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How Pursuing a Passion Fueled Mike Florio’s Media Rise

Brian Noe

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There are people in sports media that reach a certain level of success and simply mail it in. Mike Florio is not one of them. He’s a true grinder that has remained hungry to work in spite of achieving noticeable success in print, radio, and TV. With an extensive law background, Mike is a bright guy that knows the meaning of the word complacency but rages against the concept.

Jason Witten announced his retirement from the NFL last Thursday. Some of his words stood out. “Other players might have been more talented, but I can assure you, no one was going to outwork me. Whenever young kids come up to me and ask me how do you grow up and play for the Dallas Cowboys, have that type of career, my answer is always the same, ‘The secret is in the dirt.’ I learned early on in my life through many challenges that I could change my circumstances with hard work, but I would have to be willing to go out and earn it. I yearned for the daily grind, and I couldn’t get enough of it.”

I don’t know if Witten read a few posts on Pro Football Talk from Florio before giving that speech, but a lot of those same qualities can be found in Mike. Good luck outworking that guy. He has changed his circumstances through hard work and also yearns for the daily grind. “The moment you let yourself get complacent is the moment that it all turns around.” That quote is actually from Mike below, not Witten.

Mike’s journey throughout the world of sports media is an interesting one. There are epic stories about how he became a fill-in host for the Dan Patrick Show and his introduction to the radio hard out. In between a few laughs, you will get a sense that the key to Mike’s success is the time that he devotes to his craft. Like Witten said, “The secret is in the dirt.” A keyboard and microphone aren’t literally “the dirt,” but the idea of being committed to hard work still figuratively applies. Mike. 5’7. 167. Ding.

Brian Noe: Do you have an offseason personally?

Mike Florio: Not really. I’m on the same schedule that the NFL is on. Things slow down from the middle of June until the end of July when training camps open, but there is still always something happening. I get a little bit more free time because we take time off the radio and the TV show, but I still work on the website everyday. It really isn’t all that hard to open a computer and type. If we have a family vacation I’ll take it with me and I’ll work. If I’m just hanging out here I’ll make sure that I work during that time that we’re off on radio and TV.

It does slow down after the draft. The workload begins to diminish some, but by the middle of June it’s the lowest point. Even then I keep putting news out there for people to read or they’re going to go somewhere else. You can’t shut it down or you’ll lose your audience. We keep it going, but it’s coming — middle of June, end of July, that’s a nice four-to-six-week period where it’s not the usual grind. Then the grind starts at the end of July and it ends the following draft.

Noe: Do you have any funny stories from when news has broken during a vacation and you had to work on a story?

Mike: No, because it’s rare that there’s anything huge that comes out when we’ve been out somewhere. I can remember being on a family vacation back when they didn’t sign draft picks until not long before the start of camp and having to step out from family dinners and stuff. The one thing this year when Josh McDaniels pulled the plug on going to the Colts, I had just gotten back from the Super Bowl and I was out to dinner with a bunch of family members. I had to get up and run out the door and drive home to work on that. Usually I can deal with whatever I’m dealing with without having to just flat-out vanish and disappear.

Noe: What is your busiest time of year?

Mike: Free agency is the busiest time because it has that build-up a couple of days in advance. Then once it starts who knows what’s going to happen or who’s going where? It’s more of a concentrated off-we-go kind of a thing for free agency. The draft is more sustained and never quite as hectic as it is on the first day of free agency. That’s typically our busiest day, our highest traffic day, and then the draft would be a close second. Obviously during the season there are different times where things get hectic, but during the offseason — free agency is number one and the draft is number two.

Noe: With the interest for the draft being so high, how noticeable is the drop-off once it’s over? 

Mike: After the draft people are still reacting to what happened. They want to get everyone’s perspective. They are curious about what’s said by coaches and general managers. If anything the traffic gradually levels off during the period of time after the draft. I mean our traffic has still been pretty good since the draft but around Memorial Day weekend I’ll notice it start to dip. Then it gets into June and starts to recover in July.

Unless something crazy happens — probably the biggest offseason story was that Aaron Hernandez case. It’s now five years ago. That happened in late June. That drove everything through the roof for a couple of weeks because no one saw that story coming. I just happened to be home and not away at the time. I remember that one vividly. Without something crazy like that it’s a gradual, slow decline that then bottoms out around the 4th of July and starts to pick up not long after that.

