NBC Sports formally announced Wednesday the anticipated hiring of Josh Elliott, a former Sports Illustrated writer and ESPN host who most recently had been part of the cast of ABC's "Good Morning America."
Elliott is to make his NBC debut during coverage of the Kentucky Derby on May 3 and also be involved in the network's other sports properties, including the NFL and Summer and Winter Olympics.
"I'm thrilled to my core to be here," Elliott said on a conference call with reporters to announce the hiring. Later, he said, "I feel like the luckiest man in television today."
Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Sports Group, said it was too early to cover specifics about Elliott's roles, but he promised "a mix" that will reflect his experience as a journalist and host.
"It's completely a complement to everyone else we have here," Lazarus said. "It's a great add to our roster, to our depth . . . We have a great group of people here, but with Josh we get better."
Lazarus said Elliott's ability to reach both avid and more casual sports fans was appealing to NBC.
Elliott said, "It is a profound and essential part of my being that has wanted to be a part of an Olympics."
He likened himself to a bit player on an All-Star roster, saying, "I absolutely believe I am the last man on the bench of the Showtime Lakers."
But given the splash NBC made and the money it presumably is paying him, he figures to become a prominent face on the network and perhaps a candidate someday to succeed Bob Costas as the primary Olympics host.
Because of his morning-show experience, Elliott's move to NBC also has prompted rampant speculation that he might be in line to succeed Matt Lauer as a co-host of "Today."
"No [NBC] news role has been discussed with me," Elliott said. "I hope Matt Lauer is here when I step away from this gig 30 years down the road. I love being a part of a team and the team I'm on now is a fantastic one."
Elliott, 42, who grew up near Los Angeles as a fan of that city's pro teams, worked at Sports Illustrated from 1999-2004, then moved to television as a host of "Classic Now" on ESPN Classic. He joined GMA three years ago and has been part of its rise to the top of the morning show ratings wars, succeeding "Today."
Amid reports of both tension on the GMA set and of contentious negotiations over pay in Elliott's next contract, he said most of the stories written about him have been off-base.
"I would waste a lot of time refuting things that have been by measure unfortunate, untrue, absurd, laughable, but also sad," he said, insisting he has nothing but love and respect for his former ABC colleagues and supervisors.
"I am here today because of all the opportunities I was given at ESPN and then at ABC," he said. "I am and shall remain eternally thankful for all the people who helped me along the way, none more so than [ABC News president] Ben Sherwood, who gave me the opportunity of a lifetime and an opportunity that I will forever be thankful for."
Regarding his former ABC colleagues, he said, "My love for them, despite what you might read in some quarters, is profound and it is ironclad."
The controversy that has surrounded his departure, he said, has been "incredibly uncomfortable."
"It's been difficult to read categorical falsehood after categorical falsehood," he said. "I tend to feel things rather intensely. To be in the center of whatever this has been the past couple of days has been incredibly uncomfortable and at times very painful because I didn't have the ability to address things in real time."
But he said he was trying to remain positive.
"I could come on here and speak to [those reports] and let the joy of this moment get away, and frankly personal joy is something I don't always allow myself. I think it's part of my curse. But I am going to drink in every single moment of the fact I am on an NBC Sports team that is wonderful and gracious enough to have me as a member."
No matter what anyone has heard or read, he said, "It was not an acrimonious parting at all. I've been amazed at how a deeply personal choice became almost a bit player in this absurdist melodrama. I want to say this categorically and for the record: I owe everything to the folks at Disney."
Elliott strongly endorsed Amy Robach as his replacement - "They could not have chosen a better person" - and also endorsed Michael Strahan amid reports he will join "GMA" while continuing on "Live with Kelly and Michael" and as an NFL analyst for Fox.
"Michael Strahan is somebody I have known for a long time," Elliott said. "He used to fill notebooks for me when I was at Sports Illustrated."
Elliott said he has told Strahan, "Who would have thought this sweaty, smelly jock and the overly tall sportswriter scribe would find ourselves here? It's heady, dizzying stuff. I think Michael would improve any team he joins."