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ESPN Recruits SI Star Rick Reilly

ESPN recruited Sports Illustrated star columnist Rick Reilly, who will play a wide role at the network, ESPN.com and SI rival ESPN The Magazine.

Hiring 22-year Sports Illustrated veteran Reilly is the biggest hire yet for ESPN The Magazine, which debuted in 1998.

And Reilly will have a big on-air presence at ESPN. The all-sports network said Reilly will be an essayist for its SportsCenter series and contribute to its coverage of major golf events, including the Masters, the British Open, the Ryder Cup and the U.S. Open.

News of Reilly’s addition comes just days after the announcement that Dan Patrick, the one-time SportsCenter anchor, ESPN Radio host and ESPN The Magazine columnist, had signed a pact with SI to write a column for the weekly and place his Web site under the aegis of SI’s Digital Group.

Patrick, who formed his own company the Content Factory, will begin writing for SI early next year, when his daily radio show, available at danpatrick.com, will be simulcast on SI.com. Patrick, who is said to be under consideration for a role with NBC’s coverage of the Summer Olympics from Bejing next August, will host SI’s upcoming Sportsman of the Year TV program.

Reilly is big golf fan. Among his several books, he authored Who’s Your Caddy, a humorous book in which he worked as a caddy for golf greats ranging from Jack Nicklaus to John Daly, in 2003.

Earlier this month, ESPN announced that it had secured the cable TV rights to the Masters, which had run on USA Network for 25 years.

ESPN said Reilly will join the company in June. Beginning that month, his column will be featured on the back page of ESPN The Magazine, and on off weeks of the biweekly magazine, his column will be featured prominently on ESPN.com.

For many years, Reilly’s column has appeared on the back page of Sports Illustrated.

“This is an itch I’ve wanted to scratch for a long time. For a guy who loves sports, ESPN is the ultimate. I feel like a mouse locked in a cheese store,” Reilly said in Monday’s announcement. “I don’t know where to start first. I’m thrilled with the opportunity to speak to a whole new audience in a whole new way.”

Reilly began his career in 1979 at the Boulder Daily Camera while a sophomore at the University of Colorado. He worked at the Denver Post and the Los Angeles Times, before joining Sports Illustrated in 1985.