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Q&A with Adam Gold

Demetri Ravanos

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Adam Gold didn’t invent sports talk in Raleigh, North Carolina, but you could be forgiven for thinking he is the format’s patron saint in town. He has been on hosting sports talk shows in the area for nearly as long as there have been sports talk shows in the area.

You can hear Adam & his partner Joe Ovies each afternoon on 99.9 the Fan. They host one of the most irreverent and welcoming local sports talk shows you will ever hear. Want to know why Coach K can’t get consistent play from a roster full of five star talent? They’ll tell you, but first they’re going to spend ten minutes talking about tacos.

I worked with Adam briefly and spent the first few weeks in the building intimidated by him. He isn’t physically imposing at all. He is supremely confident and always up for a friendly debate.

Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill (or “The Triangle” to those of us that live here) is bitterly divided in its college basketball loyalties, but somehow only in those particular loyalties. Adam explained to me how a sports culture like that has allowed him to create consistently fun content. We also talked about pants and internet videos.

DEMETRI: How did you get to Raleigh?

ADAM: Well, my wife at the time – my practice wife as I call her – had been hired to run the training department at Central Carolina Bank, which was in Durham. We were living in Baltimore, and we decided if I could find a job making $18,000 it was worth it. Between the cheaper cost of living and her salary, all I really had to do was make minimum wage, which I could do delivering pizza if I had to.

I was a producer in Baltimore on the morning show, and there was really nowhere for me to go unless I got a chance to host. So we are in North Carolina, and I am looking through the classified ads at the radio jobs section and I see an opening at WRBZ, which at the time was 850 the Buzz, so I called the PD, a guy named Craig Schwalb.

At the time the station was news, talk and sports. He liked my tape and said that they may have something coming up that I’d be right for. About a week later I got a call saying that they were thinking about going all sports, and I thought “gee, wouldn’t that be perfect?”. They brought me on as a part time employee to do updates. Three an hour for like five hours a day. Then that turned into co-hosting my own show and then my co-host quit on the air. I’m sure you’ve heard that story.

DEMETRI: No.

ADAM: Pat Mellon was his name. He was the afternoon host before it was all sports and they kept him on as the Buzz started to tilt towards sports. He was a sports fan, but not a sports host.

They paired us together in March, and then like six weeks into it, at the end of the show on a Tuesday in May, he just says “Well, I didn’t want to make a big deal out of this, but this is my last day. I’m quitting after the show.”

I really thought he was joking. We had a tendency to be a little silly at the end of the show and find something light to go out on. I told him “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.” We close the show and as we’re walking out he says “By the way, I wasn’t kidding.”

It was too bad too, because through the first weeks everyone was happy. The word was good on the street. It was good with advertisers. People liked the vibe. I thought we were happy, but he wasn’t happy. It had always been his show. He quit. That was that.

Management told me they were going to do a search. That went on for two ratings books. The ratings went up in each book. So the general manager, who is still my general manager today, Brian Maloney said “The ratings are good. It’s your show. Go get ‘em.”

I know I’m very lucky. I always tell people half the battle in radio is right place and right time. The other half is what you do with it, so I am not overlooking the second half, but you couldn’t have gotten luckier. New town. No prospects. No contacts. And then all the sudden I have my first on air job hosting my own show.

DEMETRI: So, being here as long as you have, how have you watched the Triangle change as a sports market? How have you seen the appetite for sports radio grow?

ADAM: Raleigh was behind the times for sports radio, but I guess kind of everywhere was, because for so long there was just WFAN. Then things slowly started to trickle out mainly in pro towns.

We still argued sports here, but what we had on air was more folksy, positive, “everyone is a fan” deals. I was never afraid to give an opinion. I would never call myself a shock jock, but the market just wasn’t used to hearing someone say “You’re wrong! This is not good.”

This is not to poke fun at a guy like Tony Rigsby, who was in the market for a long time. He just did a different type of show and what I was doing fit with the time. It was the late 90’s. Sports radio was starting to mirror talk radio where it wasn’t positive all the time.

DEMETRI: It was starting to sound like an actual conversation. Things were more genuine.

ADAM: Let’s use the current language. It was becoming more real. So, what I was doing resonated because I was just giving my opinion and trying to have some fun. Even when we were ripping on stuff, we always tried to find the fun angle.