Noe: How did you get involved in this business, working in print, radio, and TV?

Mike: The internet is the great equalizer where you can be anywhere in the world and have a voice. I was attracted to that immediately because I live in West Virginia and it gave me an avenue to have a platform and to be able to say things that people would be interested in. I first tripped over a website that was called NFLtalk.com in April of 2000. Back in those days I very rarely left the stuff that became available to you when you pop in the old AOL DVD or CD, whatever it was. They had content and I remember reading Sporting News content on there.

I found NFLtalk.com in a USA Today article and I started going there on a regular basis. One thing led to another. They were looking for writers and I thought, “Well, this would be kind of fun.” I threw something together and they hired me. Of course by hired, it means I did a bunch of work and didn’t get paid, but I didn’t care because it was a hobby. It was fun. I just always had this vague sense that if I do this, and I keep doing it, and work at it, maybe it’ll lead somewhere. Who knows where it’s going to lead, but either way it’s just kind of fun.

I remember having that conversation with my wife because I’d write two, three things a week. Then they’d have me do a little bit more and never paid me. I didn’t care. I was just like this is fun. I enjoy it and she says wait a minute. Why? I’d say I could go golf and I’d spend 50 bucks and be gone for four hours and be pissed off when I get home. So I just view it as a hobby. I’m here at the house and yeah we’re not making any money off of it, but I just have this weird feeling if I keep doing it, it leads somewhere good. That’s how I got into it.

Radio opportunities came from there because people we’re looking for NFLtalk.com writers to come on different shows. The first show I ever did was WGR 550 in Buffalo. I realized how potent sports talk radio was just from the standpoint of getting reps, getting better at it, understanding the medium, understanding how to make your point quickly, which I’m not doing today. One thing led to another and here we are 18 years later.

Noe: When you initially broke into radio, how long were you doing hits and sporadic shows before you got a full-time opportunity?

Mike: What happened was I was doing 10-to-15 minutes spots all over the country. I got to a point around 2006, 2007 where I started trying to get paid for them. I understood at one level it was valuable marketing for the website because people didn’t realize it was even an ad. It’s part of the regular content. They’re hearing the name of the website and hopefully they’re coming to it. I thought that part of it was great but I was doing so many. I thought I was decent at it and hoped that maybe I could start getting paid to do it.

I started by encouraging some of the different stations, “Look find a sponsor for the segment and basically let’s split the money.” I t was becoming a little bit of a profit center. It wasn’t until July of 2010, I used to do spots at Dan Patrick and I still do whenever he calls me, but I was doing them after he left ESPN and started his own show in 2007, 2008 time frame whenever that was.

I remember one time as his show started to take off on its own — they had the TV simulcast, 200+ stations and it’s doing very well — somebody called me middle of July in 2010 and said, “Hey, Dan’s out next week and they want to know if you can do the show.” I was like, “Yeah, have the fill-in host call me and just let me know what time, 9 to 12, whenever just let me know and we’ll work it out.” They were like, “No, no, no you’re the fill-in host.” I was like, “Yeah, that’s funny. That’s a good one, but just have the actual host call me.” They’re like, “No, Dan thinks you speak in sound bites and you understand how it works and he wants you to be the guest host.”

I’m like wait a minute. I don’t know how to do this. I have no training in this. All I do is answer questions when people call me up from the radio shows. I have no clue what to do. I remember being so stressed out about it. I remember having a full binder full of notes. I had every segment of a 12 segment, three-hour show planned out like there was no extemporaneous thought. It was all, “I’ll say this, this, this, and this in the first segment, and the second segment I’ll say this, this, and this.” It’s stupid but I didn’t know what to do.

After doing it one time — and it went fairly well — they called me the next time he was going to be off. They had me go to the studio in Milford, Connecticut with his guys. I remember being a nervous wreck about that. I remember having a stack of notes for that. It was idiotic but I didn’t know what else to do because I wasn’t thinking of it as this medium where you have an idea of what you’re going to say, but it’s very freeform and flowing and you just go.

After doing it enough times it just gets to the point where I told my wife the other day, you could just give me a microphone right now and say, “Oh, we’re doing a three-hour radio show, start right now,” because I understand how it works. Any given moment you start talking about whatever the top story is and then you go for seven or eight minutes and you have five or six minutes to regroup and figure out what you’re going to say next.

