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Under The Radar – March 14, 2018

Jason Barrett

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This week’s UTR includes a number of items related to the NCAA Tournament. As I state in each week’s piece, to be considered for exposure in an upcoming article, pass along any pertinent information via email to JBarrett@spoortsradiopd.com. Now on to the latest developments.

Entercom New York has named a new Market Manager to oversee some of the company’s most important and prestigious brands. New York native Susan Larkin will head back to the east coast, leaving San Francisco where she had been overseeing Entercom’s five Bay Area stations. Larkin also had regional oversight of Sacramento and a number of Southern California markets. To fill her absence in the Bay Area, Gregory Nemitz will be elevated to SVP/Market Manager. Los Angeles SVP/Market Manager Jeff Federman will also take on more responsibility adding regional oversight of Southern California markets, including San Diego, Palm Springs and Riverside. Although Larkin will be physically located in the big apple, she will continue as Nemitz’s direct report. Interim New York market manager John Fullam will now move to Denver where he was originally expected to be when he signed on with the company this past November.

If there’s one time of the year where you can learn a lot about a radio station’s creativity surrounding big events, it’s March. The NCAA Tournament becomes a key focus for many outlets but too often stations do the same thing. Sales requests a March Madness promotion to generate income, which is followed up by a station placing a bracket on its website, attaching a sponsor to it, supporting it with liners and promos and encouraging the audience to fill it out. The listener who produces the best bracket gets rewarded with a prize. Considering that sports fans receive the same exact options on TV and print media websites, it doesn’t stand out. To make noise, you’ve got to either offer an experience/prize that’s unheard of or do something outside the box. Fortunately, there are a few brands out there looking to capitalize on the buzz in unique ways rather than executing the same bland concepts.

For starters, the red carpet needs to be rolled out for Carrington Harrison of 610 Sports. The man deserves a moment in the spotlight for his creation of the Kanye Madness bracket. Harrison tapped into the passion of Kanye West fans by creating a bracket which highlighted 64 of the popular artist’s songs. It generated a massive amount of social buzz including feedback and participation from Chris Long, Cris Carter, Jordan Matthews, Bomani Jones, and coverage on Complex, Cincinnati.com, and the Kansas City Star among others. It even became a topic of conversation on MSNBC during an appearance by Havoc of Mobb Deep, who placed Harrington at the top of his ‘Real List’ and pushed for the song “Famous” to win the tournament since it was one of 2 songs he produced for Kanye. Whether you love Kanye’s music or not, the originality, social polls and video content created around the promotion was spectacular. As of last check, the original tweet had received 30,000 retweets and 81,000 likes. It also produced tons of shares and comments on Facebook. It was everything radio should be trying to create.

Although Harrison’s creation was impressive, it wasn’t the only bracket to strike a chord. The Spun did a fantastic job too by creating the 64 Most Annoying People in Sports Media bracket. If there’s a guaranteed way of generating buzz for a bracket, just include 64 people in the sports media business, and sit back, relax, and enjoy your popcorn as they flock to social media to mention their involvement in it. To see the bracket click here.

A few others which passed the creativity test include Barstool SportsPardon My Take which produced the 64 People Most Likely to Retweet This Bracket and Get Us More Followers bracket. CBS Sports Radio‘s Tiki and Tierney are giving one lucky fan the chance to host a segment with them on TV and Radio. Seth Harp in Jacksonville at Sports Radio 930 in conjunction with iHeart Radio Jacksonville rolled out Meat Madness, and Paige Dimakos and Zach Harper of FanRag Sports used the tournament as a connector to LeBron James‘ pending free agency.

Speaking of the tournament, SiriusXM is offering listeners nationwide comprehensive coverage of the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, airing every minute of every game on both satellite radios and the SiriusXM app on its exclusive 24/7 college sports talk channels. All Men’s NCAA Tournament game broadcasts are provided to SiriusXM by Westwood One, the official network radio partner of the NCAA and the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.

Thursday is a big day for Jason Fitz. The network radio and television host will take over ESPN‘s Twitter account as part of Fitz’s Big Basketball Binge-A-Thon Bonanaza. Fitz will have a few special guests stopping by to watch games, converse, eat and spin the wheel of destiny including Jalen Rose, Jay Williams, Michael Smith, Molly Qerim and more. Plans are for Fitz to begin his tour of duty at Noon ET. He’ll remain at the controls until the buzzer sounds for the final game of the evening.

Sometimes technical malfunctions can turn into entertaining radio. There was no better example than in New York where Don LaGreca expressed his fondness for the radio station’s microphone collapsing into his hands during Tuesday’s program. After the ESPN New York afternoon host snapped and screamed “FIX THAT” while walking out of the studio during a segment, Michael Kay and Peter Rosenberg were left to try and regain their composure and explain what just occurred. YES Network did an excellent job of turning around the clip quickly, generating strong social sharing. To watch LaGreca’s meltdown click here.

It may have taken five years, but Chris Townsend is finally getting an opportunity to make a bigger impact on Oakland Athletics radio broadcasts. The 95.7 The Game talk show host has been named the network host for A’s pre and postgame shows. “Towny” as he’s affectionately known to local listeners will also be dropping in during game broadcasts with A’s announcers Ken Korach, Vince Cotroneo and Ray Fosse.

Tim Murray will be hosting a new show on SB Nation Radio starting this Sunday, “Destination NFL Draft.” The show airs 11a-1p ET for the next six weeks leading up to the NFL Draft. Each show will include appearances from draft experts, draft prospects, and local beat reporters from the teams atop the draft.

