O'Donnell: Romo avoids free agency with mega deal from CBS
WHEN YOU'RE HOT, you're Tony Romo.
The golden young NFL analyst will officially become the highest-paid TV sideman in league history when he signs a new multiyear deal with CBS worth more than $100 million.
News of the renewal was leaked to multiple media outlets late Friday night.
It came less than 30 hours before CBS's window of exclusivity to negotiate a new pact with Romo was to expire.
His initial three-year deal with The Fisheye Network -- one worth roughly $8.5 million -- effectively ended in January.
Had he become a free agent, Romo was expected to be pursued very hard by Disney's ESPN/ABC, a corporation rabidly seeking more NFL inventory in the next round of contract talks and an upgrade to its talent desert known as "Monday Night Football."
Instead, CBS Sports President Sean McManus and negotiators allowed the clock to wind toward 0:00 before re-signing the new-mill's answer to John Madden.
It is believed Romo's new deal will have an average annual worth of $17 million and extends through the 2026 season, when he will be 46 years old.
The blockbuster tops the prior gold standard, the $8 million that Madden received for his final season on NBC in 2008.
Romo, a scratch golfer, is also expected to be given the option of participating in CBS's golf coverage, including The Masters.
In April, the high-demand QB has a sponsor's exemption to play the $600,000 Veritex Bank Championship on the PGA's developmental Korn Ferry Tour near his home in Arlington, Texas.
The Veritex will be Romo's fifth pro tournament.
And the school board in his native Burlington, Wis., has announced it will be naming the local high school football field -- but not the Don Dalton Stadium that surrounds it -- after him.
The late Dalton was Romo's coach at Burlington High.
IMAGINE IF ED SULLIVAN had looked into a hot CBS camera on Sunday night, Feb. 9, 1964, and said:
"We've got Frank Gorshin, Tessie O'Shea and the cast of 'Oliver,' but I'm still waiting on the Beatles."
That's pretty much how Cubs biz boss Crane Kenney sounded on WSCR AM-670 this week when Mike Mulligan and David Haugh failed to ask two key questions about the Marquee Sports Network/Comcast Xfinity carriage impasse:
• How far apart are the two sides?
• What are the specific sticking points?
Instead, Kenney paddled back pattycakes like Mike Bloomberg at a directors meeting of Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Bottom line: If Tom Ricketts and his MSN functionaries don't have a carriage deal in place with Comcast by Opening Day, it will be perceived as exceedingly poor planning by the Cubs and an extraordinary play out of cynical corporate greed by the team, partnered Sinclair Broadcasting and the dreaded cable carnivore.
Fair or foul, that's the way the wind of the fan is blowing.
KEN EHRLICH -- the music TV visionary who long ago turned WTTW-Channel 11's "Made In Chicago" into PBS's renowned "Soundstage" -- was called upon by the Los Angeles Lakers to assist Vanessa Bryant and fine tune the presentation of the live Kobe Bryant memorial.
Of the three artists who performed, Ehrlich told Variety, one reason that Beyoncé went first was because she had more musicians than Alicia Keys and Christina Aguilera, and, "It's always easier to take away (support equipment) than it is to set up."
On Jan. 26, Ehrlich was 45 minutes into full dress rehearsal as executive producer of his 39th Grammys when word of the helicopter tragedy reached the Staples Center.
STREET-BEATIN': Refocused Alan Griffin and the Fighting Illini try to continue their float to a No. 6 or 7 seed at Indiana Sunday (BTN, 1 p.m.; Brandon Gaudin, Shon Morris.) ...
Kyle Long and Brian Hanley as the new local morning hosts on Chicago's AM-1000? Does the lease deal of quiet man Craig Karmazin with ESPN allow dumping "Golic and Wingo" before 2021? As it is, Bobby Bersoni and His Amazing Orangutans would be an upgrade. ...
With an ear to the future of baseball on terrestrial radio, the Oakland Athletics will have no local outlet this season. They will stream audio of games for free via the team's website. (The Houston Astros would simply encourage fans to steal subscription play-by-play signals.) ...
While spring pictures of the Cubs fly in the air somewhere over America, the White Sox have only five preseason telecasts remaining on NBCSCH. Kevin Cross and minions are instead following dictates and airing a snorehouse of Blackhawks and Bulls fizzlers. ...
With Feb. 27 as a deadline of empirical significance, mythic Dr. Barry S. Gibbons says Kansas and Baylor are the only teams that can win the NCAA men's tournament. (He's a numbers nerd with a beautiful mind.) ...
Jay Bilas -- ESPN's annual blue blight special -- recently referred to a referee's call as "a result-oriented foul." Apparently that sort of synthetic semantics passes as profound at the Duke School of Law, a Bilas alma mater ...
And David J. Halberstam of Sports Broadcast Journal, with a niched economic outlook for March, deadpanned, "Unemployment will be down in America because there's always demand for another bracketologist."
• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.