ESPN, the world’s leading sports network, has been a staple in the lives of sports enthusiasts for decades. Over the years, it has produced countless shows and programs that have captured the hearts of fans around the globe. One such show that made waves during its time on air was “Cold Pizza.” Airing from 2003 to 2007, “Cold Pizza” was a unique blend of sports, entertainment, and pop culture, featuring an array of charismatic and talented personalities. In this article, we will take a nostalgic journey to learn more about the famous ESPN “Cold Pizza” personalities who played pivotal roles in making the show a fan favorite.
1. Skip Bayless
When discussing the most iconic figures associated with “Cold Pizza,” Skip Bayless is a name that cannot be overlooked. Bayless, a sports journalist and commentator, brought his sharp wit and fearless opinions to the show—his spirited debates with co-hosts and guests made for compelling television. Bayless’s fearless approach to sports analysis earned him a devoted following. He was known for his strong opinions on various sports topics, often sparking heated discussions among his colleagues and viewers.
Skip Bayless is an American sports columnist, commentator, and television personality known for his work on shows like ESPN’s “First Take” with Stephen A. Smith. He was born as John Edward Bayless II on December 4, 1951, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, but his nickname “Skip,” given by his father, became his legal name. Bayless showed an early interest in sports, played baseball and basketball, and was involved in various school activities.
He attended Vanderbilt University, where he majored in English and history, graduating cum laude in 1974. Bayless began his career in print journalism, working for publications like The Miami Herald and the Los Angeles Times. He won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Newspaper Writing in 1977 for his coverage of Seattle Slew’s Triple Crown victory.
In 1989, he authored his first book, “God’s Coach: The Hymns, Hype, and Hypocrisy of Tom Landry’s Cowboys,” and went on to write books about the Dallas Cowboys. Bayless received recognition for his sports writing and earned awards during his career, including being named Texas Sportswriter of the Year multiple times.
Bayless also ventured into radio, hosting sports talk shows in Dallas and becoming a frequent guest on various radio programs. In the early 2000s, he transitioned into television, joining ESPN as a regular contributor on shows like “Cold Pizza” and “First Take.”
In 2016, Bayless left ESPN and began hosting “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed” with Shannon Sharpe on Fox Sports 1. He gained notoriety for his outspoken opinions and criticism of athletes like LeBron James and Aaron Rodgers. Bayless faced controversy for remarks about Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott’s struggle with depression in 2020.
Despite controversies, he signed a four-year, $32 million contract with Fox Sports in March 2021. Bayless also made cameo appearances in films like “Rocky Balboa” and appeared in sports documentaries.
He has received several honors and awards, including being selected for the Oklahoma City Wall of Fame and the Vanderbilt Student Media Hall of Fame. In 2012, he was nominated for a Sports Emmy Award. He received a Webby People’s Voice Award for his contributions to sports media.
2. Woody Paige
Woodrow Wilson Paige Jr., born on June 27, 1946, is a sports columnist, author, and a panelist on the ESPN talk show “Around the Horn.” He had a distinguished career as a columnist, including 35 years at The Denver Post, where he became well-known for his sports reporting. Paige is also a Pro Football Hall of Fame committee member and a Baseball Hall of Fame voter.
Paige began his writing career in high school and later attended the University of Tennessee, where he joined the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. After graduating, he worked for various publications, including the Knoxville Journal, The Commercial Appeal of Memphis, and the Rocky Mountain News of Denver. In 1981, he joined The Denver Post and made significant contributions to sports journalism.
One notable moment in Paige’s career involved his report about the nickname for the Denver Broncos stadium, Invesco Field at Mile High. He revealed that the stadium was humorously referred to as “The Diaphragm” within the company due to its shape. This led to legal threats against Paige and The Denver Post, but the lawsuit was dropped when it was confirmed that the story was accurate.
Paige temporarily left The Denver Post to join ESPN2’s “Cold Pizza” in 2004, where he interacted with sports writer Skip Bayless. With his distinctive chalkboard and colorful personality, Woody Paige was another standout personality on “Cold Pizza.” Paige’s encyclopedic knowledge of sports and his humorous approach made him a fan favorite.
