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Sports Radio News

Under The Radar – September 11, 2017

Jason Barrett

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Football season is back, which means the interest in sports media content should be top of mind for the next four months. This week there were a little more than twenty news items to share. As always, if you have information to share involving yourself or your company, please send it via email to JBarrett@hvy.tcp.mybluehost.me.

Now here are this week’s tidbits.

Last year many blamed the NFL‘s ratings decline on the election, Donald Trump, Colin Kaepernick’s protest, Peyton Manning’s retirement and Tom Brady’s four game suspension. But this year’s Thursday Night opener on NBC featuring the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs produced a lower rating than last year’s game between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. Is it a one week aberration or a sign of things to come? To read more about it, click here.

As WFAN begins dealing with the aftereffects of Craig Carton‘s arrest, the million dollar question becomes, “who takes his spot opposite Boomer Esiason?” The Fan has a few internal options to consider from Brandon Tierney, Gregg Giannotti, Damon Amendolara and Jerry Recco. They could stay in the company and ask Adam The Bull, Chris Carlin or Mike Valenti to relocate to the big apple. Or they could go outside the box. The New York Daily News raised the possibility of external candidates such as Chris Simms, Jon “Stugotz” Weiner or Michael Rappaport, and Greg Hughes, formerly of ‘Opie and Anthony’, has also been floated as a suggestion before too. One thing that’s not expected to change is the show’s television simulcast on the CBS Sports Network.

New York radio stations are ramping up their contributors for the 2017 NFL season. 98.7 ESPN New York has added New York Giants safety Landon Collins for The Michael Kay Show, and former New York Jets Linebacker Bart Scott as a contributor on a variety of station shows. WFAN will once again have Eli Manning and Ben McAdoo on each week with Mike Francesa, plus NFL Network reporter Peter Schrager has signed on to appear with Mike each Friday.

Speaking of contributors, ESPN Radio has announced its collection of experts to contribute to the network’s morning show, Mike and Mike, and starting in November, Golic & Wingo. Set to appear on the show are Louis Riddick, Booger McFarland, Ryan Clark, Herm Edwards, Paul Finebaum, Kirk Herbstreit, Matthew Berry, Brian Billick, Field Yates, Mike Golic Jr. and Joey Galloway.

Also on ESPN Radio, the network is bringing back Brian Custer and Donovan McNabb. The two men will broadcast Monday evenings from 7p-10p ET.

Changes are coming to 97.5 The Fanatic. The radio station has confirmed the addition of Bob Cooney to the morning show with Anthony Gargano. Cooney spent twenty five years with the Philadelphia Daily News.

Meanwhile on the other side of town, Sports Radio 94WIP deserves a round of applause for leading the cause to raise over two hundred thousand dollars for the Eagles Charitable Foundation. WIP says the money will help over 6,932 children receive eye care in the form of a $30 comprehensive vision exam and a pair of eyeglasses. Nice work.

Sticking with WIP, the radio station also announced their football contributors for the 2017 NFL season. Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham will appear live from Chickie’s and Pete’s each Monday night at 6p ET. The show will be hosted by Merrill Reese, Howard Eskin and Jon Marks. Immediately after Graham’s show at 7p ET, WIP rolls out the “Player’s Lounge” with Ike Reese and Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. In addition, Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson appears Monday mornings at 8a ET with Angelo Cataldi. The station will also feature regular appearances by The Athletic’s Sheil Kapadia, former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker, former NFL coach and Super Bowl champion Dick Vermeil, Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks, Ray Didinger, former NFL executive Mike Lombardi, Eagles cornerbacks Rodney McLeod and Jalen Mills, fantasy football experts Paul Charchian and John Hansen, and NFL Insider Ian Rapoport.

Congratulations to 106.7 The Fan in Washington D.C. on finishing the August book in the Top 3 with Men 25-54 M-F 6a-7p and M-SU 6a-Mid. The Sports Junkies turned in a dominant performance in morning drive, finishing the month a few tenths of a point under a 12 share, good enough for second place. Local competitor ESPN 980 also received good news. The majority of their weekday programs finished in the Top 10 including their morning show hosted by Chris Cooley and Kevin Sheehan which came in sixth.