Meanwhile, one of Murray’s radio partners Steve Solomon, is making some news of his own. The SB Nation Radio host and producer of Steve Czaban‘s afternoon show on The Team 980 is running for Montgomery County Council. In the first unofficial poll, Solomon led the way, garnering 15 percent of the vote from more than 5,000 votes recorded in a Bethesda Magazine reader survey. That percentage was more than double the next closest candidate. Solomon says he’s gratified to see his campaign resonating with Montgomery County residents. The election takes place June 26, 2018.

WWL in New Orleans has cut ties with longtime host Deke Bellavia. Bobby Hebert‘s co-pilot on “SportsTalk” and the New Orleans Saints “Point After” postgame show last appeared on-air on Friday March 9th. Saints sideline reporter Kristian Garic has been filling in on an interim basis. Hebert is expected to continue in his normal role. A replacement has not yet been named for Bellavia.

Time has run out for Eric Williams at ESPN 850 WKNR in Cleveland. The producer and on-air contributor to The Really Big Show with Tony Rizzo and Aaron Goldhammer is looking for his next opportunity. To get in touch with him via Twitter click here.

In the podcasting space, congrats is in order for Howie Schwab. The ex-ESPner has created the Schwab Cast for Univision. The first two episodes featured appearances from Dick Vitale and Fran Fraschilla. To listen and/or subscribe click here.

In Kansas City, 610 Sports morning host Bob Fescoe has also taken the plunge into the digital space. Fescoe has launched “The KC Bobcast,” a show focused on conversations with people who make Kansas City special. The first two episodes include interviews with Kansas Head Basketball Coach Bill Self and Marlin Man. To subscribe or listen click here.

When time allows, check out the ‘No Limits’ podcast hosted by ABC‘s Rebecca Jarvis. Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini was a recent guest on the program, and during the conversation, it was learned that since joining the company, Barstool has increased its revenue by eight times the amount. The company has also enjoyed a seven hundred percent gain in brand advertising, and a three hundred percent lift in e-commerce. Whether you love or hate the Barstool brand, those statistics are pretty remarkable.

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Joel Utley, College Basketball’s Record Holder for Most Games Called, Retires

Utley retires after 61 years as the team’s basketball play-by-play announcer which is a college basketball record.

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Joel Utley

Joel Utley has announced he is retiring from broadcasting and as the voice of the Kentucky Wesleyan Panthers.

Utley retires after 61 years as the team’s basketball play-by-play announcer which is a college basketball record. He broadcast 1,933 Kentucky Wesleyan games during that span, also a record for total games called. He began his career on December 2, 1961 when KWC defeated California State University – Northridge, 100-64. 

Utley also is the only broadcaster in the nation to call 12 NCAA Basketball Championship games (all levels) including eight Division II titles.

Joel Utley interviewing Rupp

“It was a tough decision to make, but the timing is right to step down,” Utley said. “What I have done as a broadcaster reflects my love for KWC. My career has been beyond any dreams I ever had.”

He is a member of the Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame and in September, Utley will be inducted into the Kentucky Broadcaster Association Hall of Fame.

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Sports Radio News

Mark Chernoff: ‘I Didn’t Believe Mad Dog Was Going To Leave WFAN’

“I wish they hadn’t separated, because it was the most amazing team.”

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Mark Chernoff offered some great stories and insight on the latest episode of The Jason Barrett Podcast. The former program director of WFAN in New York began his appearance by paying tribute to the station’s three soon-to-be Hall of Famers.

He reflected on Jeff Smulyan’s vision in creating sports radio, Suzyn Waldman’s gravitas and versatility as a reporter and talent, and all of the success he shared with Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo.

Russo and his long time radio partner Mike Francesa split up in 2008 after Russo left WFAN for Sirius. Chernoff admitted that even as he was told it was about to happen, he still didn’t believe it.

“You know, I misread a little bit the situation with Mike and Chris,” he admitted. “Mike said ‘Dog’s gonna leave. I know he’s gonna leave.’ He even intimated that he had spoken to Mel [Karmazin, the then-CEO of Sirius], not Mike but Chris, and it was likely he was going to go over to Sirius. And I just couldn’t believe it.”

Mike and the Mad Dog is as dominant a show as local sports radio has ever produced. The duo was together from 1989 until 2008. When they split up, Mark Chernoff says that he took it personally.

“I was sad for a really long time. I was angry too.”

The move hurt his relationship with Russo for a while. The two did not speak for a long time.

He told Barrett that that is over now. They share occasional texts and always hug and catch up when they see each other. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t still some lingering disappointment.

“I wish they hadn’t separated, because it was the most amazing team,” Chernoff said of Mike & the Mad Dog. “But both [Chris] and Mike were certainly successful on their own.”

New episodes of The Jason Barrett Podcast are released each Tuesday morning.

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Sports Radio News

Eli Gold To Miss Start of Alabama Football Season

He’s faced his share of health challenges recently. His streak of 409 consecutive Alabama football games was broken in 2020 after a COVID diagnosis.

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Legendary Alabama play-by-play announcer Eli Gold will miss the beginning of the 2022 football season with health issues.

Jim Carabin, Vice President and General Manager of Crimson Tide Sports Marketing announced the news Wednesday. The school did not elaborate on Gold’s ailment, only saying he would be sidelined to begin the season.

Chris Stewart, who handles play-by-play duties for Alabama’s basketball and baseball teams will fill in during Gold’s absence. Stewart will also host The Nick Saban Show and Hey, Coach until Gold returns.

The 68-year-old Gold is a 2014 inductee to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. Gold, who’s contract runs through the 2023 season, has been the Voice of the Crimson Tide since the 1988 season.

He’s faced his share of health challenges recently. His streak of 409 consecutive Alabama football games was broken in 2020 after a COVID diagnosis. Gold also had both shoulders replaced that same year.

In addition to his work with the Crimson Tide, Gold has served as an announcer for NASCAR, NFL, NHL, and the NBA G-League, among others.

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