Award-winning journalist Tom Rinaldi appeared on ESPN for the final time Friday morning, penning a “Thank you note” to all who watched and helped in his success over nearly 18 years in Bristol. A fixture of ESPN’s college football coverage, it was only fitting that the veteran reporter say his final goodbyes on College GameDay.
“For more than 15 years, I never had to graduate,” narrated Rinaldi over footage of his many appearances on College GameDay including memorable features on Purdue fan Tyler Trent and James Conner, who overcame cancer during his time as a student athlete at the University of Pittsburgh. “I thank you for sharing the stories and the moments and all the Saturday mornings.”
Well-known for his tear-jerking profiles and riveting human-interest stories, Rinaldi’s departure comes at an uncertain time in the network’s history with ESPN reeling from the industry trends of downsizing (exacerbated by the COVID pandemic), reduced budgets and widespread restructuring. ESPN’s mass exodus has cost the media empire many of its top talents including Keith Olbermann, Bob Ley, Mike Golic, Dan Le Batard and Trey Wingo.
Rinaldi announced his plans to leave ESPN, his home since 2003, for a new role at Fox Sports back in December. Friday’s sendoff had Rinaldi’s former colleagues choked up with Jay Bilas and Gene Wojciechowski among many paying tribute to the Emmy-winning reporter on social media.
In a shrinking industry, Rinaldi stands as one of the most-respected names in sports journalism with Friday’s outpouring of support recognizing his lasting contributions to that field.