The ratings were also positive for ESPN Los Angeles 710AM. Month to month performances were higher for the majority of the weekday lineup, but even more important was growth for each show in the key M-F 6a-7p schedule. Leading the way as usual were Mason and Ireland who turned in a little better than a three and a half share. Their rating is the best of any local sports talk show in the market.

When it comes to numbers, 101 ESPN in St. Louis has become accustomed to dominating the local competition, and the month of August was no exception. The station’s weekday shows once again finished between 1st and 4th. Leading the way were The Fast Lane which turned in another #1 performance in afternoons with better than a 12 share.

Jordan Kent has returned to 102.9/750 The Game in Portland to co-host the Oregon Ducks pre-game show. Kent, who played football, basketball and ran track for the Ducks, also contributes locally on television for Comcast Sports Northwest.

KNBR 680 host John Lund has launched a new website, playing off of one of his popular benchmarks “The Caboose Pistol.” The site contains a bunch of male demo prep material and can be accessed by clicking here.

Staying in San Francisco, KCBS has announced the return of John Madden to its airwaves. The former NFL head coach and analyst has been a longtime contributor to the radio station.

A little further south, the Broadcast Company of the Americas in San Diego have struck a deal to feature University of San Diego football and basketball on their radio stations. Five football home games will air on The Mighty 1090. The remaining road games will be carried by sister station ESPN 1700. Men’s basketball games will also split between the two stations, with 1090 carrying 10 games, and the remaining ones being offered on 1700.

Charlotte’s sports leader WFNZ has added some firepower to its talk shows for the 2017 NFL season. Joining the station’s lineup as weekly contributors are voice of the Panthers Jim Szoke, Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, former NFL executive Tony Softli, NBC Pro Football Talk reporter Mike Florio, former NFL offensive lineman Lomas Brown, and a slew of others.

The Big 1070 in Madison, Wisconsin has adjusted its weekday lineup. 1070 has replaced Fox Sports Radio’s “Rich Eisen Show” weekdays 11a-2p CT with a one-hour edition of “The Rundown with Jon Arias”, and a regional simulcast of sister station The Big 920’s “The Drew Olson Show.” An hour of Mike Heller’s programs gets eliminated but he remains installed in afternoons on the station from 3p-6p CT.

Shifting to Denver, Ryan Edwards is moving from Mile High Sports to Orange and Blue Radio. Edwards will host M-F 10a-12p MT.

In Cleveland, Danny Cunningham has left ESPN 850 WKNR. He says he’s involved in talks for another project and will share the details at the appropriate time.

The Syracuse Crunch have decided on their new play by play voice. Congratulations to Lukas Favale on earning the opportunity.

Aaron Torres has joined Kentucky Sports Radio as a contributing writer according to founder Matt Jones.

A new podcast has been launched by former WFAN and current WOR producer “Sugar” Ray Martel, and New England radio personality Keith Rice. The two Boston sports fans will discuss Boston’s “Big 4” via the Sugar and Rice podcast. Martel brings a Big Apple perspective to his Boston fandom. Rice acknowledges his slant is very “anti-New York”. The weekly podcast will be available on iTunes and Google Play.

A toast is in order for ESPN which celebrated 38 years in business last week. The network launched to an estimated audience of 30,000 viewers. It’s pretty remarkable to see where the company is now compared to where it was in 1979 when it first began. Cheers!

While we’re on the subject of anniversaries, congratulations to CBS‘ flagship show, The NFL Today, which celebrates 50 years on the air on September 13th. The initial broadcast ran 15 minutes and was hosted by Frank Gifford. Since then, 43 different hosts, analysts and reporters have contributed to the program.

Lately many writers have been flocking from the Bay Area News Group to join The Athletic, leaving holes inside the organization’s sports department. One of them has been filled as BANG has hired Dieter Kurtenbach as a sports columnist.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has lost a valuable member of their sports department. Longtime Blues reporter and writer Jeremy Rutherford has announced he’s signed on with The Athletic. JR says he will transition from breaking news, game stories and practice updates to providing deeper columns that cover the key issues involving the Blues.

