Could Manning find home on MNF?

One of the more prominent positions in sports broadcasting remains vacant — and even got a bit more appealing this past week. Still, who will become the next color commentator for “Monday Night Football” remains undecided.

The last person in the role, Jon Gruden, left what seemed like an ideal TV job and returned to the NFL sidelines as coach of the Oakland Raiders.

Among the speculated successors, ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Steve Young recused himself. Another ESPN talent, Matt Hasselbeck, has been assigned to work the Pro Bowl as a tryout for the job.

Former NFL receiver Randy Moss, also under contract with ESPN, might get consideration for the job as well.

It will be interesting to see if ESPN promotes from within or tries to lure someone who’s highly entertaining and popular, like Peyton Manning, into a broadcasting job. With his career earnings and many endorsements and interests, Manning does not need a job. It seems like he might be good at it, though.

Additionally, if ESPN were to secure rights to “Thursday Night Football” to air on ABC, a possible deal that was reported this week, it would give the on-air team – steady play-by-play man Sean McDonough and his next partner — a bigger presence on TV. That would seem to be a selling point.

A decision might not be imminent, but it will be important when it happens.

Hoops honesty

Kudos to Penn State Sports Network men’s basketball color commentator Dick Jerardi for not filtering his frustration when the team struggles.

Earlier this month, he said the Nittany Lions were 20 points better than Northwestern when they were barely beating the visiting Wildcats. They eventually won by 15. With the team’s ups and downs, Jerardi and play-by-play man Steve Jones have ample opportunity to be forthright, and it’s refreshing when they take that route.

Tuner tidbits

n Penn State made a somewhat unusual midseason move by shaking up the radio broadcast team for one of its popular varsity teams. Men’s hockey color commentator Tim King was let go in early January. Play-by-play man Brian Tripp now works games with senior broadcast journalism student Brandon Pelter.

n The referee selected to work the Super Bowl, Gene Steratore, is a Pennsylvania resident who is probably familiar to many sports fans in the region for his 15 seasons of NFL work. It will be his first Super Bowl assignment. He also he regularly works college basketball games, including Penn State vs. Minnesota last Monday.

n Dale Earnhardt Jr. has retired from racing but he’ll be prominent, maybe more than ever, on TV in the coming year. Along with duties as a NASCAR analyst for NBC Sports, the network announced this week that Dale Jr. would help with coverage of the Super Bowl (he’ll be a “contributor,” focusing on a story or two during the pregame show) and Winter Olympics. He’ll travel to South Korea just days after the Super Bowl for that assignment. Speed skating and bobsled (expect some sort of ride-along story) will be two sports that provide a backdrop for his work.

Sampsell can be reached at stevesampsell@gmail.com.

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