Bob Ley, who joined ESPN as a SportsCenter anchor on the network’s third day of operation (September 9, 1979), spearheads ESPN’s aggressive coverage of breaking news and issues. Ley is ESPN’s longest-serving commentator from either studio or remote production, and in addition to SportsCenter has hosted Outside the Lines since its inception in May 1990. The award-winning series, which focuses on issues beyond the playing field, has evolved from a series of periodic special to today when it is aired six days a week (Sunday – Friday). He co-anchors ESPN’s Sunday-morning block of sports/news programming (9 a.m.-noon ET), which includes SportsCenter and Outside the Lines, in addition to serving as the primary host for the weekday version of OTL.
With Ley as host, Outside the Lines has captured 11 Sports Emmy Awards and three CableACE Awards as cable’s top Sports Information Series. Ley’s efforts earned him Northeastern’s 1995 Excellence in Sports Journalism Award from the University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society, together with the University’s School of Journalism. Additionally, Outside the Lines won New York Festival Gold (Sports/Recreation) and Silver World Medals (Sports behind Bars) in 2001, and a Gold World Medal (Sports/Recreation) in 2002. In 2000, Outside the Lines received third-place recognition in the Social Issues, Documentary and Sports categories at the International Film and Video Festival.
Throughout his career at ESPN, Ley has been equally comfortable leaving the studio to cover a variety of events on site as a host or handling play-by-play. A passionate life-long soccer fan, Ley has handled play-by-play for ABC & ESPN’s coverage of World Cup soccer games (including serving as the lead commentator for World Cup ’98). In 2010, Ley served as a host of ESPN’s on-site studio coverage of the FIFA World Cup from South Africa 2010, anchoring pre-, halftime and post-match shows and SportsCenter segments. He did the same in the summer of 2011 for the FIFA Women’s World Cup from Germany, including the title match between USA and Japan on ESPN – the most-watched soccer match on the network. For his work on soccer, he received the Honorary All-America Award by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America for his contributions to the sport in January 1999.
Ley also hosted ESPN’s NFL Draft coverage (1980-89) and the NCAA basketball tournament studio show (1980-89) which perfected the “whip-around” format that helped to raise the tournament to its current status. He has also covered several NCAA basketball Final Fours, hosted live special events for ESPN, and done play-by-play commentary for college basketball, boxing, soccer and CBA basketball.
Over the years, Ley has become identified with ESPN’s coverage of major stories, breaking news and cases where world issues overshadow the world of sports. From Magic Johnson’s AIDS announcement to leading ESPN’s coverage of Pete Rose’s suspension by Bart Giamatti to many other times when sports stories land on the front page, ESPN viewers have benefited from Ley’s smooth and steady delivery and his keen ability to find the right phrase and put issues in perspective. When an earthquake struck San Francisco during the 1989 World Series, it was Ley who provided the first national news coverage live from the site (ESPN’s production facilities were not dependent on local electrical power). When on September 11 ESPN returned to its programming at 6 p.m. after simulcasting ABC News’ coverage all day, Ley anchored the network’s extended studio program, putting a sports perspective on the impact of the day’s terrorist attacks. He has interviewed four U.S. Presidents (Ford, Clinton, G.H.W.Bush aboard Air Force One and G.W.Bush).
A 1976 magna cum laude graduate of Seton Hall University with a bachelor of arts degree in communications, Ley began his career in television as an undergraduate. He was a production manager at WOR-AM in New York (1975-77) and also served as public address announcer for the Cosmos of the North American Soccer League, and as a sportswriter for the Passaic (N.J.) Herald-News. In 1976, Ley joined Suburban Cablevision (East Orange, N.J.) as director of sports/public affairs. During his three years there, Suburban Cablevision won four local CableACE Awards for both sports and overall programming.
Ley, born March 16, 1955, was valedictorian at Bloomfield (N.J.) High School, class of 1972. The married father of two daughters , he was inducted into the Bloomfield Athletic Hall of Fame for his contributions to sports journalism in May 1987.
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