As a Georgia Bulldog, Maria Taylor was outstanding on the basketball and volleyball courts. As an ESPN analyst and host, she was even better. Now the former UGA great can chart her own career path as she’s officially parted ways with the four-letter network.
Maria Taylor. That name rings throughout Georgia athletics lore, and rightfully so. Beyond representing the Bulldog Nation in stellar fashion as a player, she’s made a huge impact as a black woman in the male-dominated world of sports.
The former UGA basketball and volleyball great has become an icon within sports journalism circles. She was the first black female to co-host ESPN College GameDay, as well as working as a sideline reporter for ABC Saturday Night Football, along with assignments for the College Football Playoff and National Championship Game.
Taylor’s excellent work hasn’t been limited to just football, however. Her work as host of Big Monday and the NCAA Women’s Final Four and National Championship helped propel her into a role covering the NBA, and that’s where things went awry for Taylor and ESPN.
A much-publicized critique of Taylor getting the NBA assignment by colleague Rachel Nichols may have been the breaking point for the relationship between Taylor and ESPN, who failed to reach an agreement on a contract extension.
Where to now for Maria Taylor?
So, with Taylor’s last assignment at ESPN now in the books, she moves on (reportedly to NBC), but the “where” of Taylor’s future isn’t that important. The fact is, she is primed to become of the biggest names in network sports journalism, and she can do things no other woman — black or otherwise — has been able to do.
When you think of sports networks and the “face” of a network, inevitably a man’s name probably comes to mind. Chris Berman, Scott Van Pelt, Bob Costas, Colin Cowherd, Jim Nantz, Greg Gumbel, all giants in the industry and considered the be among the best at what they do.
Prepare to see Maria Taylor’s name on that list.
I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Taylor (well, not that she ever really sits) as she first began her stint on College GameDay in 2017, and I knew even then that she was destined for more than being just the sideline reporter doing cutesy segments. Taylor is a relentless, hard-hitting reporter whose preparation and work ethic are beyond reproach.
Don’t get me wrong, everyone on College GameDay works extremely hard, long hours, but Taylor went above and beyond.
Believe me when I say that this is ESPN’s loss – and whatever number she gave them, whatever assignments she requested, it should have been met. The delay in handing down any discipline to Rachel Nichols in light of the controversy may have played a part in Taylor’s decision as well, although she’d never publicly say that.
If Taylor does indeed move to NBC and begins her career there with the Olympics, it will just be the tip of the iceberg. She’ll be recognized for the exceptional talent that she is and will make her mark there with former ESPN colleague Mike Tirico watching and certainly cheering her on.
And if it doesn’t happen at NBC, it will happen somewhere. There will be a network that will ultimately decide that Maria Taylor has everything in her arsenal to cover any sport they want, and to become the face of the network.
And to think, it all started in Athens.