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Under The Radar – May 1, 2017

Jason Barrett

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Although the cuts at ESPN dominated the sports media coverage last week, there were a few other stories that took place too which received less attention. A reminder, you can pass along news, tips, press releases and promotional items via email at JBarrett@hvy.tcp.mybluehost.me. Now on to this week’s developments.

ESPN Syracuse host Brent Axe conducted an excellent interview with former ESPN executive John Wildhack who now serves as Syracuse’s Athletic Director. Wildhack, who was part of the inner circle that made key business decisions on retaining the network’s play by play deals with the NFL, NBA and MLB, explained why those deals made sense, and addressed some of the differences between opinion and journalism and why FOX Sports 1 isn’t on the same level with the worldwide leader in sports. To hear the conversation, click here. The ESPN discussion occurs thirteen minutes into the interview.

Speaking of ESPN cuts, after being fed the grim news last week that his run with the network had come to an end, longtime NFL reporter Ed Werder is jumping right back into action. Werder has teamed with former ESPN Dallas radio host Matt Mosley to create The Doomsday Podcast. An episode is expected to launch on Monday with Werder addressing his departure from the company. To hear it click here.

A tip of the cap to Arizona Sports 98.7FM who received positive praise from their local audience for their NFL Draft coverage. The radio station featured afternoon hosts Dave Burns and John Gambadoro, morning man and former NFL player Ron Wolfley, and longtime ESPN College Football analyst Mark May who was recently part of the network’s cuts. Not only did Gambadoro break the news of who the Cardinals were selecting, but the blend of all four men on the broadcast resulted in numerous social media responses from listeners adding that they were enjoying the draft with the volume down so that they could enjoy hearing what the group were providing on the radio station.

WFAN is celebrating 30 years of sports broadcasting excellence. As part of it, the radio station has created a web page which features classic audio moments throughout the years, and poll questions built around memorable teams and athletes from the past three decades. The Fan has also announced a special 30-year Anniversary Show will take place on June 22nd live from Grand Central Station in New York City. One former personality who has confirmed he’ll appear at the event is WABC midday host, and former WFAN host Sid Rosenberg. For more information on The Fan’s anniversary click here.

Former Cleveland Browns GM Phil Savage, who was also part of ESPN’s cuts last week, yet remains involved hosting shows for SiriusXM NFL Radio and serving as Alabama football’s color analyst, has published a new book “4th and Goal Every Day.” Savage is making media appearances in support of the new book. To reach him click here.

92.9 The Game in Atlanta and evening host Mark Zinno have ended their relationship. No word yet on who will take over evenings for The Game, Zinno meanwhile is looking for his next opportunity. The talented host can be reached by email by clicking here.

Moving north to the nation’s capital, 106.7 The Fan will hold its 4th annual Fan Fest event this Saturday at the Nova Field House. The event is free to the public and runs from noon to 3pm ET. Included in the day’s festivities are a Nationals youth baseball clinic, PGA Golf instruction, and autograph sessions with current and former Redskins players Josh Norman, Doug Williams, and Mark Rypien. The Fan’s on-air personalities will also be present. For more information click here.

Rogers Media has acquired Adult Standards CSIL 650 AM from the Newfoundland Capital Corporation. As part of the purchase, Rogers is expected to flip the radio station’s format to sports sometime this fall. Rogers landed the radio rights to the Vancouver Canucks this past March.

Congratulations is in order for Julie DiCaro of 670 The Score and ESPN Radio‘s Sarah Spain. The two Chicago based sports personalities earned a Peabody award in the public service category for their video which shined the light on harassment of women in sports. To see the video click here.

In addition to contributing to 106.7 The Fan on a part time basis, former ESPN 980 host Nick Ashooh has been hired by CSN Mid Atlantic to provide digital content to its platforms.

Staying in the digital space, some unfortunate news to share out of New York City. Jake Brown who had spent the past 3 years working for CBS Radio as its Digital Content Manager was laid off last week due to budget cuts. Brown’s show will continue on CBS’ Play.it but he’s looking for his next opportunity. To reach him by email click here.

Shifting gears to sports agency news. ICM Partners have signed ESPN host Jonathan Coachman and NFL Network host Erin Coscarelli. Coachman will be represented by Ted Chervin, Heather Karpas, Matt Sorger and Mark Zimmerman. Coscarelli will have Zimmerman, and Lou Oppenheim, Courtny Catzel, Will Horowitz, Justin Ianda, and Tyler Kroos handling her affairs.

The MLB Network added former Indians, Phillies and White Sox slugger Jim Thome as an analyst last week. Thome will contribute on a part-time basis. He also serves as a special assistant to White Sox GM Rick Hahn.

Stephen Cohen is leaving the Seattle Seahawks beat to focus on general news reporting at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Michael-Shawn Dugar will take over for Cohen.

After nine years at The Big Lead, Tyler Duffy has announced he’s leaving the website. Duffy recently served as the site’s Senior Writer.

Brian Dunshee has announced that he’s joining SB Nation’s On The Banks where he’ll contribute to the site’s coverage of Rutgers football.

