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Maria Taylor
Maria Taylor 1 (cropped).jpg
Taylor in 2015
Born
Suzette Maria Taylor

(1987-05-12) May 12, 1987 (age 35)
Alma materUniversity of Georgia
OccupationLead host Football Night in America
Years active2009–present
EmployerNBC Sports
Spouse
Rodney Blackstock
(m. 2019; div. 2021)
Jon
(m. 2022)
[1]

Suzette Maria Taylor (born May 12, 1987) is an American sportscaster for NBC Sports. She has worked for ESPN and the SEC Network. She has covered college football, college volleyball, National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL), and men's and women's college basketball.

Early life

Taylor was born on May 12, 1987 to Steve and Suzette Taylor. While attending Centennial High School, she had a successful four-year basketball career in which she received many accolades. Among the awards were being a member of the Atlanta Tip-Off Team of the Year, being a Fulton County Scholar Athlete of the Year, Offensive MVP of her high school volleyball team for three years, a three-time All-Region Selection, and being named All-State as a senior. Taylor was additionally selected to be a member of the 2004 USA Volleyball Junior National A2 team.[2]

Taylor received an athletic scholarship to the University of Georgia, where she continued to play volleyball and basketball from 2005 until 2009. While at Georgia she was named a member of the All-SEC volleyball team each season. She also continued to play for the US Volleyball Junior National A2 team, and helped them win a bronze medal during the Open Division of the US Volleyball Championships.[2] By the time her playing days were done in the fall of 2008, Taylor ranked fourth all-time in program history in career kills with 1,729 and was fourth all-time in total points with 2,020. She is 6'2" in height.[3]

Career

Taylor covering the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship for ACC Network

Prior to 2012, Taylor was reporter and host for IMG College at the University of Georgia for three years. She also appeared on various studio shows including Dawg Report, SEC Men's Basketball Tonight, and SportsNite.[citation needed]

ESPN

In 2013, Taylor was the sideline reporter on ESPN2’s weekly Saturday-night primetime college football telecast in addition to the Orange Bowl, her second straight year covering the annual bowl game. She has been an analyst on the NCAA Women's Basketball Selection Show, NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament Preview Show and also ESPN's coverage of both the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament and Women's Volleyball National Championship for the previous two years.

Taylor joined the SEC Network in 2014. She was a college football reporter on SEC Network with commentator Brent Musburger and Jesse Palmer, and was also an analyst on other SEC telecasts including volleyball and women's basketball. In 2017, Maria joined the College GameDay broadcast team as reporter and host, replacing Samantha Ponder (who became the host of Sunday NFL Countdown), and was an ESPN host and reporter for the College Football Playoff between the University of Georgia and the University of Oklahoma. Subsequently, she was a host and reporter for the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship between the University of Alabama and the University of Georgia.[4][5] Taylor was the sideline reporter for Saturday Night Football on ABC, with Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit calling the game from the booth.

In 2019, Taylor began hosting NBA Countdown, the pre-game show for ESPN's Friday night and Sunday afternoon NBA games. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, ESPN scrapped its original plan for The Jump, hosted by Rachel Nichols, to serve as the NBA Finals pregame show, and instead named Taylor's NBA Countdown the Finals pregame and halftime show.[6] In 2020, she was the sideline reporter for Pittsburgh Steelers vs New York Giants Monday Night Football opener.[7]

NBC Sports

In 2020, ESPN reportedly offered to increase Taylor's $1 million annual salary to $5 million, which she turned down. Taylor left the network the day after the 2021 NBA Finals concluded on July 20. Her departure came after a conference call between Rachel Nichols and LeBron James' advisor Adam Mendelsohn from July 2020 that suggested that the network’s decision to choose Taylor to host the NBA Finals was due to her race was leaked earlier that month.[8][9][10] Two days later, Taylor joined NBC Sports, and made her on-air debut for the network during coverage of the 2020 Summer Olympics on July 23.[11]

In the 2021 NFL season, Taylor joined NBC's Sunday Night Football pre-game show Football Night in America as a panelist.[12] In May 2022, it was announced that Taylor would replace Mike Tirico (who is moving to the lead play-by-play position for Sunday Night Football) as the lead host of the program.[13] Taylor served as the host for the men's and women's semi-finals and finals during NBC's coverage of the 2022 French Open.[14]

References

  1. ^ "6'2" NFL Reporter Maria Taylor Reveals New Wedding Photos, Husband Even Taller!". 2Paragraphs. April 29, 2021. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Maria Taylor Georgia profile".
  3. ^ "Where Are They Now: Maria Taylor". Archived from the original on April 12, 2014.
  4. ^ Knapp, Corey (December 6, 2017). "Georgia football: ESPN announces broadcast team for Rose Bowl". dognation.com. Cox Media Group. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  5. ^ Kirshner, Alex (January 8, 2018). "ESPN's MegaCast is back again for the Playoff National Championship". sbnation.com. Vox Media. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  6. ^ "Doris Burke to make history by calling conference finals, NBA Finals on radio". Pro Basketball Talk. Associated Press. September 10, 2020. Retrieved July 11, 2021.
  7. ^ Allie Stoneberg (September 10, 2020). "ESPN Kicks Off the 50th Anniversary Season of Monday Night Football". espnpressroom.com. Retrieved September 18, 2020.
  8. ^ Marchand, Andrew (June 30, 2021). "Maria Taylor, ESPN facing possible divorce over 'Stephen A. Smith money'". New York Post. Retrieved July 24, 2021.
  9. ^ Marchand, Andrew (July 8, 2021). "ESPN's $3 million offer to Maria Taylor may not let her finish NBA Finals". New York Post. Retrieved July 24, 2021.
  10. ^ Draper, Kevin (July 21, 2021). "With the N.B.A. Finals Complete, Maria Taylor Leaves ESPN". The New York Times. Retrieved July 22, 2021.
  11. ^ "NBC officially announces hiring of Maria Taylor, featuring her on-air Friday". Awful Announcing. July 24, 2021. Retrieved May 12, 2022.
  12. ^ "Maria Taylor and Drew Brees will join NBC's Football Night In America". Awful Announcing. August 30, 2021. Retrieved May 12, 2022.
  13. ^ "Maria Taylor will host NBC's Football Night in America". Awful Announcing. May 12, 2022. Retrieved May 12, 2022.
  14. ^ "Maria Taylor will host NBC's Football Night in America". NBC Sports. May 31, 2022. Retrieved June 5, 2022.