Longtime ESPN personality Ryen Russillo has announced that he is leaving the Worldwide Leader in Sports after about 12 years. He is the host of The Russillo Show on ESPN Radio from 1 to 4 p.m. Eastern time which is also simulcast on one of the ESPN television channels. He will continue to host a weekly podcast until his contract expires next summer and he completely disconnects from ESPN.
As of January 2, the show was scheduled to move to afternoon drive, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern, with co-host Will Cain, after eight years-plus in the earlier time slot. The show will continue apparently with Cain at the helm with possible addition of a new co-host. This is the second abrupt departure for ESPN this week; in a bombshell development, company president John Skipper resigned immediately on Monday citing substance addiction.
The Russillo Show was formerly Russillo and Kanell before Danny Kanell was let go by ESPN during the mass layoffs in April. In its previous iteration starting in 2009, it was SVP and Russillo (with Scott Van Pelt). ESPN had another round of layoffs after Thanksgiving. The Disney subsidiary has been drowning in red ink over cord-cutting, declining TV viewership for various reasons, and overpaying sports leagues for the rights to broadcast their games. In many markets, ESPN radio programming is at rock bottom in listenership. Indications are that ESPN plans to let existing contracts of many on-air presenters quietly expire when they come due.
An announcement from the ESPN public relations office indicates that Ryen Russillo will anchor his final broadcast on Friday, December 22.
According to Russillo, the network’s contract extension offer was for the same salary, but he anticipated that the 3-6 p.m. shift will turn out to be a lot more work and actually involve more hours (about 10 every day), including SportsCenter appearances, the Sporting News reported. He also expressed the feeling that he wasn’t growing creatively and that his life lacked balance otherwise.
“I’d be lying if I told you I’ve been super happy lately. And I know people who know me really well here — I don’t think they’re entirely surprised by this.”
Russillo, 42, described the separation from ESPN after he declined the contract offer as super amicable and that forcing himself to go in a new direction, wherever that might be, could be a good thing.
“Every moment of fear is trumped by a moment of excitement that I have about what I’m gonna do next. It’s kind of an awesome feeling even though it’s unsettling. But I got to tell you that I almost feel like I have to force myself to do something different.”
In late summer, ESPN suspended Ryen Russillo after an August 23 vacation incident in which he allegedly wandered into the wrong condo in Jackson, Wyoming, passed out in a bedroom, and was subsequently charged with a criminal trespass misdemeanor. Upon his return to the airwaves, he publicly apologized for drinking too much that night and said that he deserved the suspension.
Watch Ryen Russillo discuss his sudden exit from ESPN Radio in the clip below.