That’s where it started. I sat in for Dan somewhere between 30 and 40 times, maybe more than that I lost track. When an opportunity came up to have a show on NBC Sports Radio, by that point it was natural. It was obvious and I was ready to do it. It wasn’t a question of can I do it. It’s like well this is just the next logical progression.

Noe: What do you remember most about those first couple of shows when you were so nervous? 

Mike: It’s like anything else, the more you do it the easier it gets. I remember the first time I did it, we had a hard break and I had no idea what a hard break was. I had no idea that not only was it mandatory you be done by then, you had to take it all the way to then. I thought you could just stop whenever. Well, if you stop a minute before a hard break, there’s going to be a minute of dead air before the news update takes over.

So I’m getting ready to throw it to break a minute before the hard break thing and hey, I saved some time. Good for me. Look I didn’t take the full time. I heard the engineer say, “Ahh, you have to keep going.” So I just completely froze. I was like, “Ahhhh, ooooo-kaaaay?” I got through it, but that was the most important aspect of on-the-job training. I had no idea that the hard break meant you talk up until the moment where the music stops and they go to the news update or whatever comes after the hard break. So, hard break 101 — don’t just stop talking when you feel like stopping.

Noe: (laughs) Yeah, that’s important. What did you learn either on your own or from someone else that you find the most valuable?

Mike: Well, nobody really taught me anything. It’s all self-taught because you watch and you listen and you learn. That’s how I became a decent writer — by reading and understanding how people communicate effectively in the written word. Picking up just the way of saying things. How to phrase a word in the active voice versus the passive voice. How to be concise and when not to be concise.

The same thing with radio, it’s just listening. I think I learned a lot from listening to Dan Patrick on how to aspire to be a good interviewer and how to try to have that conversational tone and get to a point where it just feels like two people shootin’ the breeze, not an interview per se. It’s just reps and reps and reps. The more you do it, the easier it gets. That’s always the key.

After so many shows, after so many interviews, and after so many times doing it, you feel like you get to a point where you understand it pretty well. Even after that I think you always strive to find ways to improve and ways to get better and not get complacent. I think the moment you let yourself get complacent is the moment that it all turns around.

Noe: What’s the most enjoyable part about all of the jobs that you have?

Mike: I think the most enjoyable part of it is, none of it’s really work. Right? I’m getting paid to do stuff that I would do for free. I always add the caveat don’t tell anybody I said that cuz they’ll try to stop paying me. I like that what I do now has very little stress. There are moments of stress when you’re on TV on Football Night in America, but it’s nothing compared to practicing law, which I did for 18 years before I got out of it for good in July of 2009, really into early 2010. I kept a couple of cases once we joined NBC just a wrap them all up properly.

When you’re handling someone else’s interests and they have one chance at justice and you’re the one who’s trying to get it for them, and if you make a tactical error or say the wrong thing at the wrong time or whatever the case may be, there are consequences for them. Consequences for you too, you look like an idiot, but beyond that there are consequences for them. That’s so different than this. If I screw up something now, I’m the only one who looks like an idiot. I’m not making anyone else look bad.

It’s just a much more enjoyable way to exist because there’s so much less stress in what I do. Even the worst day. Even the day that feels like the biggest grind is still so much better than so many of the “normal days” I used to have when I was running around trying to handle 25, 30, 40, 50 cases at once and try to juggle everything and not screw everything up for anyone and everyone I represented.

Noe: Is there anything from your law background that you bring into print, radio, or TV in terms of the way you think or present things?

Mike: Yeah, I remember feeling horribly inadequate when I first started in the website business because you’re trying to be a “journalist” with absolutely no training or experience. A lot of it I picked up on the fly. I realized based upon all of the various legal issues that have come up in professional football — whether it’s players in trouble, whether it’s labor issues, whether it’s employee rights as they develop in this anthem controversy — I would feel ridiculously inadequate trying to do the job if I didn’t have a legal background.

Again plenty of journalists are doing the job without a legal background, but I assume that a lot of them have lawyers they talk to all the time in order to understand what this all means. A lot of the things that happen, I know right away what it means. I can explain here’s what it means and here’s where it goes from here. I can’t imagine being efficient if I had to contact somebody every time that there was a different case, a proceeding, whatever and trying to find out exactly what it all means.