The Athletic has landed another scribe north of the border. The company’s Toronto division has lured Eric Duhatschek over from the Globe and Mail. Duhatschek had spent 17 years with the local newspaper.

Ken Pomeroy has also announced he’s joining The Athletic. Pomeroy will be a regular contributor and analytics editor for the company’s college basketball platform.

There will be a new beat reporter covering the Missouri Tigers for the Kansas City Star. Longtime writer Tod Palmer has confirmed he’s stepping aside to take a position as Suburbans Editor for some of The Star’s products as well as Lee’s Summit Journal and the Cass County Democrat.

Sports Radio News

The Michael Kay Show Celebrates 20 Years of New York Sports Radio Excellence

“When we started, I thought it was going to be a short-term gig. 20 years – it’s really hard to fathom; it really is.”

Derek Futterman

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The appetite for sports in the New York metropolitan area has long been strong but the craving of sports radio conversation might even be stronger. The Michael Kay Show has treated fans to a surplus of memorable moments dating back to 2002 when the show began delivering informative and entertaining talk on 1050 ESPN, eventually moving to the FM dial on 98.7 ESPN, and adding a television simulcast on the YES Network in 2014.

On Friday, the program broadcast its 20th anniversary show live in front of a large, fervent crowd of New York listeners at The Palladium in Times Square. The three co-hosts were introduced by New York Knicks public address announcer and Fordham University alumnus Mike Walczewski to the roar of the crowd. Throughout the course of the live broadcast, the program welcomed several special guests and looked back at memorable moments from the past while also creating new memories.

“It’s kind of amazing,” Kay told Barrett Sports Media. “It’s hard to wrap your mind around it. 20 years is a long time. I’ve got to be honest – when we started, I thought it was going to be a short-term gig. 20 years – it’s really hard to fathom; it really is.”

Kay has co-hosted the eponymously-named program from its first day on the air, but the first voice on the station itself was actually none other than his co-host Don La Greca. Former ESPN New York executive and current President of the Broadcasters Foundation of America Tim McCarthy was responsible for pairing Kay and La Greca, but over the first three days of the show, Kay thought La Greca was there “in case the line dropped.” Once Kay received a phone call telling him he could start incorporating La Greca into the program, the dynamic of the show instantly changed. The program started utilizing its co-host rather than fully adopting a solo approach. Today, Kay calls him “the most important component” of the show and the personality who does a majority of the talking.

“It feels like it’s an appendage; it’s a part of my body [and] it’s a part of my life,” La Greca told Barrett Sports Media. “I’m 54 years old – I’ve been in the business [for] 30 years and 21 of them have been with ESPN and 20 of them have been with Michael Kay. It’s not anything that I take for granted and a day like this is really amazing; I’m so proud.”

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Mike Greenberg, current host of Get Up and NBA Countdown on ESPN, along with longtime host of #Greeny on ESPN Radio, joined the program in its first hour. While his appearance centered around discussing the New York Jets upcoming matchup against the New England Patriots this weekend in Foxborough, Mass., he recognized the magnitude of the moment and what differentiates The Michael Kay Show from other sports programs.

“There’s a reason why this show works,” said Greenberg. “Chemistry is something that is very difficult to predict, but to me it is very easy to define although people, particularly executives, have a hard time understanding this. If you didn’t have chemistry, the sum total of your show would be Michael-plus-Don-plus-Peter. Because you have chemistry, it’s Michael-times-Don-times-Peter.”

Peter Rosenberg, the third co-host of the show, concurred with the point made by Greenberg and recognizes his skillset and how he best complements those of Kay and La Greca. He joined the afternoon drive program in 2016 while simultaneously working morning drive in music radio, making him unique in that he works in both drivetime slots in two different formats in the nation’s largest market.

“We really are a different show when we’re together,” Rosenberg told Barrett Sports Media. “Each one of us brings a piece to the table that is different. It’s never the same show if we’re not all there.”

