ESPN coordinating producer Bill Bonnell is one of the industry’s top producers with nearly four decades of sports and entertainment television experience. He is the company’s lead college football producer with oversight of ABC Saturday Night Football and the College Football Playoff National Championship. He also oversees ABC and ESPN’s XFL presentation, the Special Olympics World Games and the annual ESPYS Red Carpet Live show.
Bonnell, who previously worked for ESPN from 1988-1990, has been with the company since 2002. He has produced ABC/ESPN’s top weekly college football series – ABC’s Saturday Night Football with Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit – since 2006 and every College Football Playoff National Championship (since 2014). A veteran of 10 Rose Bowl games, Bonnell previously produced the BCS National Championship from 2009-14.
Bonnell is overseeing ABC and ESPN’s presentation of the XFL spring football league, which kicks off in 2020. Earlier in his career, he oversaw and produced the original XFL in 2001 as a senior coordinating producer for NBC Sports. Those telecasts used SkyCam for the first time, as well as enhanced audio and on-field cameras, all of which have since been adopted by football broadcasts across the industry.
Bonnell has been the coordinating producer of ESPN’s Special Olympics World Games since the company became the official broadcast partner in 2015 with the Los Angeles Games. In 2016, he also oversaw ESPN’s presentation of the Invictus Games and produced the Opening Ceremony from the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, working directly with Prince Harry, as well as ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff.
A specialist in sports and entertainment productions, Bonnell has overseen The ESPYS Red Carpet Live special for more than a decade. In 2005, he produced ESPN’s first Times Square New Year’s Eve Special – Little Steven’s Underground Garage New Year’s Eve Special – with host Stuart Scott and featuring Steven Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen’s famed E Street Band. That same year, Bonnell launched the Los Angeles-based ESPN Hollywood daily sports and entertainment show.
From 2002-08, Bonnell was the coordinating producer of ESPN’s Grand Slam tennis, including the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon. Prior to his Saturday Night Football assignment, he produced ESPN College Football Primetime games – primarily Southeastern Conference matchups – from 2002-04. Bonnell also produced multiple years of ESPN college basketball with legendary coach Bob Knight as his analyst.
In his first ESPN stint, Bonnell was a college football graphics producer, an associate director for NFL GameDay and NFL PrimeTime, and the ISO producer for Sunday Night Football games. He also produced ABC NFL studio coverage, including the Monday Night Blast with Chris Berman and the Super Bowl XXXIV pregame with Berman and Steve Young.
Bonnell previously worked for legendary producer Dick Ebersol and NBC Sports from 1990-2002 where he produced events during four Olympiads – Barcelona (1992), Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000) and Salt Lake City (2002). In addition to contributing to Olympic coverage, Bonnell’s other high-profile assignments included Notre Dame football – including the No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown vs. Florida State in 1993, NFL games (1990-98), multiple Super Bowls (as the ISO producer), the NBA, French Open and Wimbledon tennis, and NBC SportsWorld.
Bonnell gained his first network experience in 1981 as a runner on ABC’s Monday Night Football games in Buffalo, working as a booth assistant for Frank Gifford, Don Meredith and Howard Cosell. As a junior in college, he landed his first part-time job at ABC Sports in the spring of 1984, preparing graphics and working on the primetime shows at the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles under the direction of iconic sports producer Roone Arledge.
Bonnell’s first Super Bowl experience was 1985 (SB XIX) as a graphics production assistant for the pregame show. He was hired out of college by CBS Sports in 1985 where he worked on NFL games, the NCAA Tournament, and the NBA. He left in 1986 for ABC Sports, becoming the graphics coordinator for the 1988 Calgary Olympics once again working under Arledge and acclaimed director Roger Goodman as a production assistant.
Bonnell, who has earned more than a dozen Sports Emmy awards throughout his career, started working in sports television at WCNY-TV in 1980 on PBS statewide broadcasts of Syracuse football games, The Empire State Games and other high school sports events.
A native of North Syracuse, N.Y., Bonnell graduated from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications in 1985.