Joe Buck, Troy Aikman ready for new challenge in 'Monday Night Football' booth – USA TODAY

This fall, “Monday Night Football” will look completely different than it has in the past. But it will also have a distinct air of familiarity.
The broadcasting duo of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman are both moving from Fox Sports’ top team on Sundays, where they’ve been for the past 20 seasons, to the storied prime-time spot on ESPN.
“My anticipation for the start of the season is literally off the charts,” Buck told reporters on a conference call Monday.
Buck grew up tagging along with his father, Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Buck, as he was calling Monday night games on radio. Even then, young Joe knew “something special was going on two doors down” where Frank Gifford, Don Meredith and Howard Cosell were turning “Monday Night Football” into an institution.
“It was like that is the peak of sports and media,” Buck said. “And now here we are. I couldn’t be happier.”
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The longtime Buck-Aikman partnership appeared to unravel in February when Aikman’s contract expired and talks with Fox hit a snag over the schedule for the upcoming season.
“As we moved through those conversations, trying to figure out the number of games to continue on the schedule that I had been (working) was going to be challenging,” Aikman said. Amazon taking over coverage of Thursday night NFL games in 2022 “changed things as well.”
Shortly after the Super Bowl, ESPN entered the picture with the Monday night offer. Once Aikman was on board, a reunion “just made all the sense in the world,” according to Buck.
The only problem: Buck still had one year left on his contract.
After a month or so of talks, the two sides worked out a deal that would allow Buck to leave for ESPN, where his wife Michelle Beisner-Buck also works as a reporter.
“Fox was very gracious letting me out and I was very excited to come here and do ‘Monday Night Football’. It couldn’t have worked out any better for me and for my family,” he said.
In March, everything became official – but not before ESPN gave Fox the broadcast rights to a Penn State-Purdue football game this fall. (“I went to Indiana. They could have worked in a Hoosier game or something along the way,” Buck joked. “Or UCLA,” Aikman’s alma mater.
Leaving Fox wasn’t easy, especially saying goodbye to the rest of the broadcast crew – many of whom had been together for all six of their Super Bowls together.
“The toughest call that I had to make was to Erin Andrews and tell her that I was leaving,” Aikman said. “She’s like a sister to both of us.”
However, change also leaves new opportunities in its wake. With Buck no longer the voice of the NFL and MLB at Fox, up-and-coming broadcasters Kevin Burkhardt and Joe Davis now get their shots at the big time.
“Kevin’s just a wonderful human being. There’s not anybody who works with Kevin who doesn’t love him. And so I’m excited for him, whether it’s with Greg Olsen this year … and (Tom) Brady eventually. And for Joe to work with John Smoltz,” Buck said. “That’s one of the real bright sides of this with regard to my time at Fox.”
Both Buck and Aikman said there were no hard feelings on either side in leaving Fox after 27 and 21 years, respectively. But now it’s time to embrace everything that’s new.
“It’s a challenge with a very bright spotlight on you as you try and figure out your new work environment in front of tens of millions of people on live TV,” Buck said. “But that’s fun. That’s what this business is all about.”
Follow Steve Gardner on Twitter @SteveAGardner.

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