In 2016, Paige left The Denver Post and began writing a sports column for The Gazette. His career has been marked by his dedication to sports journalism and his contributions to the field over the years.
3. Kit Hoover
Catherine “Kit” Hoover is an American television host, sportscaster, and broadcast journalist. She currently anchors Access Hollywood and co-hosts Access Daily with Mario & Kit. Hoover’s career includes stints as a sportscaster for ESPN and Fox News and various roles in entertainment journalism.
She attended Marist School in Georgia, where she excelled in running and later received the “2022 Distinguished Alumni Award” from the school. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Kit Hoover made her television debut as a cast member on MTV’s Road Rules in 1995. She then became an entertainment correspondent for the American Journal. She joined Fox News in 1999, where she worked on various programs and co-hosted FOX Rules with Kit Hoover.
In 2003, Hoover joined ESPN as co-host of Cold Pizza, where she covered major sports events like the Olympics and the Super Bowl. Kit Hoover brought a refreshing and engaging presence to “Cold Pizza” as one of the show’s co-hosts. Her charisma and versatility allowed her to transition between sports and entertainment segments seamlessly. Hoover’s dynamic on-screen chemistry with her co-hosts made for entertaining banter and kept viewers engaged. After her time on “Cold Pizza,” she continued to excel in her career as a television personality. She also served as a field reporter for tennis events. She later became a judge on ESPN’s reality show Dream Job. She continued her role with ESPN until 2006.
Following her time at ESPN, Hoover worked as a correspondent for the TV Guide Channel and hosted the lifestyle makeover series Real Simple, Real Life. She also co-hosted Shaquille O’Neal’s sports reality TV program, Shaq Vs.
Since 2010, Kit Hoover has been co-hosting Access Daily and, in 2019, became the host of Access Hollywood.
In her personal life, Hoover is a fitness enthusiast and enjoys running. She has been featured in publications like Woman’s World, Self, and Women’s Health, where she shares tips on staying healthy and active. She was also named Women’s Health magazine’s “Mom Crush” in April 2020.
4. Jay Crawford
Jason “Jay” Crawford is an American TV news and sports anchor known for his career at ESPN and his current role as a news anchor for WKYC-TV 3 in Cleveland.
Crawford was born in Sandusky, Ohio, and graduated from Perkins High School in 1983. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Radio, Television, and Film from Bowling Green State University in 1987.
Before joining ESPN, Crawford held various roles in the television industry, including stints as a local sports director in Tampa, Florida, and Columbus, Ohio, as well as a weekend sports anchor in Hartford, Connecticut. He began his sports career in 1987 in Hazard, Kentucky.
During his time at ESPN, Crawford hosted shows like “Cold Pizza,” “ESPN First Take,” and “1st and 10.” He also co-anchored SportsCenter’s live 11 p.m. edition with Chris McKendry until April 2017. However, he was laid off from his SportsCenter hosting role in 2017 as part of a series of cuts at ESPN.
Jay Crawford was a well-known figure on “Cold Pizza” and added depth to the show’s lineup. His amiable and relatable personality endeared him to viewers. Crawford’s versatility as a host allowed him to tackle a wide range of sports topics and interviews, making him an essential part of the show’s success.
After leaving ESPN, Crawford returned to Ohio and joined Bowling Green State University as an executive in residence, sharing his expertise with students and faculty. He also worked as a commentator for the Cleveland Browns’ preseason games in 2018.
In 2019, Crawford transitioned to WKYC-TV 3 in Cleveland, where he became the 5 p.m. news anchor. He also hosted a noontime show called “Lunch Break with Jay Crawford” and later became the 5 p.m. news anchor alongside chief meteorologist Betsy Kling.
In addition to his TV work, Crawford began co-hosting the “Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show,” a daily YouTube talk show discussing Cleveland sports, in May 2022.
5. Thea Andrews
Thea Andrews is a Canadian journalist and television personality known for her sports and entertainment news work. She has hosted reality competition and morning shows, and her career spans various media outlets.