We would pick games with dominant mascot theory, which mascot would win in a fight. It was silly. It was fun. We did it for a year and it ran its course and we moved on to something else, but even something like that is genuine, because you’re poking fun at the people that claim to be experts.

DEMETRI: That is an interesting bit of history, especially when you combine it with just how divided this market is with Duke, Carolina and NC State. People can be so tribal, so I wonder, did you ever question yourself or your style or did you always think “the market needs to catch up to me”?

ADAM: Well, people will tell you that I have never thought I was wrong.

DEMETRI: (LAUGHING) Right, Joe (Ovies, Adam’s co-host) just wanted to make sure I got that on the record.

ADAM: (LAUGHING) It should be on the record.

Seriously though, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t wrong. I just thought it was important that the first goal be to make people laugh, because we aren’t talking about splitting the atom. We aren’t talking about nuclear codes. What we are talking about is purely entertainment. It’s not that it doesn’t matter, but this is purely entertainment, so let’s make people laugh.

I wanted to challenge people’s conventional thinking. I thought that was important on certain elements, and I’ll get into specifics in a moment. But I never faked an opinion to be a contrarian. If I had that opinion, I had it and was willing to stand by it. That way I never had to think back about “well, what did I say about this topic last time?”.

Now, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t change my opinion if presented with new facts. When it came to issues though, I think people respected that I could give an opinion and that I had done the work and research to back it up.

I’ll give you an example. After Latrell Sprewell choked PJ Carlissimo, Spree did a commercial for Converse maybe. I don’t remember the brand, but in the ad he says he was the American dream. And I saw that and thought, “He’s right,” and I knew that was going to make people upset, but we’re living in America. We love second chances and reclamation projects, and the whole point of the ad is “I screwed up.” In that way, Latrell Sprewell was absolutely living the American dream.

I pointed that out on air, and of course you know how that went. So, that was a very explosive type of show. I wanted to make people face why they were so anti-Latrell Sprewell getting a second chance when maybe they would have been a little more sympathetic to another athlete that looked a little more like them.

When Earnhardt died, and people get uncomfortable when I talk NASCAR, because I’m not a fan, I asked openly why not retire the number 3? Now, I’m not crass, I didn’t do this the next day, but people started talking about who would be the next to drive the 3, because it wasn’t Earnhardt’s number. Richard Childress owns the car, so it’s his number. But look, certain numbers don’t belong on the track anymore. NASCAR purists, and there are a lot in North Carolina, couldn’t tell me why the sport doesn’t retire numbers beyond “We’ll run out of numbers.” Give me a break!

DEMETRI: You’ve been here long enough to see the market change from only caring about NASCAR or the ACC to becoming this major transplant destination. We have people that moved here from all over the country. Does that change what is “in bounds” for daily topics?

ADAM: It’s an interesting market. When we talk college basketball, it is a local market. It’s a very small market type of conversation we have.

DEMETRI: How about with hockey?

ADAM: We don’t talk a lot of hockey. If the Canes are a playoff team, we’ll talk about it then. When they are really bad, Alec (Campbell, Adam’s producer and The Fan’s pre-and-postgame host for Carolina Hurricanes broadcasts) and I will do a little crosstalk, but that is it. Day of a game we’ll have the TV play-by-play guy John Forslund on to preview the game, but we don’t set up to talk a lot of hockey.

But with college basketball, that is a local conversation. I never have to talk about any other team in the country or even the conference. It’s Duke, Carolina and NC State. I assume East Carolina has a basketball team. We don’t really care.

Frankly, as a listener, it bugs me when hosts talk about this stuff and waste my time. I really don’t care what (Miami basketball coach) Jim Laranega has to say about his team. He is a perfectly nice gentleman, but I really don’t care. We have other shows on this station that give us that and it is a complete waste of time. It’s not Duke, Carolina or State, so it is a waste of time.

Now, this market is so transient, that we can talk about anything else. If we talk about the NFL, sure it has a Panthers or Washington slant, but for the most part Joe and I are just talking NFL football. We can talk about coaches, quarterbacks, or any of the big personalities. Same with college football. We’ll always start with State, Carolina and Duke, but college football is a national sport, so we will talk about Nick Saban or other national topics.

We’re local mainly just when we talk college basketball, but there are so many people here that didn’t grow up here. We’re a national show when we talk about literally everything else, which is good. I think if we only talked local sports, we would bore each other.

