Despite still looking like a lad fresh out of short pants, Bob Costas is 64 years old and could not continue as the face of NBC Sports forever. His heir has been apparent since last year when NBC hired Mike Tirico, but the transition is happening quicker than we expected.
On this morning’s Today, Costas and Tirico appeared to announce that Tirico will take over the network’s biggest role: primetime host duties at the Olympics, which NBC has the rights to through 2032.
Tirico will start immediately, with the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, which begin one year from today. Costas had hosted every NBC Olympics broadcast since Barcelona in 1992.
Tirico will also assume Costas’s spot as host of Sunday Night Football, which may still be a placeholder role—Tirico is, for my money, the best NFL play-by-play guy working, and he’s widely expected to eventually take over for Al Michaels. Tirico will continue to call golf and Notre Dame football for NBC.
Tirico, who did daytime hosting from the Rio Games, said the primetime Olympics role wasn’t promised to him upon his hiring last year, but it was about as obvious and inevitable as these things get.
Costas said today that stepping back was his decision, and he’ll still be around, especially on the network’s Triple Crown coverage and through the NFL playoffs. NBC Sports chair Mark Lazarus put it this way:
“He’ll have an on-going role around our big and iconic events,” Lazarus said. “But in terms of day-to-day, he’s taking a step back as he heads towards slowing down his trajectory with us.”
Or, as Costas phrased it, he’s entering the “Tom Brokaw phase” of his career. He joins Verne Lundqvist, Dick Enberg, Chris Berman, Vin Scully, and Brent Musburger as headliners from an older generation of broadcasters who have moved into semi-retirement in the last year.
At age 50, Tirico is an incontrovertible superstar in his field, and did a little bit of everything in his 25 years at ESPN, a rise barely checked by multiple allegations of and suspensions for sexual harassment. Now he’s got the two biggest stages in sports media.