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Michaels spurns NBC

Announcer passes on 'Sunday' and flies to 'Monday'

NEW YORK — Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Sports & Olympics, said Tuesday that Al Michaels rejected his offer to join the network’s new “Sunday Night Football” as play-by-play announcer because Michaels wanted too much money and a private plane to wing him to the weekly games.

In a separate conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Michaels said he was renewing his contract to call “Monday Night Football” games, even though they’re moving from ABC to its sister network ESPN in 2006, because “I’ve spent half my life with the same company (ABC) and I’m comfortable in this cocoon.

“To reduce the negotiations solely to money is absolutely incorrect,” Michaels continued. Reports put his salary at about $6 million a year ($4 million from ESPN for the NFL games and $2 million from ABC for doing play-by-play on National Basketball Assn. post-season games, including the NBA Finals).

On the private-jet clause, Michaels said, “I fly privately from time to time when there’s an NFL game followed by an NBA game. But during the last four years, I’ve paid for 80% of the flights out of my own pocket. The issue of a private plane made zero difference” to his signing with ESPN/ABC.

Ebersol said NBC’s parent company General Electric has a policy of not supplying private planes to its top personalities, listing the names of four celebrities — Tom Brokaw, Katie Couric, Matt Lauer and Brian Williams — who have to rough it by flying first class on commercial airlines.

Joining Michaels on ESPN’s “MNF” in 2006 will be one analyst in the booth, Joe Theismann, who has done color for ESPN’s “Sunday Night Football” since 1988, and two sideline reporters: Suzy Kolber and Michele Tafoya. Kolber is a reporter for “Sunday Night Football,” Tafoya for “Monday Night Football.”

Mike Patrick and Paul McGuire, the on-air talent who’ll be displaced by the new “MNF” lineup, will get other roles at ESPN, said Mark Shapiro, exec veep of programming and production, possibly as an integral part of “MNF Countdown,” the two-hour pregame show hosted by Chris Berman. “We don’t want to let Paul or Mike go,” Shapiro said.

Ebersol put together his conference call to report officially the widely rumored news that Bob Costas, a 26-year veteran of NBC Sports, has extended his contract for six years, through 2012, and will take over as host of the pregame studio show leading in to “NBC’s Sunday Night Football.”

As part of the NBC deal, Costas will host the next four Olympic Games on NBC: Torino, Italy, in 2006; Beijing in 2008; Vancouver in 2010; and London in 2012.

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