Andrews began her career in television and theater after graduating from Queen’s University with a degree in Spanish and Latin American studies. She worked as a producer at Fashion Television and hosted the show “Cooking for Love.” She also hosted “Guy’s TV” on TSN, a Saturday night counter-programming block against Hockey Night in Canada.
Her acting credits include roles in films like “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle” and appearances in TV shows like “The Young and the Restless” and HBO’s “True Blood.”
In 2003, Andrews joined ESPN, where she co-hosted various shows, including “Cold Pizza,” “Breakfast at Churchill Downs,” “Breakfast at Pimlico,” “ESPN Hollywood,” and “Sports and Hollywood.” She reported on horse racing, college basketball, and college football for the network.
Thea Andrews joined the “Cold Pizza” team as a co-host, bringing a fresh and vibrant energy to the show. Her sports reporter experience and infectious enthusiasm for sports made her a natural fit. Andrews’ ability to engage with viewers and bring a different perspective to the discussions was a valuable asset to the show.
After leaving ESPN, Andrews joined “Entertainment Tonight” as a correspondent in 2006, where she interviewed numerous celebrities and served as a regular substitute host. She was also the weekend host of the show.
In addition to her work on “Entertainment Tonight,” Andrews co-hosted the “16th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards” Red Carpet Show for TNT in 2010 and hosted the first season of “Top Chef Canada” in 2011. She stepped down as host for the second season due to pregnancy but appeared as a judge in one episode.
Andrews also hosted CMT’s reality competition series “Next Superstar,” which focused on country music talent.
She married Jay Wolf in 2007, and they have a son named Jack Aaron, born in 2008.
6. Dana Jacobson
Dana Jacobson is a host and correspondent for CBS News, where she co-hosts “CBS Saturday Morning” and works as an anchor and reporter for CBS Sports and CBS Sports Network. She joined CBS News in 2015, following her tenure at ESPN from 2002 to 2012. In March 2005, she was appointed as the co-host of Cold Pizza and continued in that role as the show evolved into First Take.
Dana Jacobson, a talented sports journalist and host, added depth and credibility to “Cold Pizza.” Her insightful interviews and analysis contributed to the show’s reputation as a go-to destination for sports enthusiasts. Jacobson’s career at ESPN extended beyond “Cold Pizza” as she continued to make significant contributions to the network’s sports coverage.
Jacobson was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, and attended Andover High School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. She later graduated from Valley High School in West Des Moines, Iowa, in 1989. Jacobson earned her Bachelor of Arts in English and Communications from the University of Michigan in 1993, where she was a Pi Beta Phi sorority member.
Her early television career included roles at WPBN/WTOM-TV in Traverse City, Michigan, where she worked as a fill-in news anchor, weekend sports anchor, producer, and editor. She also reported on various stories in Northern California and covered professional sports, including the NFL and NBA, as a weekend sports anchor at KXTV-TV, ABC’s Sacramento affiliate.
Jacobson hosted shows like “News10 Red Zone” and was a sports reporter for KXTV’s “Monday Night Football” show. She hosted “The NBA Insiders,” a weekly two-hour radio show for KHTK-AM, and filled in for Dan Patrick on his ESPN Radio show during the 2005 holiday season. She also occasionally filled in for Mike Golic on the ESPN Radio show “Mike and Mike in the Morning.”
Since her time at ESPN, Dana Jacobson has become a regular contributor on “The NFL Today” and host on CBS’s “We Need To Talk.” In October 2018, she was honored by the Michigan Jewish Sports Foundation as one of their Hall of Fame inductees.
In her personal life, Jacobson got engaged to Boston Celtics play-by-play announcer Sean Grande and married him on September 28, 2019.
7. Leslie Maxie
Leslie Maxie is a former American track and field athlete and television broadcast journalist. During her high school years at Mills High School, she set a World Youth Best record in the 400-meter hurdles. She competed in the 1988 Summer Olympics in the 400-meter hurdles. In her early career, she was coached by Ed Parker and participated in various track and field events. She also excelled in high school, winning multiple championships and accolades.
