Behind the Mic: ESPN Re-Ups Ian Darke for Soccer; Fox Adds Curtis Strange to Golf Coverage

Ian Darke has signed a multi-year agreement to remain with ESPN as the company’s lead play-by-play commentator for soccer. Darke will continue as ESPN’s primary voice for U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams’ matches, including FIFA World Cup qualifiers, and other tournaments and international friendlies. He will also pen a recurring column for ESPNFC.com and make periodic appearances on ESPN FC, the daily soccer television news and information program. The new contract extends through 2020. This summer, Darke will be ESPN’s lead English-language play-by-play commentator for the UEFA European Football Championship 2016 in France (June 10 – July 10).

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Ian Darke

Darke joined ESPN full-time from Sky Sports in September 2010 following his work during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Paired with legendary Liverpool FC player Steve McManaman, the duo called matches from Premier League stadiums each week from 2010-2013. He served as lead commentator for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany and FIFA World Cup in Brazil in 2014. In the United Kingdom, Darke will continue as lead football commentator for BT Sport, covering the Barclays Premier League and other major European leagues…

…According to a report from Golfweek, Fox Sports is adding Curtis Strange as its lead on-course reporter. Strange confirmed to Golfweek that he signed a three-year contract with Fox on Feb. 25. Strange had been working as a tower analyst for ESPN. This will be Strange’s first job as an on-course reporter. He worked as a lead analyst for ABC and later as a hole announcer for ESPN. Strange said he will work the Masters for ESPN before his first assignment with Fox at the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball in May. He also will work the U.S. Open, U.S. Senior Open and the U.S. Amateur. (Golfweek)…

…Jim Ross, best known as a longtime play-by-play voice for WWE, has signed on to be a boxing announcer for CBS Sports. His debut will be March 12, the first of eight scheduled monthly events at the Downtown Las Vegas Event Center called “Knockout Night at the D.” It will be Ross’ first regular broadcasting gig since he filled in on WWE broadcasts following Jerry Lawler’s heart attack in 2012. Ross will work with veteran color commentator Al Bernstein. Ross previously called fights on Fox Sports in 2014. Ross also is doing voiceover work for New Japan Pro Wrestling shows on Mark Cuban’s AXS TV. The first episode with Ross’ voice will air March 4. (AP)…

…Melissa Stark is joining HBO’s The Fight Game with Jim Lampley this March. She will be the new interviewer and correspondent for Lampley’s boxing studio program. The Fight Game launched in 2012 with Michelle Beadle serving in the reporting and interviewing role for the past two years. The season premiere of The Fight Game is set for Wednesday, March 16 on HBO. Stark will continue with her broadcasting duties at NFL Network…

…The Nickelodeon network will introduce series with football stars Cam Newton and Rob Gronkowski. Newton, the Carolina Panthers quarterback and reigning NFL MVP, will host “All In,” a series where he will take kids on dream-fulfilling journeys. Gronkowski, of the New England Patriots, will be the face of “Crashletes,” introducing popular clips of sports action. Nickelodeon presented its upcoming programming ideas to a meeting of advertisers on Wednesday. Another new series, “Jagger Eaton’s Mega Life,” will follow the 15-year-old skateboard star as he meets people around the world…

…Former ESPN and NBC Sports broadcaster Josh Elliott will join CBSN, CBS News’ 24/7 digital streaming news service, as an anchor later this month. Prior to his recent year-and-a-half stint with NBC Sports, Elliott spent three years at ABC News, primarily as the news anchor on Good Morning America. Prior to that Elliott spent seven years with ESPN, serving as anchor of SportsCenter from 2006-11. He previously wrote for Sports Illustrated…

… Pac-12 Networks has added Barbara Jordan as a softball analyst for the 2016 season. Since 2010, she has covered softball as an analyst for college and professional softball on ESPN, Fox Sports, RSN, CSS, the ACC Network, Cox Sports, CBS Sports Net and MLB.com. As a player, Barbara was a member of Team USA for eight seasons including the 1996 Olympic Squad, winning multiple national and international gold medals and championships including the World Championships and Pan American Games. In the collegiate sphere, she was a three-time NCAA National Champion while playing centerfield and leading off at Cal State Northridge and was a three-time NCAA Division II All American. She was also named to the NCAA Division II 25-year Anniversary team in 2006. As a professional, Barbara became the first U.S. National Team member to go into the professional ranks of the WPSL. Sher served as Division I College Coach for 10 years at Cal State Northridge and as a member of the USA Softball coaching staff from 2004-12. Barbara has covered the NPF since 2010 on both radio and television…

…Veteran sports broadcaster Bob Varsha and former racer Calvin Fish will lead FOX Sports coverage of the 2016 FIA WORLD ENDURANCE CHAMPIONSHIP (WEC), with the first event – the SIX HOURS OF SILVERSTONE – starting live on FS1 on Sunday, April 17 (7:00 AM ET). In addition to Varsha and Fish, FOX Sports turns to WEC announcers John Hindhaugh and Graham Goodwin, with Louise Beckett reporting from the pits. For the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans, Varsha and Brian Till call the action, with analysis from Fish, Tommy Kendall and Jamie Howe. Justin Bell and Andrew Marriott report from around the paddock…

…NBA commentator and two-time champion Kenny Smith has launched a new show on Norm Pattiz’s Podcastone. The show features the NBA on TNT host talking pro basketball and entertainment with special guests in those fields. The first episode kicks off the series with a Houston Rockets championship reunion featuring teammates Hakeem Olajuwon, Robert Horry, Clyde Drexler and Sam Cassell coming together to reminisce and talk the sport today. Charles Barkley  and Reggie Miller also join the show with conversation from the recent NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto. New episodes will be available every Wednesday at PodcastOne.com, the PODCASTONE app and iTUNES…

… ESPN.com has added new beat writers to cover Red Sox, Cardinals & Dodgers.

Scott Lauber will serve as the new Boston Red Sox beat reporter. He will be on-site at Red Sox Spring Training in Fort Myers, Fla. beginning Wednesday, March 2. Since 2010, Lauber has covered the Red Sox for the Boston Herald. Prior to the Red Sox beat, Lauber covered the Philadelphia Phillies for the News-Journal in Wilmington, DE.

Mark Saxon has been named the new St. Louis Cardinals beat writer. Saxon most recently wrote for ESPNLosAngeles.com covering the Los Angeles Dodgers and has also written for the Oakland Tribune and the Orange County Register. Saxon returns to his hometown to write for ESPN.com’s first Cardinals blog.

Doug Padilla has returned to his home state of California to cover the Los Angeles Dodgers for ESPN.com. Since 2010 Padilla has covered the Chicago White Sox for ESPN Radio 1000, ESPNChicago.com and ESPN.com.