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HBCU grads become the first to host ESPN’s ‘First Take’

Shannon Sharpe, a Savannah State University graduate, and Stephen A. Smith, a Winston-Salem State University graduate, will be the first graduates from HBCUs to co-host a sports debate show on ESPN.

Shannon Sharpe (left), who played in the NFL for 14 seasons, mainly as a tight end for the Denver Broncos, and Stephen A. Smith (right), a sports journalist and sports television personality are now co-hosts on ‘First Take.’ (Photo courtesy of HBCU Gameday)

ESPN’s “First Take” will break barriers as it becomes the first show to have HBCU alumni co-host on a major sports network. This comes following Shannon Sharpe’s departure from Fox Network’s show “Undisputed” after being on the show for seven years.

With Sharpe joining Stephen A. Smith on “First Take,” the two can be considered the blueprint for aspiring HBCU college students eager to become an on-camera personality in the sports world someday.

George Hamilton III, a senior broadcast journalism major with a minor in economics, believes this feat shows how far HBCU talent has come from years ago. 

“We have seen the impact of companies hiring more students from HBCUs in all industries, particularly in sports. We have seen the rise of HBCU talent on a bigger stage,” Hamilton said. 

“Whether that is in front of the camera, behind the camera, or behind the scenes, HBCU students have more people in the sports media industry to look up to as role models than ever before, and that list starts with Sharpe and Smith.”

There will now be two electrifying personalities going back and forth every other day on ESPN. Sharpe can bring his witty Southern charm to the show, and Smith will have someone to match his energy while debating. It’s almost a match made in Heaven. 

“First Take” is leading the way in the new age of sports media. Fans will ultimately anticipate seeing clips from the show on social media, sometimes more than actually tuning in on cable. Sam Granville, sports reporter for ABC News 13, has been able to look at more of the business side of the move and what it says about the sports media world in general. 

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“The addition of Shannon Sharpe is a perfect example of the newer model for sports media. Most people’s interaction with First Take and other sports shows will be through a short clip of a wild quote or an outlandish “take” that gets clicks on Twitter (X), Instagram, etc… Sharpe provides a personality, much like a Pat McAfee, who people want to hear quick and entertaining thoughts as opposed to long-winded analysis of a game or athlete,” Granville said.

The sports world is now awaiting the show’s debut with its new hosts on Sept. 4. Whether it meets fan expectations or not, its arrival will change the sports television landscape.

Copy edited by Diamond Hamm

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