Four-time World Champion as manager of the New York Yankees Joe Torre appeared on stage to a thunderous applause. He was celebrating a 20-year anniversary with his charity, the Safe at Home Foundation, which provides services to end the cycle of violence that risks being fostered in children who have experienced traumatic events. The charity recently had an anniversary gala, an event which many former Yankees attended, and was excited to celebrate the overlap of both milestones.

“I’m happy to be here. You’ll always be special [to] me,” Torre said to Kay. “You were there during a very special time in my career and in my life, and I’ll never forget that.”

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Torre regaled the audience with a story delineating his mindset when he was trying to plan how to address the Yankees in his first spring training with the team in 1996. It was a task that was keeping him up at night, especially entering the job with a win-loss record significantly below .500. As he was working out one morning on a stairmaster machine, reading the top of a page in a motivational book by Bill Parcells gave him the answer he was looking for. “If you believe in what you do, stay with it,” Torre recalled the page saying.

“I said to the players, ‘First off, everybody on my coaching staff has been to a World Series – I haven’t. But I don’t want to win one; I want to win three in a row,’” Torre recalled. “I said that not to show off in any way, but just to let them know that if you win, it’s necessary to show people and show yourself that it wasn’t a fluke. Again, you have to have the right audience and I had some grownups in that clubhouse.”

Following Torre, New York Yankees rookie infielder Oswaldo Cabrera joined the show and discussed what it was like launching his major league career playing in the media capital of the world. Cabrera is familiar with Kay since he also serves as the television voice of the Yankees on the YES Network. As a congratulatory gift, he gifted him one of his lucky necklaces he wears during each game, along with a signed baseball card from Kay’s favorite childhood Yankee, Bobby Murcer.

After the show announced New York Jets cornerback and rookie phenom Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner was running late, the show adjusted by bringing fans a live “Daily Don” of the most-talked about sports figures on the air over the duration of the show. Kay and Rosenberg both took their turns trying to guess the order of the list, taking suggestions from the audience. The panel quickly guessed Álex Rodríguez as the most-talked about sports personality over the time of the show. Former New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning ranked second, and rounding out the top three was Carmelo Anthony due to his stint with the New York Knicks from 2010 to 2016. Completing the top five were former New York Jets head coach and current ESPN analyst Rex Ryan at four and Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving at five.

Shortly thereafter, Kay, La Greca and Rosenberg spent time discussing New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge winning the American League Most Valuable Player award, before welcoming Kay’s YES Network booth partner David Cone. The former Yankees and Mets all-star pitcher also occupies the same role nationally on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. Cone talked with the show about a number of New York baseball topics before congratulating the crew on twenty years and saying goodbye.

Following Cone’s appearance, WWE superstar Seth Rollins hit the stage in entertaining fashion, taking part in ENN with Peter Rosenberg. Rollins shared how becoming a wrestler was always his plan and there never was a Plan B before tackling a few current news and events items with the hosts. One of those stories was the arrest of Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Todd Downing for drunk driving in Nashville, Tenn. following the team’s win against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisc.

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“He was in Lambeau, they win the game, he gets back on the jet, and at some point he decides: ‘It’s midnight. It’s still early. Let’s go party,’” Rollins said.

“When the Yankees travel, if they’re flying anywhere into New York, there is no liquor served anywhere on the plane,” Kay added. “When you’re going into another town and going on a bus, then you may have some liquor.”

Since it was Friday, Rosenberg closed out the segment by making viewers aware of the announcing duos on the local and national NFL games of the week. He noted how both the Jets and the Giants play at 1pm, a scheduling decision that makes it difficult for New York sports fans to watch their football teams that both have a chance to qualify for the NFL playoffs.

Up next was New York Jets rookie sensation Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner. The star defensive back joined the show to discuss his first year in the NFL, becoming a New York fan favorite, and securing a partnership with Buffalo Wild Wings which included the creation of his own custom hot sauce, playing off of his signature nickname. Gardner talked about managing pressure through practice and preparation, and the upcoming AFC East showdown with the New England Patriots.