Congratulations goes out to Kyle Crooks who was added as a new play by play broadcaster at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Sports Radio News

Barstool’s Big Cat Recalls Awkward Moment of Aaron Rodgers Interview

“If there’s one thing I know how to do well, it’s to reroute a conversation when a guest is like, ‘Oooh, I don’t like you guys.'”

Jordan Bondurant

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Big Cat, Aaron Rodgers

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers recently appeared on the Barstool Sports podcast, Pardon My Take, and the interview seemed to go well.

Podcast co-host, Dan “Big Cat” Katz, who is a die-hard Bears fan and well-documented Aaron Rodgers hater, relished in the fact that Rodgers agreed to take trash talk from him.

But there was one moment where things almost derailed.

Big Cat, in his weekly appearance on ESPN Chicago with Tom Waddle and Marc “Silvy” Silverman, talked about asking Rodgers how many grandmothers he had killed (A reference to Rodgers not being vaccinated against COVID-19 and his beliefs on vaccine mandates).

“That was a good lesson that PFT and I sometimes have to learn,” Big Cat said, before saying he saved the interview by finding a way out of the subject. “If there’s one thing I know how to do well, it’s to reroute a conversation when a guest is like, ‘Oooh, I don’t like you guys.'”

Katz said it was a moment where they had to pause and understand what they were actually asking and insinuating with Rodgers.

“That was one of those ones we really don’t live in the real world, so when we go out into the real world and we say something that we’ve been joking about within the confines of our studio on ears that haven’t heard those jokes before, it’s kind of like, ‘Wait what did you guys just say? Are you really joking about grandmothers that died from COVID?'” he said. “And then when you get it repeated back to you, you’re kind of like, ‘Oh, yeah that is kind of messed up. Right, good point.”

Katz mentioned Rodgers went with the whole bit for the interview the entire time. So while there was a brief second where things could’ve gone south, everyone just let it go.

“Score one for Aaron, but he was smiling,” Big Cat said. “It was all in good fun.”

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Fescoe in the Morning: ESPN Has a History of Ignoring Non-Partner Leagues

“They are risking being ignored by ESPN now,” replied Klingler.

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Fescoe in the Morning

ESPN is out of the running for the Big Ten football and basketball media rights. Those will be awarded to a combination of other networks and likely a streaming service. ESPN appears to be focusing on NCAA Championships next.

Josh Klingler, co-host of Fescoe in the Morning on 610 Sports Radio in Kansas City, took time on their show on Tuesday to break down what that might mean for the Big Ten in terms of coverage.

“You’re (Big Ten) going to network television, which is better; more eyeballs and what have you,” noted Klingler. “But also, let’s not forget ESPN has a history of ignoring you when you’re not on their air. That’s the risk they are going to run.”

Klingler would add, “They are going to take the money. They are going to get network viewers, which is good. I guess the highlight and the hype and all those things that we are accustomed to doing that ESPN provides. We’ve already seen they ignore you if you’re not on their network.”

Bob Fescoe chimed in a reminder about another prominent league that chose not to partner with ESPN.

“Ask the National Hockey League what happened when they took the money from NBC and ran,” said Fescoe.

“They are risking being ignored by ESPN now,” replied Klingler.

“Right, but I think they are willing to do that for a billion dollars per year,” Fescoe responded.

Fescoe then said that the Big Ten might make up for the perceived shortcomings of not being on ESPN by being on network television.

“If you’re going to be on network TV in all three windows, Josh, quite honestly all your marquee games are going to be free,” said Fescoe.

“That’s exposure,” said Klingler.

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Sports Radio News

NESN’s Dave O’Brien Says National Networks “Blew It” By Not Hiring Dennis Eckersley

“I don’t know how they blew it as badly as they did but Dennis Eckersley should have been a national icon… they made a mistake on that. I hope somebody regrets it.”

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Dennis Eckersley

On Monday, Dennis Eckersley decided to make it known that this season would be his last with NESN in the booth. He mentioned that after 50 years in baseball, it was time to go be with the grandchildren in San Diego.

His broadcast partner for a lot of those years in the NESN booth was Dave O’Brien. On the latest Sports Media Mayhem podcast, O’Brien joined show host Alex Reimer to talk about the retirement of Eckersley. Reimer pointed out that it took awhile before Eckersley became the main color analyst for the team. O’Brien remembered the time well.

“When he started, he was pre- and post- and he did that most of his career at NESN,” said O’Brien. “It was really, only the last six or seven years that he really started to get on as a game analyst.”

O’Brien was named the lead play-by-play announcer for NESN’s Red Sox coverage in 2016 which is about the same time Eckersley slid into the role of game analyst. In the time since, O’Brien has seen the work of Eckersley up close and is floored that he was working for a regional sports network and not somewhere more nationally prominent.

“I think the national people totally blew it on Dennis Eckersley,” blurted O’Brien. “And that includes Turner. They had an opportunity, I can say that because a lot of those people there now didn’t make the decision. He should have been the lead analyst doing national games. He should have been on ESPN on Sunday Night Baseball or FOX. I don’t know how they blew it as badly as they did but Dennis Eckersley should have been a national icon… they made a mistake on that. I hope somebody regrets it.”

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