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ESPN's Michael Smith joins Jemele Hill in leaving 'SportsCenter'

ESPN personalities Jemele Hill and Michael Smith pose for a photo on the red carpet at the ESPN the Party event in the Houston arts district. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

"SC6″ is about to be deep-sixed. Host Michael Smith is leaving the 6 p.m. edition of "SportsCenter," and it's happening immediately. Smith's final show is set to take place Friday.

Smith's former on-air partner, Jemele Hill, left the show in January to become a contributor to ESPN's Undefeated vertical and to some of the network's other programs. The news about Smith was first reported Thursday by Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch, and ESPN confirmed it Friday, several hours before Smith's last go-round with "SC6."

"Michael is a talented commentator and we greatly appreciate and value his contributions and creativity," ESPN said in a statement provided to The Washington Post. "We are in the process of discussing with him potential next ESPN assignments."

"Permanent anchors for the 6 p.m. SportsCenter will be determined and announced at a later date. In the interim, the program will be hosted by a variety of anchors from the SportsCenter team."

The departure of Hill, less than a year after "SC6″ launched in February 2017, left many observers with the impression that Smith was not long for his role, either. That notion was bolstered by comments Smith made on a podcast last month, in which he expressed frustration over how ESPN "muted" his banter with Hill to return their version of "SportsCenter" to a more traditional format.

"That's what p--d me off so much," Smith said to podcast host James Andrew Miller. "I was like, wait a second, you all acknowledge that one of the strengths we have going for us as a show is Michael and Jemele's chemistry, but Michael and Jemele don't f--g talk to each other? Now how does that make sense?"

Those remarks were reflective of the fact that, while Hill made many headlines and drew a two-week suspension from ESPN with her criticisms of the likes of President Donald Trump and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Smith has tended to be more blunt-spoken. On another podcast in January, he said of the show he was co-hosting at the time, "I'm not enamored of where we are right now. . . . We're doing less and less of our thing. It's been an adjustment."

Deitsch noted that, just as Hill still had some years left on her ESPN contract and thus stayed within the company when she left "SC6," so does Smith, who can be expected to "craft a new role at ESPN over the next couple of months." The New York Post's Andrew Marchand wrote that the plan is "to let it [breathe] before deciding what Smith might be do next."

Marchand wrote Thursday that he was told ESPN anchors Sage Steele and John Anderson were the "favorites" to become the new hosts of the 6 p.m. "SportsCenter."

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