Gaudelli to tackle producer’s job on ‘MNF’

Microphones on quarterbacks, more locker room coverage planned

NEW YORK — ABC Sports has gone inhouse for Don Ohlmeyer’s replacement as producer of “Monday Night Football,” tapping Fred Gaudelli, producer of “Sunday Night Football” on ABC’s sister network ESPN.

Ohlmeyer resigned last week after one year as producer of “MNF.”

In a conference call with reporters, Gaudelli, 40, said he aims to put microphones on the quarterback and the defensive captain during the game “to enhance the entertainment value of the telecast for viewers at home.”

Also on Gaudelli’s wish list for ABC’s coverage of the 2001 season’s games: “More liberal access to the locker room, particular during the pre-game” activities, “so we can attract more viewers than just the football junkies.”

Extreme resistance

He said ABC would be willing to allow the National Football League to control the on and off buttons on any microphones hooked up to players during games. And ABC has no plans to copy the XFL, which allows cameramen to be on the field to follow the action during plays.

“The NFL won’t do anything to jeopardize the integrity of the game, and cameras on the field would definitely do that,” Gaudelli said.

Although the household ratings of “Monday Night Football” fell again last season, Gaudelli said numbers in the men 18-34 demographic went up for the first time in six years. He attributed that to the hiring of comedian Dennis Miller to do color commentary in the booth with Al Michaels and Dan Fouts, also new last season.

‘Major challenge’

“Gaudelli will have a major challenge in dealing with the three-ring circus that goes on in the booth every game,” said Rick Gentile, a former top executive at ABC Sports and head of his own company, We Media. “Gaudelli will have to keep a harness on these guys, because ‘Monday Night Football’ is the most visible sports program on the air — it’s the bellwether NFL broadcast.”

Gaudelli has spent his entire working career at ESPN, joining the network’s production department in 1982. He rose through the ranks, and in November 1996 became senior coordinating producer, overseeing NFL games, the NFL draft and X Games on ESPN and ESPN2.

He added Major League Baseball to his duties in 1997 and has served as senior producer of the annual Espy Awards since the cablecast began in 1998.

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