After high school, Leslie Maxie studied Public Policy and Planning at the University of Southern California, where she continued to excel in the 400-meter hurdles and relays. She achieved All-American status and was ranked in the top ten in the U.S. in the 400 hurdles multiple times.
In her broadcasting career, Maxie started in children’s programming on KRON and later returned to television as a general correspondent, covering a wide range of sports events for networks like Fox, CBS, Oxygen Media, and NBC. She gained recognition for her insightful commentary and interviewing skills. She joined ESPN as the first member hired for the morning talk show “Cold Pizza” in 2003 and later established her own television production company, LeMax Productions LLC.
Leslie Maxie was a notable personality on ESPN’s “Cold Pizza” from 2003 to 2007. While not an original host, she made significant contributions as a contributor and guest. Maxie’s background in track and field, particularly in the 400-meter hurdles, brought a unique perspective to the show, often overshadowed by mainstream sports. Her appearances mainly focused on track and field events, the Olympics, and related topics, enriching the show’s sports coverage. “Cold Pizza” aimed to include diverse sports personalities, and Maxie’s role as a track and field specialist exemplified this commitment. After her time on the show, she continued her involvement in sports through commentary and advocacy for track and field.
In 2009, Leslie Maxie joined NASCAR as Manager of Communications for East Regional Media Outreach and also contributed to the NASCAR BET show called Changing Lanes. She has had a diverse career in both sports and broadcasting.
8. Linda Cohn
Linda Cohn is an American sportscaster best known for anchoring ESPN’s SportsCenter. She grew up in a Jewish family on Long Island, New York, and developed a passion for sports, particularly ice hockey. Despite facing challenges, she played on her high school’s boys’ ice hockey team and later joined the women’s ice hockey team at SUNY Oswego.
Cohn began her broadcasting career on the radio, working for several New York-based radio stations. In 1987, she made history by becoming the first full-time female sports anchor on a national radio network when she joined ABC. She later worked for SportsChannel America and KIRO-TV in Seattle.
In 1992, Cohn joined ESPN and became one of the anchors for SportsCenter. She faced initial criticism from the network for not displaying enough enthusiasm for sports on TV, but she persevered and improved her performance. Cohn gained recognition for her sports predictions during the 1997 NCAA basketball tournament.
Cohn played a significant role on ESPN’s “Cold Pizza” from 2003 to 2007. Known for her extensive experience and versatility in covering a wide range of sports, Cohn’s passion for ice hockey and in-depth interviews with sports figures made her a beloved and respected personality on the show. Her groundbreaking role as a prominent female anchor broke gender barriers in sports journalism.
Over the years, she expanded her role at ESPN, adding play-by-play for WNBA telecasts. In 2008, she was announced as the co-anchor of a new morning block of SportsCenter, but the program was later scaled back.
Cohn achieved a milestone by hosting her 5,000th edition of SportsCenter in 2016. She continues to anchor SportsCenter and co-hosts it on weekends with Neil Everett. She also hosts the podcast “Listen Closely to Linda Cohn.”
In addition to her broadcasting career, Cohn authored her memoir, “Cohn-Head: A No-Holds-Barred Account of Breaking Into the Boys’ Club,” in 2008. She has two children and is a fan of several New York sports teams, including the Giants, Mets, Knicks, and Rangers.
9. Jay Harris
Jay Harris is an American journalist known for his work at ESPN since February 2003. He primarily hosts late-night editions of SportsCenter at 11 pm and midnight Eastern Time and occasionally the West Coast SportsCenter from Los Angeles. During his time at ESPN, Harris has hosted various shows, including SportsCenter, Outside The Lines, NFL Live, Baseball Tonight, Cold Pizza, First Take, Friday Night Fights, and ESPN Sports Saturday on ABC.
Before joining ESPN, Harris worked as a weeknight news anchor at WPGH-TV in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He also gained experience in local morning radio news at WAMO-FM and national news at American Urban Radio Networks in Pittsburgh. In addition, he worked in local radio news at WOWI-FM in Norfolk, Virginia.