Noe: Do you see that with the media? If you hear a sports talk host or you read something online — with the legal background you have, are there common mistakes made by other media members?

Mike: Yeah, it’s obvious when the person has absolutely no idea how it works. I think most of them just stay away from it. What’s the old adage, it’s better to remain quiet and be perceived a fool than open your mouth and confirm it. Where there are gaps — the person who’s writing it, the person who’s talking about it just doesn’t understand how it all works and what’s next. How do you expect them to if they haven’t lived that life, if they haven’t done it, if they haven’t handled cases like that or understand the system enough to say this is what it all means and this is where it goes from here.

It’s not that there are people who have no idea what happens next so they say something that’s wrong. It’s just you get to a point where there’s a gap and you feel like I need to know more here. I feel like I’m in a position where, especially in those situations, I can add more about where it goes next.

That’s what we try to do when we aggregate. We try to take what someone else has reported and analyze it and say here’s where it goes next. There are so many of those opportunities to apply that, here’s what it means in the NFL from a legal perspective whether it’s a legal proceeding, whether it’s a labor issue, whether it’s analyzing a contract. Again I don’t know how I would have done this job and I don’t know how people do the job without having the ability to take that stuff and interpret it and analyze it.

Noe: How much of your radio show is tied to the metrics of your website? You’re obviously going to lead with what’s hot, but if there is something that you think is interesting, but you just don’t see the reaction you anticipated online, do you say, “Well I’m not going to talk about it. It’s not hot.”

Mike: I’ve always been guided by what I’m interested in. I think if I’m interested in something then I hope that the audience is going to be interested in it. I don’t know how accurate that is, but it’s worked. I think part of it is, if you care about something and you have genuine interest in it then it spills through into how you handle it — how you write about it, how you talk about it. You talk about something you just don’t give a crap about, I think the audience senses that and they think, “Well if this guy doesn’t give a crap about it why should I?” That’s always been the guiding principle for me.

People talk about clickbait. It’s funny, to me clickbait is when you misrepresent to someone what a story is about so you will bait them to click on to it when they otherwise wouldn’t have. I think that a lot of what we do, we entice people to come read about the things that we have written. It is bait, but it’s real. It’s not phony. It’s not bait and switch. It’s, “Hey, come find out more about this.”

If you do a tease at the end of a segment to carry people over to the next segment and what you talk about isn’t really meshed with the tease, the people have a right to be pissed off. I think the same thing if you have a tweet or a headline. If what’s there doesn’t mesh, then they have the right to say that’s just clickbait.

You want people to keep listening to your show. You want people to read your work. I think the key is, frame it in an interesting way and choose things that are interesting and people remain engaged. That’s what we do. We provide the context and the framework for talking about the things that are interesting when it comes to sports and specifically for me when it comes to football.

Noe: Over the next 10 years, do you still want to keep doing exactly what you’re doing or would you like to move to another realm?

Mike: I don’t know what else is out there. I mean I like doing what I do. Things evolve, opportunities arise. In any field, in any industry, there’s value in promoting your own agenda. Having a list of, “This is what I want to do next, and then I want to do this, and I aspire to this, that, and the other thing.” For me that has never really worked. You aspire to climb a mountain and the next thing you know you’ve climbed a mountain that you didn’t even know was there.

I just do what I do. I’m guided by my sense of what I’m interested in. If opportunities arise as a result of that, then so be it. I don’t have any grand plan other than keep doing the things I like to do, pivot and change as necessary to meet the changing landscape of however it may change, but to keep doing what I do. Keep doing things I’m interested in and hope there are people out there who will be interested in it as well — whatever format it happens to be in — and keep trying to get better at everything that I do and everything else takes care of itself.

There’s a certain point where your track record gets you where you are. That’s the best reason and the best argument for continuing to do that because here I am 18 years later and it’s worked. So the next 10 years, the next 20 years, however many years I’m able to walk upright and think straight and articulate my thoughts, I’ll just keep doing what I do.

I remember one time my wife said, “You ever think about when you’ll retire?” It’s like retire from what? If I have enough money to take care of myself, my kid, and his kids for their entire lives and you just shut it down and do nothing, what would I do? I would do what I’m doing now. So there’s the answer. You just keep doing it and you just see where it all goes.

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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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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