Behind the Mic: Weir, Lipinski Elevated to NBC’s Top Olympic Figure Skating Booth; Billups Joins ESPN

Three-time U.S. figure skating champion  Johnny Weir, 1998 Olympic gold medalist Tara Lipinski, and play-by-play announcer Terry Gannon have been named NBC Sports Group’s new lead figure skating broadcast team. Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton, who has provided commentary for NBC Sports Group since 2002, will remain part of the NBC broadcast team as a special contributor at figure skating’s biggest events, including the U.S. Championships and the Winter Olympics.

The trio make their fall debut, joining analyst Tracy Wilson and reporter Andrea Joyce, this Sunday, October 26 at 4 p.m. ET on NBC’s two-hour telecast of the 2014 Hilton HHonors Skate America. Weir, Lipinski, and Gannon received critical acclaim for their commentary on NBCSN’s live figure skating coverage at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, which helped the network post the 10 best weekday daytime audiences in its history. Weir, Lipinski and Gannon replace NBC Sports Group’s previous lead figure skating team of Tom Hammond, Hamilton and Sandra Bezic.  Most recently, Weir and Lipinski served as fashion experts for NBC Sports Group’s coverage of the Kentucky Derby in May and Access Hollywood’s coverage of the 2014 Academy Awards. Gannon recently handled play-by-play for The Ryder Cup on Golf Channel and NBC, after calling a pair of PGA Tour FedEx Cup playoff events and two LPGA Tour majors this summer…

…Boston Red Sox DH and Postseason hero David Ortiz has served as analyst on FOX Sports’ World Series pregame and postgame show roster for the first two games of the 2014 Fall Classic.  Ortiz joined fellow major leaguer Nick Swisher, World Series Champion Gabe Kapler, Hall-of-Famer Frank Thomas as analysts and anchor Kevin Burkhardt live from Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City beginning Tuesday, October 21 at 7:30 PM ET on FOX…

…SI.com reports recently retired NBA All-Star and NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups has been hired by ESPN to work as a studio analyst for the upcoming NBA season. Billups will appear on NBA Tonight, SportsCenter, NBA Coast to Coast and ESPN Radio, among other ESPN properties. Billups will start in the studio but said he has interest long-term in learning how to be an analyst on game broadcasts. He is based in Denver and will travel to Bristol throughout the season…

…Marty Smith, who has been lead NASCAR reporter for SportsCenter and other ESPN platforms since 2007, has agreed to a new contract and will remain with ESPN as a bureau reporter. From his base in Charlotte, N.C., Smith will travel to cover a variety of sports for the network, including NASCAR, pro and college football and basketball, and other sports. He also will still write for ESPN.com on NASCAR and other topics and will continue the popular Marty & McGee podcast on ESPN.com, which he co-hosts with ESPN the Magazine senior writer Ryan McGee. Smith’s new role officially begins January 1 but as he focuses on covering the final four weeks of the NASCAR season, he will be expanding his duties, including reporting on the Oct. 28 home opener for the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. ESPN is in its final year of televising live NASCAR racing. Prior to joining ESPN, Smith was a senior writer for NASCAR.com, an analyst and host on the former SPEED Channel and a NASCAR analyst on Fox Sports Net. A Radford University graduate, Smith covered sports for daily newspapers in Roanoke and Lynchburg, Va., before joining NASCAR.com…

…Current UFC light heavyweight title challenger Daniel Cormier has been named the co-host of UFC TONIGHT, the official news and information show of the UFC on FOX Sports 1. Cormier joins co-host and former UFC multiple title contender Kenny Florian, veteran combat sports journalist Karyn Bryant and four-time World MMA Awards Journalist of the Year Ariel Helwani, discussing the top UFC news, breaking down the biggest fights and interviewing the biggest names in the sport every Wednesday at 8:00 PM ET on FOX Sports 1…

…The SEC Network’s men’s basketball coverage this season will feature Dave Baker, Barry Booker, Joe Dean Jr., Daymeon Fishback, Tom Hart, Darrin Horn, Dave Neal, Will Perdue and Jon Sundvold highlight the SEC Network’s basketball commentating roster. In addition, the network has hired former SEC men’s basketball players Dane Bradshaw (Tennessee) and Tony Delk (Kentucky) as SEC Network analysts…

…As for its women’s basketball coveage, SEC Network has hired former Duke and Texas women’s basketball coach Gail Goestenkors as part of a staple of women’s basketball commentators set to cover more than 190 Southeastern Conference games scheduled across the network’s television and digital platforms this season. Play-by-play commentators include   Paul Sunderland,  Cara Capuano, Brenda VanLengen. Analysts will include   Debbie Antonelli,  Nell Fortner, Carolyn Peck, Steffi Sorensen, Carol Ross…

…FOX Sports has unveiled the announcers and analysts covering the complete 2014 FIFA Women’s World Cup CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament across the FOX Sports family of networks. FOX Sports’ game analysts include numerous U.S. Women’s National Team veterans. Cat Whitehill is a 10-year veteran defender and current player-coach for the Boston Breakers in the National Women’s Soccer League, while midfielder Angela Hucles played on the USWNT for seven years, including two FIFA Women’s World Cups. Defender Danielle Slaton spent five years with the national squad before moving on to play for Olympique Lyonnais, where she was a starting defender on the French First Division team. Tony DiCicco, best known as head coach of the USWNT that won the legendary 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, adds a coach’s perspective.  Completing the team are former University of Minnesota soccer star Kyndra de St. Aubin, who has covered women’s soccer for the Big Ten Network and Pac-12 Networks, and former Canadian Women’s National Team striker Christine Latham.

Jenny Taft, a FOX Sports 1 reporter and update anchor and a former Division I college athlete, is assigned exclusively to coverage of the USWNT for the duration of the tournament. Taft is embedded with the USWNT throughout the 12-day tournament, providing an in-depth look, news updates and features from the inside. Her reports also appear daily on FOX Sports 1 studio shows AMERICA’S PREGAME and FOX SPORTS LIVE.

Calling play-by-play throughout the tournament are John Strong, JP Dellacamera, Mark Rogondino, Justin Kutcher, Jenn Hildreth and Mark Followill who have all called the game at the international, professional or collegiate levels. Each play-by-play announcer is paired with various analysts throughout the tournament.

Before every USWNT match, coverage on FOX Sports 1 or FOX Sports 2 kicks off with a 30-minute pregame show live from Los Angeles with host Rob Stone alongside a rotation of expert analysts.  Included in that group are U.S. Soccer Hall of Famer Eric Wynalda, former USWNT stars Leslie Osborne and Heather Mitts, as well as former Mexican Women’s National Team defender Monica Gonzalez.  Julie Stewart-Binks also hosts pregame coverage for select matches. FOX Sports soccer insider and Sports Illustrated senior columnist Grant Wahl serves as a tournament correspondent, and longtime FIFA and Match Commissioner Dr. Joe Machnik provides insight and opinion as it pertains to officiating.