Madden in talks to join MNF crew

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2002

NEW YORK -- John Madden is in talks with ABC Sports to join ''Monday Night Football,'' two TV industry sources told The Associated Press.

Madden had one year remaining on his contract with Fox Sports, but the network agreed late Wednesday to free him from that deal, one of the sources said.

The outspoken announcer, who coached the Oakland Raiders to the 1977 Super Bowl championship, has been at Fox since 1994. Before that, he and longtime play-by-play partner Pat Summerall were at CBS, where they were paired in 1981. Summerall said a week before this year's Super Bowl that he and Madden would part ways after calling the game for Fox.

A source said Madden's representatives at IMG asked Fox for permission to talk with ABC, and that Fox and Madden agreed to end his contract now.

Neither Madden nor his agent could be reached late Wednesday. Fox and ABC refused to comment.

If Madden does move to ABC, one possibility would be for him to team with veteran play-by-play announcer Al Michaels in a two-man booth. That would mean comedian Dennis Miller and analyst Dan Fouts, a Hall of Famer, would be gone after two years.

Mirroring a general trend in television, the ratings for ''Monday Night Football'' have declined each of the past seven years, including a 9 percent drop this season to a new low average rating of 11.5 (each rating point represents a little more than 1.05 million TV homes). Fox's NFL games averaged a 10.2, down 4 percent from last season, while CBS was steady at 9.5.

The partnership between Madden and Summerall evolved into the signature sound for pro football on TV. Summerall's reserved tone contrasted well with Madden's free-flowing opinions and jokes.

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