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 Sports‘ Pardon 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
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.
UConn Basketball’s Mike Crispino Less Critical of Referees As Official Himself
“I’ve changed completely since I started doing this. Because I realize how hard it is.”
While basketball broadcasters may not have as contentious a relationship with referees as coaches, players, and fans, part of calling the action can involve criticizing a call. And with broadcasters typically positioned at courtside, there is certainly more opportunity for exchanges with officials than in football or hockey, for example.
But as David Borges writes in a feature for CT Insider, UConn men’s basketball play-by-play announcer Mike Crispino might go a bit easier on referees than his colleagues. And that’s because Crispino works as a referee himself when he’s not at the mic, officiating high school basketball and baseball games in Connecticut
Crispino has been a referee for 12 years and says it completely changed how he viewed officiating while calling play-by-play for the New York Knicks and UConn Huskies. Prior to donning the stripes, he would often question calls during a broadcast.
“I’ve changed completely since I started doing this,” Crispino told Borges. “Because I realize how hard it is. It’s not easy. You’re on-call all the time. You’ve got to have two hours of being sharp. You can’t get lazy, you can’t get distracted, you can’t listen to too many people barking about stuff. You have to be on it. Otherwise, you’re not doing the service that you’re getting paid to do.”
Despite having the perspective of a working referee, Crispino — who’s been broadcasting UConn men’s basketball for the past four years — still gets caught up in the moment and questions certain calls, sometimes with the officials standing right in front of him.
Unlike broadcasting, where young announcers are always trying to break into the industry, Crispino is concerned about the future of officiating. He says fewer people work as referees because of stories about angry parents and coaches.
Of course, Crispino has also experienced such exchanges from the other side with high school coaches disputing his calls as a referee. But he’s only issued one ejection during his officiating career, along with just a few technical fouls. Seeing referees work at the college and NBA levels as a broadcaster has helped him understand how to deal with such situations. That perspective has clearly been beneficial in both jobs.
Pat McAfee Irritated At Fans’ ‘Throw Rogan’ Nickname For Aaron Rodgers
“His haters got very loud.”
Many NFL fans, both casual and diehard, were ready with jeers and nicknames for Aaron Rodgers following the Green Bay Packers’ 13-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Saturday’s NFL divisional playoff game.
As Pat McAfee pointed out on his show Monday, fans were eager to throw insults at Rodgers, waiting for the opportunity like a batter waiting for the ideal pitch to hit.
“People were sitting on ‘Throw Rogan,'” said McAfee, who naturally supported the person who appears on The Pat McAfee Show every week and made those conversations must-see viewing.
That particular nickname is a play on Joe Rogan, the popular podcast host whose advice Rodgers followed for batting COVID-19. As Rogan recommended, Rodgers took the drug Ivermectin, which is typically used to treat roundworms and other parasites.
McAfee cited last week’s ESPN.com feature on Rodgers by Kevin Van Valkenburg in which the reporter detailed the turn perception has taken toward the Packers QB this season and Rodgers’ strident belief in himself as a free thinker and intellectual.
Co-host A.J. Hawk agreed, adding another popular nickname posted to social media Saturday. “QAaron Rodgers” mocks the quarterback’s stated belief in conspiracy theories regarding the vaccine.
On the field, the Packers were the No. 1 seed in the NFC and considered in prime position to advance to the Super Bowl. Rodgers will likely win the NFL Most Valuable Player award (despite some voters feeling otherwise) for the second consecutive season after passing for 4,115 yards and 37 touchdowns (to just seven interceptions), while completing 68.9 percent of his throws and leading Green Bay to a 13-4 regular-season record.
But off the field, Rodgers gained national notoriety and became a controversial figure for his stance on the COVID-19 vaccine. Rodgers refused to get vaccinated, which put him at odds with many throughout the country. But what became the subject of national outrage and discussion was the quarterback giving the impression that he’d been vaccinated by saying he was “immunized” against the virus.
That turned many people against Rodgers for the past three months and those fans took delight from him losing in the playoffs. (The quarterback also lost some fans for trying to force a trade during the offseason and it’s possible Rodgers played his final game in Green Bay on Saturday.) And they flooded social media with nicknames.
“His haters got very loud,” said McAfee. “But I will say, I don’t think he has a lot of haters in general managers around the NFL on whether or not they can get him in the building.”
The trade rumors will begin gaining heat soon. Will fans tossing out derisive nicknames right now — especially those supporting the Broncos, Raiders, Giants, Saints, and Steelers — eventually embrace him as their quarterback? You know the answer to that.
Jeff Rickard Out At WEEI (Update)
“In the memo, new Audacy Boston market manager Mike Thomas says that the station will be naming a new brand manager in the future.”
Jeff Rickard’s tenure in Boston did not last long. Chad Finn of the Boston Globe tweeted yesterday that the WEEI brand manager has left Audacy and intends to return to Indianapolis.
Rickard was announced as the new brand manager of the legendary Boston sports talker in August. He left his role as morning show host and PD at The Fan in Indianapolis at that time.
In the memo, new Audacy Boston market manager Mike Thomas says that the station will be naming a new brand manager in the future.
In the meantime, Ken Laird has been promoted to operations manager for the station. Laird announced yesterday that this means he is leaving the Greg Hill Show, which will be on the lookout for a new producer.
On Monday, Jeff Rickard took to Twitter to update fans and followers on his situation. He did not have anything negative to say about WEEI, Audacy, or anyone involved with him coming to Boston. He even noted that this move is likely what is best for him and his family.
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