I look at other local hosts, or even Paul Finebaum. I see on Twitter that he is going to talk about Ole Miss recruiting in the middle of March and I think “I would poke my eyes out if that was my show.” I just can’t do that. We mock recruiting here. That’s the only way we talk about it.

DEMETRI: This ties in nicely to something that has become a signature of the show, because a few years ago you and Joe made the decision not to take listener calls on an average day. It has worked out well for you guys and really fits the show. It has worked on the national level for a while, but it’s not a decision a lot of local shows would make. How did you guys come to that decision to break with what sports radio “should be”?

ADAM: Well, there was never a conversation where we decided “Hey, let’s stop taking calls.” We were just having our own conversations, and they were good conversations. We didn’t give the phone number out and we were entertaining ourselves.

Joe and I have been really fortunate to have some really talented and creative producers. And to me it’s even insulting to say Shannon Penn was our producer. Alec Campbell is not just our producer. These guys are just another part of the show. They just happen to have different responsibilities than we do.

So we just started getting creative and we were mixing it up with more benchmark elements. We found things that were entertaining and irreverent. Then we would get back into these conversations with ourselves. We just didn’t need the phone calls. They were honestly the worst part of the show.

If you’re a talented host, I want to hear your opinion and I want you to have as much fun with it as you can. This is going to sound crass, and I don’t mean to sound dismissive of callers, but as a host you use callers. You use callers to create more callers. If 1% of your audience is going to call in, then why would you cater to them?

The majority of listeners are annoyed by callers. Why would you try to annoy your listeners?

I don’t want to sit here and laud the ratings, because I know how volatile they can be and I know how they work. The ratings though have gone up and the show has been better and more successful as we have eliminated callers. And again, it’s not something we set out to do. It just kind of happened.

DEMETRI: So what would get you to take calls? Because it does happen occasionally.

ADAM: Well, we do a segment at the end of each show called Ask Away where we open the phones and the listeners are allowed to ask us anything and we will answer, as long as it isn’t an HR violation or something we can claim attorney/client privilege on. People that get the show know we don’t want to talk sports at the end of the show. We have been talking sports for 4 hours at that point. I mean, unless we’re off on a tangent about pants or something. And that happens a lot.

DEMETRI: Yeah, I think when I filled in for you Joe, Alec and I talked about workout routines for a good 15 minutes.

ADAM: Oh, that will happen a lot. It’s a big part of the show. When Roy Williams wore that multi-colored, striped sweater at his press conference a few weeks ago we talked about the sweater for…I mean for a long time. That’s kinda where we’re at our best.

DEMETRI: So, you are in a market with three sports stations. All three are owned by the same company and the programming on each one is meant to serve the others. So what do you look at as your day to day competition?

ADAM: Our competition is anything that occupies men 25 to 54. In terms of radio that’s country radio, urban radio and NPR. That is our competition in the time slot. But I don’t really think about competition. Man, that sounds really arrogant.

DEMETRI: No, I think that is the right answer, but everyone has an idea of who they expect to see occupying the first and third slots or the second and third slots when the ratings come out.

ADAM: Yeah, it’s a usual cast of characters, right? Lately we’ve been number one in our time slot. Sometimes number two, but it is great. I think that is because we are always changing what we do. It’s rare that things stay the same for a given year.

Frankly, we’re trying to entertain each other. The best compliment you can pay the show is “I’m not a real big sports fan, but I love the way you guys talk about sports.”

We’re always going to talk about issues before we talk about games. I am not going to preview a damn thing. We make jokes about breaking stuff down. Thursdays during the football season we’ll predict the stupidest storylines for the next day. That’s why women and guys who aren’t even sports fans like the show.

I love that. My wife is a hairdresser. I would estimate 30% of her female clients listen to the show. I love that if you take a broad cross-section of our listeners, a big chunk of it would be made up of people that aren’t hardcore sports fans. Those are the people we are probably pulling away from NPR or country radio.

DEMETRI: The company that owns 99.9 the Fan is Capitol Broadcasting, which not only owns the market’s NBC and Fox affiliates, but they also were very quick to adopt the idea of making content exclusively for their digital platforms. How do you think that has grown the show and changed who you’re exposed to?