As the live broadcast ended, The Michael Kay Show thanked all of its listeners both in-person and listening from afar, concluding the program receiving a standing ovation. Kay brought Joey Salvia on stage, an original member of the program who performed the program’s theme song in its first year, along with 98.7 ESPN New York Program Director Ryan Hurley.

“The only way that you could last on the air in any city is if people listen to you, and that’s what you people have done,” Kay told the audience. “You’ve allowed us to come into your home and your car for these last 20 years, [and] we can’t thank you enough. We love you like family. We can’t believe that you came out on this Friday night. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Who knows if there’s going to be a 30th or a 40th, but let’s aim for it.”

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Once the radio show concluded, the lights were dimmed for Michael Kay Unplugged, a two-hour program referred to as the “bacchanal” containing roasts and a “Reverse Centerstage” panel reflecting on the show’s run and its future. Good Karma Brands CEO Craig Karmazin addressed the room before the event started, thanking the show for being great teammates. Along with Good Karma’s executive vice president Debbie Brown, and president Steve Politziner, the management team presented Don, Michael and Peter with custom hand-painted commemorative plates to commemorate twenty years of on-air success.

Karmazin then pitched to a prerecorded video message from Turner Sports and MLB Network commentator Bob Costas to kick things off before ESPN New York hosts Dave Rothenberg, Chris Carlin and Rick DiPietro took the stage. Once the trio of New York sports talkers grabbed hold of live microphones, the jokes and ribbing began. Rothenberg and Carlin hypothesized about what La Greca would be like if he held other types of jobs. They then took aim at Rosenberg’s music album and compared his gift-giving ability to Tim Tebow’s quarterback talent before turning their attention to Kay and busting his chops for being too sensitive while labeling him the “Gary Cohen” of talk show hosts.

Carlin then got serious and told the audience how special The Michael Kay Show is. In addition to being good friends, Carlin shared how they have the ability to make you feel like you’re home no matter where you’re listening from. He spoke about radio as a medium for cultivating and maintaining a community and thanked the station’s listeners for continuing to support the brand through changes in media dissemination and consumption.

“The word that just comes to mind listening to you guys is joy,” Carlin said. “I think we can all agree we have not experienced a ton of joy over the last few years. I listen to these guys, and immediately I’m smiling, I’m laughing; I’m having a good time.”

Rothenberg echoed that sentiment by reminiscing on how through his radio career, there have been many professionals in the industry who are “awful people.” He feels fortunate to be at a station with a congenial atmosphere and longevity, bringing New York sports fans informative and entertaining talk about their favorite teams.

“I think of everyone at the station,” Rothenberg said. “We have an amazing camaraderie here.”

Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo then made a guest appearance hosting a reverse CenterStage, referencing the YES Network interview show Kay hosts, and asking the co-hosts of The Michael Kay Show questions about their careers and what such longevity has meant to them. Russo famously co-hosted Mike and the Mad Dog with Mike Francesa on WFAN from 1989 to 2008, a 19-year run. Both afternoon drive shows battled it out in the ratings and understood the perspectives they brought to New York sports fans, satisfying their hunger for live and local content.

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“I grew up listening to you,” La Greca told Russo. “I grew up wanting to be in sports radio. I grew up listening to Steve Somers after the Mets games; calling the show to talk about my teams, dreaming I’d get a chance to do this. All I wanted to do was to do a talk show; that’s all I ever dreamt about doing.”

La Greca worked at WFAN while Francesa and Russo broadcast their hit program, but changed broadcast outlets after earning an opportunity to join the local ESPN radio station in New York. Before starting as a talk show host, Kay himself recalled asking Francesa and Russo for advice on being a radio host while he was doing pregame and postgame coverage for the New York Knicks on MSG Networks.

“Chris couldn’t have been nicer and he’s giving me all of this advice,” Kay recalled. “Mike goes, ‘Why would I give you advice? Who are you? You might be competition one day,’ and he walked away.”