Jay Harris has received several honors, including a Silver World Medal from the New York Festivals, a Robert L. Vann Award from the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation, and an EXCEL Award from the Hampton Roads Black Media Professionals. He is a 1987 graduate of Old Dominion University, where he received a Distinguished Alumni Award and served as the keynote speaker for its 100th commencement ceremony in 2003 and 2004. Harris is married to Stephanie Prigmore and has two children. He is also a member of the Nu Theta chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. On his birthday in 2008, Bill Walton surprised him with a cake on an episode of SportsCenter, noting that he shares his birth date with the famous basketball player Julius Erving.
10. Tom Rinaldi
Tom Rinaldi is a sports reporter known for his work at Fox Sports. He previously contributed to ESPN’s tennis coverage at Wimbledon and the US Open, golf events, SportsCenter, Outside the Lines, College GameDay, and Sunday NFL Countdown. He also produced features for horse racing telecasts and served as a sideline reporter for the NBA playoffs on ESPN in 2017.
Rinaldi joined ESPN in May 2003 after working as a reporter for CNN/SI from 1998 to 2002. His earlier roles included reporting for KATU-TV in Portland, Oregon, from 1996 to 1998 and for WNDU-TV in South Bend, Indiana, from 1993 to 1996. In December 2020, it was announced that he had left ESPN to join Fox Sports, where he is expected to cover major sporting events such as the Super Bowl, World Series, World Cup, and major college football games.
Throughout his career, Rinaldi has earned numerous awards, including 16 Sports Emmy Awards, 7 Edward R. Murrow Awards, 3 Associated Press Awards, and a USA Today Feature-of-the-Year Award.
Rinaldi grew up in Cresskill, New Jersey, and graduated from Cresskill High School. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania and his graduate degree at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He lives in Tenafly with his wife, Dianne, and their children, Jack and Tessa. In 2016, he authored a book titled “The Man in the Red Bandanna,” which tells the story of Welles Crowther, a NYC volunteer firefighter who saved 18 people during the September 11 attacks before losing his own life. Rinaldi was also known for conducting Tiger Woods’ first interview after Woods’ public disclosure of his extra-marital affairs in 2009.
11. Ahmad Rashad
Ahmad Rashad, formerly known as Bobby Moore, is an American sportscaster and former professional football wide receiver. The St. Louis Cardinals drafted him in the 1972 NFL Draft, and he later played for teams like the Buffalo Bills, Seattle Seahawks, and Minnesota Vikings. Rashad transitioned to television after retiring from football, working as a studio analyst, game reporter, and anchor for various sports, including NFL, NBA, and MLB. He is best known for hosting NBA Inside Stuff for 16 seasons. In addition to his sports-related work, Rashad has appeared in TV shows and game shows and authored several films and television shows. He is also known for his brief NBA career, playing a preseason game with the Philadelphia 76ers at the age of 40.
Rashad was born as Robert Earl Moore in 1949 in Portland, Oregon, but changed his name to Ahmad Rashad in 1973 after converting to Islam. He had a successful college football career at the University of Oregon before entering the NFL draft. In the NFL, he achieved various milestones and played both wide receiver and running back during his career.
Rashad worked for NBC and ABC in his broadcasting career, covering sports events and hosting shows. He also had guest appearances on various TV shows and filled in as an anchor on Entertainment Tonight. Rashad joined the New York Knicks’ digital content team in 2021, creating videos for their YouTube channel and hosting events at Madison Square Garden.
12. Jeremy Schaap
Jeremy Schaap is an American sportswriter, television reporter, and author known for his work on ESPN’s E:60, SportsCenter, and Outside the Lines. He has won 11 Emmy Awards for his contributions to these programs. Schaap is also a regular contributor to Nightline and ABC World News Tonight. His work has been published in various prominent publications, including Sports Illustrated, ESPN The Magazine, Time, Parade, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times.
Jeremy Schaap has covered major soccer events for ESPN as the network’s lead reporter, including the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Euro 2012, the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and Euro 2016.
