Miller, Fouts to 'Monday Night Football' booth; Visser sidelined

Thursday, June 22nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) -- Comedian Dennis Miller and Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts are joining the "Monday Night Football" broadcast booth.

ABC's three-month search to replace Boomer Esiason and overhaul a program with declining ratings ended Thursday with two very different choices.

Fouts, who has been calling college football games for ABC, will join play-by-play announcer Al Michaels in the broadcast booth.

Eric Dickerson, another Hall of Fame player, and ESPN's Melissa Stark will be sideline reporters, replacing Lesley Visser.

Housecleaning at "Monday Night Football" began in March, when Esiason was fired after two seasons in the booth, and Don 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 for "Monday Night Football."

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

Miller was a regular on "Saturday Night Live" and now has a comedy show on HBO, while Fouts brings a smooth and reserved approach to broadcasting. He played 15 seasons for the San Diego Chargers and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. He has worked for CBS on NFL broadcasts.

Visser, who will remain at ABC, joined the network in 1994. She has covered a variety of sports, including college football, figure skating, baseball and thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown.

At the Belmont Stakes this month, Visser opened her talk with winning horse Commendable's owners by saying, "Congratulations Bob and Beverly Lewis. How does this compare to your other Belmont wins?"

That drew an odd look from Bob Lewis, and the response, "Other Belmont wins?" The Lewis' horses Silver Charm (1997) and Charismatic (1999) went to Belmont with chances to win the Triple Crown, but lost.