ADAM: Digital has made some of what I do easier. I cover the Hurricanes for the station. Writing a story after each game would kill me, so instead I’ll prop my phone up and do a four minute video with my thoughts about what the outcome means. It sits right on top of the game story. That makes my life easier.

There have been more podcast opportunities for me. They aren’t lucrative, but that’s not why I do it. I have a weekly Canes podcast. I do a golf podcast every couple of weeks. There was a time when I did a college baseball podcast with John Manuel from Baseball America. I didn’t do it because I was a huge college baseball fan. I did it because I like hanging out with John.

It’s good. We do goofier videos. You gotta be multimedia now and make yourself valuable, otherwise they’ll find someone that can be more valuable.

DEMETRI: If I gave you a magic wand to wave over all of sports radio, what kind of thinking would you want to change in the format?

ADAM: Sports radio and talk radio mirror each other really well. That’s good and bad. Talk radio is, in general, pretty angry. It’s getting angrier too. I sense that happening with sports radio now. People are getting angrier. I hope the way Joe and I do it heads that off.

I will say this. There’s still way too much subtle racism in sports talk. I want that to go away. I don’t want to hear you say Jameis Winston is a running quarterback when he’s not. But he’s black, so he must be a runner, right?

Subtle racism and sexism. I’d love for people to not patronize someone like Lauren Brownlow (99.9 the Fan’s ACC reporter and regular contributor to Adam’s show) when she’s talking about college basketball because she absolutely knows what she is talking about more than I do. I look forward to the day when we don’t have to overcome those barriers, but I think that probably comes along with people being more angry. They don’t want their territory infringed upon. I’m all about new points of view and different points of view and I am intolerant of your intolerance.

DEMETRI: Is that what is going to go at the bottom of the campaign poster?

ADAM: It’s very meta, isn’t it?

BSM Writers

Jac Collinsworth Has Learned From The Best

“The way he would take all of the young people, myself included, under his wings. You couldn’t get this anywhere else.”

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Jac Collinsworth got his first taste of Notre Dame football while watching his brother Austin play for the Fighting Irish. There was his brother playing on special teams and getting a chance to return kicks.

“I remember sitting in the stands for his first football game inside Notre Dame Stadium thinking this is the coolest thing I’ve been a part of,” said Collinsworth. “The history of this building and my brother is out there in a Notre Dame jersey.”

Not only did Jac eventually go to Notre Dame as well, but he just completed his first season as the play-by-play voice for Notre Dame Football on NBC. As a student, Jac was part of the NBC sideline production team during his four-year education at South Bend from 2013 to 2017 and he was the sideline reporter for the NBC broadcast of the Blue/Gold spring game in 2016 and 2017.

“To work on the broadcasts for four years — as an intern really — with Alex Flanagan and then with Kathryn Tappen for three years down there on the sideline and being in all those production meetings, it was such an invaluable piece of the journey for me.”

And now, the 27-year-old is the television voice of the Fighting Irish.

“To see it all come full circle and be up there in the booth, it was really a special experience every single game,” said Collinsworth.

After graduating from Notre Dame, Collinsworth joined ESPN where he was a correspondent for NFL Live and Sunday NFL Countdown while also hosting the ESPN-owned ACC Network’s football show The Huddle.

Jac then returned to NBC in 2020 and was part of the Notre Dame telecasts during the pregame show and halftime show for two seasons. Collinsworth had the opportunity to learn under veteran play-by-play voice Mike Tirico, especially during the production meetings.

Tirico became a mentor to Collinsworth.

“I felt like I was getting a graduate degree watching him handle those meetings,” said Collinsworth. “The way he would take all of the young people, myself included, under his wings. You couldn’t get this anywhere else. To be able to do that for two years and still have him as a close friend and somebody I can text…I text with him before every single game.”

Another huge mentor to Collinsworth has been the legendary Al Michaels, the former play-by-play voice for Sunday Night Football who is now calling the Thursday night package for Amazon.

“I talk to him all the time,” said Collinsworth. “I’ve had dinner with him. He invites me out to play golf. We just get on the phone and spent 45 minutes just breaking down everything.  Every time that phone rings I don’t care what I’m in the middle of, I walk outside and I take that call.”

