telecast between the Cardinals and Cubs on Sunday at 2p. Ernie Johnson and Ron Darling will provide commentary for the Cardinals/Cubs telecast. The network will then feature the Dodgers and newly acquired star shortstop Manny Machado against the Braves on July 29 at 1:30p. Brian Anderson (play-by-play) will be joined by Darling to call the game telecast.
Elsewhere, Yankees games on the YES Network this season are topping average TV household ratings in Primetime in the New York DMA, beating the Primetime averages of all other broadcast and cable TV networks in the market. Overall, more than 4 billion minutes of Yankees games on YES have been consumed so far this season on YES in the New York market with primetime games on YES averaging a 4.14 TV Household rating.
Down south, – through 91 games of the 2018 MLB season – Braves ratings on FOX Sports South and FOX Sports Southeast have delivered a 3.09 average household rating in the Atlanta DMA. That marks a 51% uptick versus the same number of games in 2017, marking the highest year-over-year (YoY) household ratings growth of any National League team, and the second highest across all MLB teams.
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US Lacrosse named Chipotle Mexican Grill the presenting sponsor of the US Lacrosse Nationals, the national governing body’s signature youth tournament running Aug. 2-5, 2018, in Frederica, Del. “Chipotle has been one of our organization’s most supportive partners, and we are thrilled to evolve that partnership to include Chipotle as the presenting sponsor of our premier youth event,” said Brett Hurwitz, VP of marketing and communications at US Lacrosse.

UFC FIGHT PASS will now live-stream events from the new Karate Combat promotion, beginning with next Saturday’s event out of Athens, Greece. Karate Combat features elite level karateka competing in a specially designed slope-sided fighting pit, using full contact rules.
Olympic Channel serves up Apart, a new documentary that will see South African sprinter Odessa Swarts and her son, Wayde van Niekerk share their personal journeys against the context of apartheid and history of sports in South Africa. The doc will be featured as part of the series “Foul Play”, and showcases how the power of sport played an integral role in the abolishment of apartheid in the nation.
ESPN+ will be the home for the Duke Canada Tour, with the team playing three games in thr country during a five-day trip, beginning Aug. 15. The Blue Devils will face three universities – Ryerson and University of Toronto at Paramount Fine Foods Centre (Toronto), and McGill at Place Bell (Montreal).Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas will call all the action from Canada.

ELEAGUE and the US Air Force inked an expanded multi-tournament marketing partnership ahead of the ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier 2018 in a deal that will see Air Force serve as ELEAGUE’s first-ever official armed forces partner across all platforms. The deal will see Air Force activate across a number of branded integrations and placements, highlighting the strategy and skillset recruits take on as part of the Air Force with activation that includes custom video content from various bases; “Tactics” Presented by Air Force and the CS:GO Premier 2018 Championship Trophy presented by Air Force. ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier 2018 live tournament coverage will begin tomorrow at 2p.
Meanwhile, the US Air Force also locked in a deal with Cloud9’s CS:GO team, with activation kicking in at the ELEAGUE event and running through May 2019. The deal will see the Air Force logo appear on the team’s jerseys in addition to working with the team to create content featuring the squad learning about military branch, as well as sponsoring the team’s monthly web series.
The National Association of College Esports and publisher Hi-Rez Studios detailed plans to host college national championships for both Smite and Paladins beginning this fall. Play will begin in September for both titles, open to both varsity and club-level university teams. Both national championships will take place on Nov. 17 at Dreamhack Atlanta 2018 and will be broadcast to live-streaming platforms. Each national championship will have $50,000 in scholarship prizes to be awarded to championship winners.
GEICO detailed plans to launch the GEICO Gaming Ambassador program, tapping four influencers who reflect “the best values the gaming and esports communities can offer. The first two names announced for the initiative were Brian Kibler and Pokimane, who will be doing posts, commentary, and answering questions on Twitter, Instagram, and Twitch about it.

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