He is the author of several books, including “Cinderella Man: James J. Braddock, Max Baer, and the Greatest Upset in Boxing History,” which became a New York Times best-seller. Schaap also wrote “Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics.”
Jeremy Schaap is the son of the late journalist and broadcaster Dick Schaap and an alumnus of Cornell University, where he was also an editor at The Cornell Daily Sun. He is a member of the Quill and Dagger Society. Schaap has won awards for his outstanding writing, including the Dick Schaap Award for Outstanding Writing at the 2005 Emmys, named after his father. He is married and has three children.
13. Matt Winer
Matt Winer is an American television personality known for his work at Turner Sports. He joined Turner Sports in 2010, becoming the primary studio host for Major League Baseball on TBS, succeeding Ernie Johnson Jr. He also serves as a studio host on NBA TV and contributes to TNT’s coverage of NASCAR, NBA, and the PGA Tour. Additionally, he is one of the studio hosts for College Basketball on CBS.
Before his tenure at Turner Sports, Matt Winer worked at ESPN from 2001 to 2009. At ESPN, he appeared as an anchor on ESPNEWS, hosted the 6:00 p.m. ET edition of SportsCenter, and hosted programs like NBA Fastbreak and College Football Scoreboard. He also handled SportsCenter updates during Saturday Night Football and game updates during ABC’s college football coverage.
Winer began his career in television at various television stations in different cities, including St. Louis, Missouri; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Jackson, Mississippi; and Billings, Montana.
He is a University of Missouri graduate and was a Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity member. Matt Winer has received nominations for four regional sports Emmy Awards during his career.
14. Josh Elliott
Josh Elliott is an American television journalist who has worked for several major networks during his career. He began his journalism career, initially covering sports for ESPN before transitioning to news. Here are the key points of his career and background:
Josh Elliott was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he initially hoped to join the water polo team but later became involved with the university’s newspaper, The Daily Nexus. He graduated from UCSB in 1993 with a degree in English literature. He later pursued a Master of Science degree in journalism at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Elliott joined ESPN in 2004 as a panelist and guest co-host for various programs, including “Around the Horn” and “Jim Rome Is Burning.” He became an anchor for ESPNEWS and reported for “SportsCenter.” He also contributed to ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com.
In May 2011, Elliott joined ABC’s “Good Morning America” as a news anchor, succeeding Juju Chang. He also worked as a substitute anchor on the weekend edition of ABC World News.
In March 2014, Elliott signed a contract with NBC and left ABC News and “Good Morning America.” He worked on NBC Sports programming and was a sports correspondent for “Today.” However, his role was primarily on NBC Sports. His non-compete clause prevented him from appearing on news-related programming.
On March 1, 2016, Elliott was hired by CBS News to serve as the lead anchor for its digital news service, CBSN. However, his departure from CBSN in February 2017 was abrupt, with differing views on his future role at the network.
Elliott received a local Emmy Award in New York City in 2005 and co-hosted Super Bowl XL for Westwood One Sports. He also co-hosted “Yellowstone Live” on National Geographic Channel in 2018.
Josh Elliott married news anchor Liz Cho on July 11, 2015. Throughout his career, Josh Elliott has worked in various capacities, from sports reporting to news anchoring, across multiple major networks.
“Cold Pizza” was a unique and beloved show on ESPN that left an indelible mark on the world of sports broadcasting. Its success can be attributed in large part to the talented and diverse group of personalities who graced its set. From Skip Bayless’s fearless opinions to Woody Paige’s chalkboard antics, and from Kit Hoover’s charm to Jay Mariotti’s controversial takes, each personality played a crucial role in making the show a fan favorite.
While “Cold Pizza” may no longer be on the air, the legacies of its personalities continue to thrive in the world of sports journalism and broadcasting. These individuals have gone on to have successful careers, and their contributions to the world of sports media are still felt today. Whether you loved the fiery debates, the insightful interviews, or the humorous segments, “Cold Pizza” had something for every sports enthusiast, thanks to its unforgettable personalities.