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Meet ESPN's Newest It Girl (and Soon-to-be Host of SportsNation), Charissa Thompson

Now that Michelle Beadle’s move from ESPN to NBC is official – she leaves at the end of the month – the network is ready to roll out its Next Big Star: Charissa Thompson. Before the ink was even dry on Beadle’s new contract, the suits in Bristol were doing their best to leak the news that Thompson would be taking Beadle’s place on SportsNation.

(Aside: Clearly, this is the most pub SportsNation has gotten since its inception in 2009. The bandwidth spent on the show over the last month has almost been comical; it’s as if we’re discussing the Monday Night Football booth. Maybe that’s what happens when attractive females are involved? That being said, we trudge onward.)

Jamie Horowitz, the show’s creator, is a fan of Thompson’s work, and she’s displayed decent chemistry when paired with Cowherd. An additional factor in Thompson’s selection: she’s reportedly been begging off the show she currently hosts, Numbers Never Lie, for a few weeks. As one source put it, she recently saw where the show was headed, and decided it was time to jump ship.

Another source, though, says it was just the opposite – Numbers Never Lie recently decided to go in another direction (read: First Take in the Afternoons) and Thompson is no longer a good fit. A source said the show wanted Thompson “seen, not heard.”

At any rate, she’ll start co-hosting SportsNation with Cowherd (and others) in June for the rest of the year. As we mentioned in March, Cowherd is leaving SportsNation at the end of 2012 for his own 30-minute show.

Thompson – who once was a sideline reporter – is in a tough spot replacing Beadle, and a source said she’s a bit nervous. I liken it to Valerie Malone replacing Brenda Walsh on 90210. The culturally-relevant show you’ve been a fan of for a few years just got a major jolt, and it’ll never be the same again. Will it work?

Incidentally, Beadle and Thompson hit it off at ESPN and were texting buddies for awhile, but at some point, Thompson – who sources say works hard and parties hard – decided to align herself with another high-profile blonde at ESPN. Thompson and said blonde were present at one of the more hushed-about ESPN incidents during Super Bowl weekend in Indianapolis.

There are a few variations of the story, but this is the most popular one that has been floating around Bristol since February: The two were having drinks one afternoon with a few football writers, and Thompson’s colleague got angry – it is unclear what about – and sort of flipped out, causing quite a scene that spilled outside. [No, I won’t mention the Very Famous Female’s name because I’ve never been able to confirm the story.] One person who witnessed it said, “I can’t believe nobody in this crowded bar tweeted about it, given that everyone knows [this female in question].”

Thompson’s biggest moment prior to joining ESPN was when, as a Fox Sideline reporter, she donned glasses and dyed hair in a Clark Kent moment, only to flip back to being a glamorous blonde the next. We plan on asking her about it at some point.

The word on the street is that ESPN brass is enamored with Thompson, and if she plays her cards right, she could be in for a big payday when her contract is up (she joined the WWL in June 2011).

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