Weekly lineup

 Friday, June 23
Dennis Miller a surprise addition to MNF news services

NEW YORK -- Dan Fouts and Dennis Miller will join play-by-play announcer Al Michaels as analysts in ABC's NFL Monday Night Football broadcast booth, and Melissa Stark and Eric Dickerson will be the sideline reporters for the popular program, producer Don Ohlmeyer announced Thursday.

"Our goal is to provide a more enjoyable program for the viewers, and this combination of talent is the start," said Ohlmeyer. "We have a lot of work to do, since these people have not worked together previously, and that effort begins tomorrow.

Dennis Miller
Dennis Miller, second from left, is known for his humor and biting wit on "Saturday Night Live" and "HBO's Dennis Miller Live."

"What we want to accomplish is to have a team with distinctive voices, distinctive personalities and distinctive points of view."

Fouts, a Hall of Fame quarterback who starred for the San Diego Chargers, has been working as an NFL analyst for years. But Miller is a surprise selection, having gained fame as a comedian first on Saturday Night Live and most recently as an off-beat late-night talk-show host on HBO.

"Al is the best play-by-play announcer in the business," Ohlmeyer said of the new team. "He has an extraordinary ability to communicate with the viewer and is the engine that drives the MNF telecast.

"Dan is a proven professional whose broadcasting skills, in my opinion, will be appreciated on a broader stage. The chemistry between Al and Dan in our workout sessions elevated each of their performances, and I could sense the excitement both felt in working together.

"Both Al and I were amazed at the breadth and depth of Dennis' knowledge of football, especially for someone who 'never played the game.' I know he will bring a different and unique perspective to our telecast.

Miller, who will continue host HBO's Dennis Miller Live, has won five Emmy Awards for his biting social commentary laced with humor during his seven years on that show. He was a member of the Saturday Night Live cast from 1985 to 1991, during which he anchored the coveted Weekend Update segment on the show.

Fouts, an NFL Hall of Fame quarterback and a former All-Pro with the San Diego Chargers, has been a college football analyst on ABC Sports since 1997. He has also served as a reporter for ABC's coverage of Super Bowl XXX1V and the Pro Bowl. Prior to joining ABC, he worked as an NFL analyst for CBS Sports from 1988 to 1993 and for three years as a sports anchor for KPIX-TV in San Francisco.

Dickerson, a Hall of Fame running back, and Stark replace Lesley Visser as the Monday Night Football sideline presence. Visser held the position for two seasons.

"Although Eric is in the Hall of Fame, he's not that far removed from playing the game," Ohlmeyer said. "In fact, he's played with and against many players still active in the NFL. Eric has never been afraid to express his opinions, and will provide a distinct edge in his role on our telecasts.

"I've watched Melissa's growth as a reporter and interviewer on ESPN for years. She has impressed me as an accomplished, knowledgable and unflappable reporter and interviewer. I have no doubt Melissa will be a real asset to Monday Night Football."

Changes in Monday Night Football began in March, when analyst Boomer Esiason was fired and Ohlmeyer, the show's producer in the 1970s, was brought back. Ohlmeyer vowed at the time to get viewers talking about the show the way they did when Howard Cosell and Don Meredith were on ABC's NFL team.

In looking for Esiason's replacement, Ohlmeyer considered people with and without experience in the booth, including bombastic talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

Jimmy Johnson, who retired as the Miami Dolphins' coach, and Bill Parcells, who stayed in the New York Jets' front office after quitting coaching, pulled themselves out of the running. So Miller was the leader at the end of the race.

The ratings for Monday Night Football have slumped each of the past five seasons, from an average of 17.8 with a booth of Michaels, Dan Dierdorf and Frank Gifford in 1994, to last season's record-low for the program of 13.7 with Michaels and Esiason.

Michaels, one of television's most respected journalists, has been the play-by-play announcer on Monday Night Football since 1986 and is widely acclaimed for his knowledgable and insightful reporting. He has earned many accolades, including three Emmy Awards for Outstanding Sports Personality and three National Sportscasters and Sports Writers Association Awards.

Stark has been a reporter with ESPN since 1996. Among her many duties at ESPN, she has been a regular on Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown and SportsCenter. She has also contributed features and interviews for ESPN's coverage of the NBA and Major League Baseball playoffs, and the U.S. Open. In addition, she has anchored ESPNEWS and provided features for Outside the Lines.

Dickerson, who was inducted in the NFL Hall of Fame in 1999, was selected NFL All-Pro six times in his 11-year playing career for the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Rams.

Monday Night Football, which will begin its 31st season on Sept. 4 (Denver at St. Louis), is the longest-running, most successful primetime sports series in television history.

Howard Katz, president of ABC Sports, said: "Don has put together an announce team that blends experience, insight, humor and candor and brings a new perspective to the telecast. He and his new production team have been working tirelessly to create a more enjoyable presentation of Monday Night Football for our viewers. I couldn't be more excited about the creative direction he is going."

MNF feedback: What do you think of the new crew?

New MNF team message board

 Dennis Miller and Eric Dickerson join ESPN's Shelley Smith.
RealVideo:  | 28.8

 Exec. producer Don Ohlmeyer speaks with ESPN's Bob Ley.
RealVideo:  | 28.8

 MNF analyst Al Michaels talks to ESPN's Bob Halloran.
RealVideo:  | 28.8

 A look back at Dennis Miller as host of the inaugural ESPY Awards.
RealVideo:  | 28.8

 Dennis Miller fully understands his role for ABC's Monday Night Football.
wav: 83 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 Al Michaels was surprised by Dennis Miller's football knowledge.
wav: 122 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 Producer Don Ohlmeyer hopes the moves will give MNF a boost.
wav: 102 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 ABC Sports president Howard Katz on why Dennis Miller was chosen.
wav: 466 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 Howard Katz explains what Dennis Miller will add to the MNF booth.
wav: 382 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 How close was Rush Limbaugh to joining the MNF team?
wav: 450 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Donovan gives his view on MNF.
wav: 827 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 NY Times' Richard Sandomir reviews the new MNF booth personalities.
wav: 1141 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6