Rosenberg joined the show in late 2015 and has brought his eclectic background and jocose personality to the airwaves. When he began matriculating at the University of Maryland, he met other students who were aggressive in their pursuit of a career in sports media, dissuading Rosenberg and forcing him to consider another way to get on the radio. He began hosting music programs, found his way to New York where he’s now a big part of the morning show on Hot 97, and is thankful that his path led him to being able to discuss his two biggest passions, sports and music.

“As much as I loved sports, I wanted to get on the radio,” Rosenberg said. “I simultaneously adored Funkmaster Flex and Bob Costas. The fact that I ended up here is just such a dream come true.”

After Don, Michael and Peter talked about their love for radio, and the different roads they took to get to ESPN New York, Russo mentioned the competitive battle in afternoon drive. Mike Francesa beat the show in the ratings for a long period of time on WFAN but eventually the tables turned. Kay told Mad Dog he could pinpoint exactly when the momentum shifted. He singled out Francesa traveling to Atlanta for Super Bowl week in 2019, a tradition that Mike and Chris started. Kay felt the show that year would be better served not making the trip and instead doing their normal program from their New York radio studio.

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As luck would have it, on January 31st of 2019, the Knicks traded Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks after it was widely reported that he asked to be moved. When Porzingis was dealt, the show went full steam ahead attacking the biggest New York sports story. Because Francesa was in Atlanta and swamped with Super Bowl guests, he wasn’t able to do the same. Kay called it a “watershed moment,” which allowed the show to gain additional listeners and eventually pass Francesa in the ratings.

Michael Kay, Don La Greca and Peter Rosenberg have developed a distinct sound and attracted large listenership for 98.7 ESPN New York in afternoon drive. Friday’s event was a reminder that there are people who are devoted listeners to the show who value the unique connection fostered by radio as a broadcast medium. While listeners are not usually present as the show is taking place, they are indeed a part of the experience no matter where they are and figure to keep listening as New York’s longest-tenured sports afternoon radio program continues its run.

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Sports Radio News

Former 590 The Fan Host Jay Randolph Jr. Dies

“He looked at me blank in the face and I said ‘Is it bad?’ He said ‘Real bad’.”

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Longtime 590 The Fan host Jay Randolph Jr. has died.

A fixture in St. Louis sports radio, Randolph Jr. shared he had been diagnosed with liver cancer late last month. He said on The Morning After last week he was given three-to-four months to live.

“It’s a shocker,” he said. “When you sit down in the chair with the (doctor), you’re thinking he’s going to say, ‘We can do this, we can do that, we can do chemo.’ He looked at me blank in the face and I said ‘Is it bad?’ He said ‘Real bad’.”

He jokingly then quipped “other than that, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln?”

In addition to his work at 590 The Fan, Randolph Jr. also spent time at SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio. His father, Jay Randolph, is a Hall of Fame sportscaster, working as the play-by-play announcer for the West Virginia Mountaineers, Dallas Cowboys, SMU Mustangs, St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Blues, Cincinnati Reds, and Florida Marlins, in addition to his work with NBC Sports.

A GoFundMe account was created after he announced his cancer diagnosis. It has currently raised more than $50,000.

He was 53 years old.

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Sports Radio News

Asheville Sports Radio Host Pat Ryan Dies

“Pat’s passion was infectious, his presence, professionalism, enthusiasm, and positive attitude were an inspiration to the lives he touched.”

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Longtime Asheville, North Carolina sports radio host Pat Ryan has died.

Ryan co-hosted The WISE Guys on 1310 WISE since it began in 2005. He also helped facilitate the station carrying UNC-Asheville women’s basketball.

“WISE Sports Radio and The Asheville Radio Group are deeply saddened by the passing of WISE Host Pat Ryan,” Asheville Radio Group Market President Tom Davis told The (Asheville) Citizen-Times. “Pat’s passion was infectious, his presence, professionalism, enthusiasm, and positive attitude were an inspiration to the lives he touched. The joyful and courageous way that he lived his life is an example for all of us. His smile and bright soul will shine forever in our hearts. Please put Pat’s wife Kathleen and his family in your thoughts and prayers.”

Ryan was diagnosed with cancer in 2018. He was 57.

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