Collinsworth, the son of former Bengals wide receiver and current NFL Sunday Night Football analyst Cris Collinsworth, first felt the broadcasting itch growing up in Ft. Thomas, Kentucky.  It goes without saying that his father was a huge influence, but Jac remembers when Highlands High School was being renovated when he was in 7th and 8th grade.

The first part of the renovation was a brand-new broadcast facility.

“It was a studio that had these amazing cameras, a desk, lights and two sets,” recalled Collinsworth. “To this day, I’ve never seen a high school setup…I mean this is better than most college setups…a state of-the-art facility.”

The class was called “Introduction to Filmmaking” and Collinsworth started out wanted to be a cameraman. 

“I became obsessed with running around the school and filming all this stuff whatever students were doing,” said Collinsworth. 

From there, Jac gained experience in editing and producing but deep down inside he thought he wanted to be a cameraman…that was until his first taste of on-air experience.

“They started a rotation where everybody in the class had to try hosting the announcements live right before the final period of the day,” said Collinsworth.

And the rest is history.

An important part of Jac’s growth as a play-by-play announcer came last spring working NBC’s coverage of the United States Football League. Paired with Jason Garrett, Collinsworth was able to continue the learning process before taking over the Notre Dame duties. He appreciated the fact that these were really good football players that were among the best players on their college teams and could very well be in the NFL.

And just like for the players, the USFL was an opportunity for Jac to get better at his craft. 

“Just continuing to learn the art form of calling a game,” said Collinsworth. “The timing and getting out of the way sometimes and letting the broadcast breathe and rising for those big moments.” 

An incredibly big moment for Jack would be if the opportunity to work a game with his father ever presented himself. It’s something that he’s thought about and would love to see come to fruition somewhere down the road.

But if that happens, there could be a problem for the viewers.

“Would anybody be able to tell who is talking?” joked Jac.  

Jac and his father sound so much alike it’s scary. In fact, during our twenty-minute phone conversation, I really had to pay attention to listen for any discernable difference between Jac and his dad and it was very hard to find any.

But it would still be fascinating to hear them work together.

“I think it would be a very cool experience,” said Jac. “We would have so much chemistry that it would be a crazy experience. I would love to do it. I’d be getting out of his way and let him make points and I wouldn’t be afraid to take a couple of shots at him. I think it would be damn entertaining.” 

While their on-air roles are different, Jac has been able to learn a lot about broadcasting from his father. While he does — for the most part — give his son some space when it comes to work, Cris leaves Jac a note prior to each broadcast, mainly has it pertains to a specific aspect of a telecast like coming back from a break or the flow of a telecast.

But there’s one valuable lesson that Jac learned from his dad years ago that he has adopted for himself.

“Probably the biggest thing I’ve learned from him is, he is a worker man,” said Collinsworth.  “He just works at this stuff.” 

Jac would constantly see his father going through film at various hours during the day, but Cris would still pay close attention to his son’s studies at school and would let Jac know about it if he saw something wasn’t right.

Like when Jac would be having some difficulty with a math assignment.

“I’m like ‘Dad, this is calculus, I can’t figure out how to do this equation’,” said Jac. “He would put that clicker down and come up and he would be deep in the math book going through the chapters learning all this calculus that he hasn’t done in 40 years.  I’d come down at six in the morning and he’d still be flipping through the math book while I’m eating breakfast and he’s teaching me the lesson to make sure I got it for the quiz.

“That’s how he was…just the work element is the biggest thing that I still use every day and I definitely got it from him.”

Aside from his football duties, Collinsworth has also been a NASCAR studio analyst for NBC and he’s also been the voice of Atlantic Ten Men’s Basketball and the Atlantic Ten Tournament. There’s something to be said for getting experience in multiple sports because each sport has its own pace and its own flow.

Some play-by-play voices specialize in one sport and some can handle multiple assignments.  In Jac’s case, there’s one sport that stand above all the others.

“The rhythm, feel and flow of a football game is my favorite,” said Collinsworth. “Football has always been my first love and grew up around it. Basketball happens fast not to mention you’re on the court and you’re right there in the middle of it. I’ve called baseball games too and that’s a very slow game.” 

Jac Collinsworth is still very early in his broadcasting career but he has great talent and he’s been rewarded with some amazing opportunities like Notre Dame Football and being part of NBC’s NFL coverage.

But he knows that he’s had some help along the way and he’s very grateful for it.

