There was a time when if you asked college football fans who the ideal replacement for Lee Corso would be when the time came for the coach to step down from ESPN’s College GameDay, you would almost uniformly hear Les Miles name. He came off as a delightful weirdo with a championship résumé while at LSU. Plus, he gave funny, folksy quotes during press conferences. It seemed like he would be a natural fit on television when he was done coaching.
Now though? Not so much.
After being fired by LSU during the 2016 season, he auditioned for an analyst role at FOX. Miles told a church group that he didn’t want to follow directions and have to fit into anyone’s idea of what he needed to be on TV. There are plenty of us that remember the few games he did broadcast on FOX and the truth is that Miles was AWFUL! The fun loving weirdo we all knew had turned into just a dry bore that had no opinion about anything.
That fact is on the back burner though. The real reason Miles isn’t going to be on top of anyone’s list of potential future broadcast stars is because of what we now know he was doing during his time in Baton Rouge. The school’s athletic director suggested Miles be fired with cause in 2013 after multiple female students accused the then-coach of sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact.
Those accusations and the news that Miles had paid some of these women settlements coming to light have lead to his firing as the head coach at the University of Kansas and the firing of Kansas AD Jeff Long.
I don’t know that I believe Miles, if he were remotely good as a broadcaster, would never get a job in the media because of these allegations. Don’t get me wrong. That should be the reason enough for every network to take a hard pass, but when it comes to TV and radio, history shows us that just about everyone’s toxicity has a timeline.
Just look at FOX’s Major League Baseball coverage. Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz both used steroids during their careers. I am told that is a major sin in the baseball world (Although, let’s be fair. There is nothing boring about a sport full of genetically modified monsters hitting balls 700 feet). Yet they are both staples of the network’s postseason.
In 2015 the network hired Pete Rose to be part of its baseball crew as well. Betting on baseball is a sin that got Rose banned from the sport for life and left him ineligible for Hall of Fame induction. All that was forgiven though when FOX wanted to make a splash hire. FOX did eventually decide that Rose was too toxic but it took allegations of sex with underage women to get to that point.
Urban Meyer, literally a year removed from resigning in some disgrace as Ohio State’s head coach, landed on the set of FOX’s Big Noon Kickoff. Meyer is undeniably an elite football mind. When FOX hired him though, he was fresh off a scandal stemming from how he behaved and reacted when the wife of his wide receivers coach had reached out for help as she was repeatedly a victim of domestic violence.
Meyer may have had to exit his job in Columbus, but he had TV to bail him out and give him a place to showcase his knowledge of the game. Look how that worked out. He landed an NFL job with the first pick in the draft and a chance to select a once-in-a-lifetime QB.
It’s not just FOX. ESPN hired Ray Lewis, Michael Irvin, Ryan Leaf, Curt Schilling, and others that came with red flags, or to use an NFL Draft term – “character concerns.” At one point they were toxic, so ESPN waited. Once it was decided that enough time had passed and enough people had lost interest in their respective pasts, the World Wide Leader put them on TV.
I want to be perfectly clear. No one should hire Les Miles again. What he did is the definition of toxicity, and he admits that it all happened. He is a liability for any school, network, or other institution that hires him.
My point is simply without those truly awful showings on FOX in the 2017 season, I am not sure there is reason to believe that the guy is completely untouchable in the television world. If you can turn a profit, someone will hire you.
For God’s sake, look at Mike Tyson. This is a guy that went from scariest human being on the planet to convicted rapist, to laughing stock, to America’s sweetheart! Again, he denies none of the accusations against him, and yet we found a place for him in the entertainment world.
Why? Because he knows how to perform and he knows how to get people to pay attention. It may not be fair, but it is reality.
Les Miles won’t have a lot of options for employment going forward. But what about the next coach to admit to doing what he did? What if that guy is great on camera? What if an unapologetic racist has enough name recognition and knows how to own a room?
For all of the bemoaning of cancel culture you hear in the media, the media may be the ultimate argument for there being no such thing. Our business has proven over and over again that it will overlook a lot for a ratings point.
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.