Troy Aikman Goes in Depth on Decision to Leave Fox for ESPN

by Nick Geddes

Troy Aikman departed Fox this past spring after 20 years with the network to become the lead color commentator for ESPN‘s “Monday Night Football.”

Aikman was later joined by Joe Buck, his longtime broadcast partner. Appearing on The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast Monday, Aikman outlined the reasons why he left Fox. As Aikman put it, the network essentially stopped negotiating with its lead NFL color man, leading to his surprising exit.

“Well, the reason I wanted the opt-out was because we couldn’t agree on what fair market value was,” Aikman said. “And so, [Fox] made a proposal. I thought it was a good start, but there was no negotiation. That was their position and that was where they were going to land. I then said ‘OK, I’ll take it’ but after the first year and one year only, I have the option to opt-out of the contract…

“That’s how we got to where we are, and that’s why I’m no longer at Fox.”

Troy Aikman Perplexed By Negotiations With Fox

Aikman, the Dallas Cowboys legend, is still left wondering why Fox never made much of an effort to retain him. He revealed that he never had a conversation with Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks until after he signed his contract with ESPN. Aikman described the situation as “perplexing.”

“I never had a conversation with Eric Shanks until he called to congratulate me on the ESPN contract,” Aikman said. “I asked him specifically for some comments that I had heard that circulated and got back to me and he refused to answer those questions. Joe had asked him the same questions as to ‘How did we get here?’ And he refused to answer those questions as well.”

Aikman, 55, inked a five-year, $92.5 million deal with ESPN. Aikman’s $18.5 million annual earnings make him the highest-paid on-air talent at the “Worldwide Leader in Sports.” He surpassed “First Take” analyst Stephen A. Smith, who makes $12 million a year.