“I feel like I’m living out a dream and I feel like I’m standing on a lot of people’s shoulders that helped me get there,” said Collinsworth. “I think about a lot of people who didn’t need to but chose to help me when I was a kid. I feel like I have a great responsibility to take that advice and take it as far as I can and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

And it all started with a high school television studio and his willingness to try all different aspects of the business.   

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BSM Writers

Chris Kinard Has 106.7 The Fan, The Team 980 Primed For Continued Success

“Coming right out of the books and beating our direct competitor in the first month will always be something I’m proud of.”

Derek Futterman

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When Jim Riggleman resigned as manager of the Washington Nationals in June 2011, it was the first time Chris Kinard thought the fanbase cared about the team.

Riggleman wanted the Nationals to pick up the option on his contract and effectively remove the “interim” tag from his job description, and once they declined to do so, he essentially packed up and left.

From the time he was young, Chris Kinard was interested in media, and he had early exposure in the industry since his uncle Lee worked as a television news anchor in Greensboro, N.C. The elder Kinard was the pioneer of the Good Morning Show on WFMY News 2 and was honored with the dedication of the main studio in his honor from where he worked since 1956.

By the time he was in fifth grade, Chris Kinard began listening to radio and realizing it may be a viable career path for him to pursue. He shadowed his uncle in 1996 to learn about news media and television broadcasting; however, he gravitated towards working in radio in part because of WJFK-FM, and had an affinity towards professional sports.

“A local morning show here in D.C. on a top 40 station was kind of my entry point,” Kinard said. “I listened to that show actually when it moved over to WJFK for years in middle school and high school.”

At the time, WJFK-FM was broadcasting in the talk format and was among the network of stations syndicating The Howard Stern Show and other programming targeted towards the male 25-54 demographic. Kinard was an avid listener of the station, tuning in to its programming for several hours a day over the course of many years.

Today, it is known as 106.7 The Fan and it is managed, along with Audacy’s cluster of radio stations by Kinard himself. He was responsible for flipping the station’s format from talk to sports in 2009 and has helped cement the brand as dominant in the ratings.

“Flipping the station to sports will always be a bittersweet thing for me,” Kinard said. “I grew up with the station [in] the previous format and I took a lot of pride in what we were doing at the time, but I think we launched with great success. Coming right out of the books and beating our direct competitor in the first month will always be something I’m proud of.”

During his freshman year at American University, he got word that The Sports Junkies were making a public appearance a few minutes away from his childhood home. Additionally, he found out the show was looking for people to volunteer to serve as interns, an opportunity he knew was simply too good to pass up.

Inherently shy, Kinard introduced himself with the hopes of landing an internship at WJFK-FM. A few weeks later, he received a phone call informing him that he was selected to work as an intern, a surreal opportunity for him to begin working in sports media. Little did he know he would still be working at the station, albeit in a more substantial role, 25 years later.

“When it started and when I was actually in the building and seeing the behind the scenes, I was kind of in awe,” Kinard said. “….I had no idea what I was doing really except that I really wanted to be there and couldn’t believe that I was and wanted to soak it all in.”

Three months later, one of the show’s producers who largely acted as a call screener left the station to pursue another opportunity in media. As a result, there was a gap to be filled, and since Kinard had been diligent and responsible as an intern, he was hired part-time to take over the role. At the conclusion of his sophomore year in college, he was hired full-time as the producer of The Sports Junkies – a development in his career he calls “fortuitous” initially difficult to foresee balancing with two years remaining to earn his undergraduate degree.

“It was a really kind of interesting conversation with my parents about whether to do it or not and how it would impact my schoolwork and that kind of thing,” Kinard said. “I just was determined to take that opportunity; I knew how scarce they were I guess just by seeing people who had been at the station and working part-time [for] several years who had left because they couldn’t get a full-time position.”

By the time he was in his junior and senior years, Kinard had valuable professional experience from working at WJFK-FM and also interning at the local ABC affiliate station. Although he participated in some of the student-run media outlets at the school, his mindset was to prioritize what he was doing off campus.

“I’m not sure that I actually got a lot out of college to be honest with you because I was doing it outside of school already just by kind of virtue of connections,” Kinard said. “Being in Washington, D.C. and all the opportunities that are available here, [that was] really… my focus more than anything else.”

During his first year as show producer, The Sports Junkies became nationally syndicated on Westwood One Radio and was achieving notoriety and high ratings within the marketplace. The show is hosted by four childhood best friends – John Auville, Eric Bickel, Jason Bishop, and John-Paul Flaim – who began the program on public access television in Bowie, Maryland before joining WJFK-FM as evening hosts in 1996. None of them had any formal broadcast training, instead utilizing their indelible chemistry and local background to auspiciously impact sports media.

“They’re very authentic,” Kinard expressed. “I think when people hear them, they can relate to them. They sound like every guy’s group of friends sound when you get together. I think they sound like our city; they sound like sports fans in Washington over the last 30 years.”

All four co-hosts recently inked four-year contract extensions to keep The Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan, officially putting pen to paper together in studio earlier this month.

Since 2016, The Sports Junkies has been simulcast on NBC Sports Washington, and although listeners now have the ability to add a visual component to their experience, it did not change how any of the co-hosts approach the job. From the beginning, there was a mutual understanding that the show would still operate in the same way with the cameras serving the purpose of pulling back the metaphorical curtain.

“It is really a fast-paced show in terms of the camera switching and the direction of it because there’s four guys, so I think this show translates really well,” Kinard said. “There’s a lot going on because there are four hosts, not just two talking heads. There’s also two producers that chime in a lot. There’s a lot of movement, I think, within the show because of just how dynamic of a cast it is.”

Since its official shift to the sports talk format in 2009, 106.7 The Fan had primarily competed with The Team 980 to try to win in the ratings. In November 2020, Audacy, officially agreed to acquire various stations across the United States owned by Urban One, including The Team 980, effectively ending that competition. Part of Kinard’s job is to oversee both sports talk stations, which now compete with ESPN 630 DC.

“We have some really talented staff,” Kinard said. “I’m not sure we’ve ever had more talent under one roof than we have now. Having two stations in my market allows me to groom new people and give people opportunities quicker than I could with just one station.”

Moreover, he helped launch 1580 The Bet, a radio station broadcasting in the growing sports gambling format in partnership with the BetQL Audio Network and CBS Sports Radio. Its creation coincided with a nationwide effort by Audacy to better utilize certain signals to their full potential, and with the proliferation and legalization of sports betting in select states across the country, many of them flipped to this format.

“I think it was important to have the BetQL Network represented in Washington at a high level because of the proximity to the MGM National Harbor, which is just kind of 15 minutes away from the radio station,” Kinard said. “[It is] on a signal that, in the past, had not been a big ratings play, so that was a great opportunity to just kind of own sports in Washington – to have 106.7 The Fan; The Team 980; and 1580 The Bet all under one umbrella.”

A compelling draw to sports radio is live game broadcasts, and as brand manager of Audacy DC, Kinard is responsible for maintaining 106.7 The Fan’s relationship with the Washington Capitals and Washington Nationals. When the teams are doing well, it usually results in better metrics for the station.

“There’s a huge correlation between winning and listenership and also advertiser interest,” Kinard said. “There’s a segment of the fanbase, I think, that thinks that local sports radio roots against the teams. It’s not that we root for the teams necessarily, but if you ask any host probably on any radio station in America whether it’s better for their individual show’s success and their overall station success if the teams are successful, I think everyone’s going to say it’s way better.”

Prior to the start of this NFL season, Audacy DC parted ways with the Washington Commanders due to a disagreement regarding “the value of the broadcasts.” The Team 980 was previously owned by the Washington Commanders franchise itself and had been the flagship station of the team for several years through its sale to Urban One in 2019. The Fan had not had the radio broadcast rights to the Commanders since 2006 before it was broadcasting in the sports talk format, hence why The Sports Junkies co-host Eric Bickel stated that the station had had no relationship with the team for two decades.

Since the Commanders officially entered into a new partnership with iHeartRadio, its flagship station has been BIG 100, which airs a classic rock format. Consequently, The Team 980 had the opportunity to change its on-air strategy, airing five hours of pregame coverage every week followed by extensive postgame coverage. During the games themselves, the station has broadcast Burgundy & Gold Gameday Live, a show that has had stellar listenership thus far.

“I think play-by-play rights are really important and do have a ton of value, but only if it’s done in a way where there’s partnership on both sides but also an understanding on both sides that the team has a job to do and the radio station has a job to do,” Kinard expressed. “Our focus is just to continue to provide great talk and coverage of the teams.”

As media continues to evolve with changes in technology and consumption habits, Kinard remains optimistic about the future because of the influx of new talent and the leadership at Audacy.

“We have just a wealth of talent and content, and I think that content will cut through no matter what’s going on with technology,” he said. “I think that we will continue to push to make sure that we are on the platforms that we need to be on and that we own that content and can monetize it for the future. I don’t know how anyone could compete with that, so I’m really excited about it.”

Kinard’s vertical movement in the industry might not have been possible without finding a mentor in Michael Hughes, the station’s general manager. Over the years working in the industry, Kinard grasped that managers are often not thinking about the needs and wants of individuals because of the myriad of responsibilities they are juggling related to the entity as a whole over any given period of time.

As a result, it is essential for subordinates to communicate with their superiors, as they are “at the mercy of the communication [they] receive,” according to Kinard.

“I had a conversation with him about… wanting to be a program director,” Kinard said of Hughes. “I think he took that seriously and took that to heart and he said, ‘Well, let me help you be prepared for that when the time might come.’ It just so happened that it came less than a year later.”

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Pete Thamel Was ESPN’s College Football Missing Link

His no-frills approach is refreshing in a time when many “insiders” view being as famous as the athletes they cover as a quasi-goal for their futures.

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For a network often accused of “running” college football, it always seemed odd to me that ESPN never had that true news-breaking reporter it had for other sports. That is, until it hired Pete Thamel in January of this year.

ESPN poured resources into “insiders” like Adam Schefter, Adrian Wojnarowski, and Jeff Passan while it poured rights fees into the SEC, Big 12, Pac-12, ACC, and the College Football Playoff, but from the outside, it looked as if the network just wasn’t interested in having that same type of reporting for college football, which is truly puzzling.

When the entire postseason of the country’s arguably second favorite sport is centered around what is best for your television channel, you would think supplementing it with high level, national reporting would be a priority.

Maybe the right deals never came to fruition or maybe the value just wasn’t seen by the network until Thamel became available, but his contributions to ESPN’s college football coverage have been immeasurable.

In a day and age where reporters break news on Twitter and get around to eventually writing a story for their outlet’s website, Thamel flexed his reporting chops in a major way on Sunday. While the rest of the college football world was still pondering whether Ohio State should consider firing Ryan Day, Thamel dropped a bomb on the sport’s landscape by revealing Wisconsin had hired Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell to run their program. His initial tweet was accompanied by a link to ESPN’s website with further details about the move.

Pete Thamel was so convinced he was the first and potentially only person working on that ever-changing breaking news story, that he took the time to write the story, submit it through ESPN’s editorial staff, and then release the news before anyone else. In 2022, that’s the equivalent of mailing his story from side of the country to the other in order to break news. And yet, he was so far ahead of the game that he was able to take his time, gather his facts, and report an accurate, succinct story that would be of value to him and his network. What a novel concept.

One of Thamel’s best qualities as an “insider” is he — thus far — hasn’t been plagued by questions that have been a factor in the perception like his ESPN counterparts. Schefter, Wojnarowski, and Passan have each faced their own incidents during their time as the lead reporters for ESPN but Thamel, in my opinion, is unlikely to be pulled into those scenarios. It seems clear Thamel doesn’t release things for the benefit of anyone other than himself and the outlet he works for.

He doesn’t seem to be swayed by agents, athletic directors, coaches, boosters, or anyone else with skin in the game. His no-frills approach is refreshing in a time when many “insiders” view being as famous as the athletes they cover as a quasi-goal for their futures.

Last week, College GameDay host Rece Davis noted on the show’s podcast that Thamel brought “something to GameDay that GameDay’s desperately needed for years”, and he’s right. Not only did ESPN need a news breaker for it’s digital outlets, but it needed that presence on its pregame show.

And when you think about it, nearly ever other pregame show has that role filled. Schefter and Chris Mortensen hold that role for ESPN’s NFL coverage, FOX Sports has Jay Glazer in its NFL pregame show and Bruce Feldman for Big Noon Kickoff. It’s just an area ESPN lacked.

But they made a fantastic hire by bringing Thamel aboard, and his reporting will serve the worldwide leader well over the course of the following weeks as the college coaching carousel heats up.

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Barrett Media Writers

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