Will Cain is more than a conservative voice for ESPN. While watching Cain on First Take and listening to him weekdays from 3 – 6pm ET on ESPN radio, you’ll quickly learn political ideals do not define Will Cain as a sports personality.
At a time when many media platforms attempt to talk politics hoping to generate a buzz, Cain, a former political analyst, wants to focus on sports and enjoys doing so. Cain is passionate about sports, but more than that, he’s passionate about being inventive, offering opinions, debate, and learning from others.
Cain’s time as a political analyst fueled his desire to find mediums which would allow him to offer honest opinions through debate and helped groom him as an entertaining media personality in any format. After joining ESPN in 2015, his rapid rise at the network now sees him as a regular contributor to First Take, one of ESPN’s most successful television shows, and hosting his own daily national radio show, which launched earlier this year.
Cain’s goal is to make the listener think by engaging in unique, entertaining conversations. I was able to sit down with Will and have an interesting conversation of our own about his growing role at ESPN.
Brandon Contes: The radio show is about 10 months young now, is it going how you would like it to go?
Will Cain: A radio show is a living breathing thing, every day is different and I can’t hope to achieve perfection every time. I have lessons to take home at the end of a three hour show and we’re always thinking of ways to get better, but the core of who we are and what we want to do on this show has largely been established.
First and foremost, I want to talk about sports and we do that every day. We, meaning me and all the guys who work on this show…we love football, basketball, baseball, we love sports and our goal every day is to have conversations that the audience is in on, but in interesting and unique ways.
Second, I do think I have a perspective, maybe a worldview or a way of thinking that’s different than most people in this business, so I hope that I can bring unique angles, frames and thoughts to the radio show. Essentially, our identity has been established, day in and day out we’re true to ourselves, but have we achieved perfection and do I walk home every night saying another one over the fence? No.
BC: You said your plan every day is to talk sports, so did you find that transition difficult at all going from your political background to talking sports…not only from your perspective, but the audience’s perspective from a credibility standpoint?
WC: From my perspective, I didn’t find it difficult at all. I found it refreshing. One of the interesting things that we’ve experienced is a lot of people in sports, and not just in this company, but the sports industry in general…seem to have a desire to talk politics. I came from the other direction, I came with a desire to talk sports.
Maybe I got it out of my system, maybe I know what I signed up for, but I don’t find it difficult at all. I find it fun, exciting and refreshing when I wake up every day to think, why is that quarterback doing awesome and that one over there sucking. I never want to talk about the latest tie-in to the political news cycle that I can find.
Is it difficult for the audience? Maybe on the surface… I don’t know…honestly, I don’t concern myself with other people’s opinions too often. I know that sounds like an easy, popular, cool thing to say, but I certainly can’t go about my days worrying what others might think about me because…I would just be a weather vane.
BC: I’ve asked that question to athletes before, because someone like Jalen Rose, the audience knows him because he played basketball. So if they see him talking football or baseball, a lot of fans look at it and say…what does he know about those sports, he played basketball. It doesn’t necessarily make sense, but he still needs to earn the trust of listeners. Did you ever find yourself trying to come up with a unique angle or hot take…just to prove you’re all-in on sports?
WC: No, I just don’t do things to try and prove it to other people. I don’t.
But, you asked about a unique angle. I certainly want to come every day with that, I don’t believe in hot takes. By the way…will you define hot takes for me? What does that mean?
BC: An opinion you’re not necessarily all-in on yourself, but know it’s going to generate a reaction from the audience.
WC: Okay, I’ve never done that, not one time. Not one time, three hours a day, five days a week, I’ve never done that.
BC: I think you do get it a lot in radio, not you personally, but I think plenty of hosts do it. Probably less often with solo hosts, you’ll hear it more with co-hosts because they feel the need to have a different opinion and argument for the same topic.
WC: I think you’re right by the way, that’s the popular definition of a hot take. It requires you to know someone else’s motivation and intention. When you accuse someone of a hot take, you’re not just saying what I am saying on its face is a hot take, you’re saying that I’m doing it to get attention, that I don’t believe it. I can look you deep in the eye and tell you that I have never once done that on First Take or this radio show…that doesn’t mean I’m not accused of it. I’m accused of it all the time.
I think what a lot of people yell hot take at are opinions that they’ve never even considered. If it’s outside of their traditional line of thought or constricted world view, and I’m talking about the person that’s yelling hot take, if it’s outside of those things, then they think it must come from a bad place of motivation. So I generally hate the term hot take because I think people use it to yell at thoughts that they’ve never even considered.
BC: When you were in the media as a political analyst, did you have a desire to get into sports? Or did you think you would be doing political shows for the rest of your career.
WC: I probably thought I would be doing political shows.
The true line for what I do in the media, and this sounds generic, but I don’t care…I want to have interesting conversations. When I first got into this, I was an entrepreneur and created a television pilot that I thought I’d try to sell to CNN or somewhere. I hadn’t really sent out a resume and tried to get a job in media. The pilot I created had nothing to do with politics, it had to do with ideas. Deeper ideas like what is taxation, or where are we with race in America. Those are interesting conversations for me. Politics became the vehicle for a lot of those conversations.
I cared less about who would win the Nevada senatorial race, I cared more about the ideas that dictated those outcomes. Being naïve drove me to think I could have these honest, deep conversations, but as time went on it became clear there are very few mainstream outlets where that happens. I think it’s happening more now with podcasts and YouTube shows.
When it came to sports, which I was a fan of since I’ve been six years old, it just became the next vehicle for me to have interesting conversations, and ones that I was already having with my friends.
BC: So how did you get from those political shows to ESPN and what led to the quick rise? You got here in 2015 and here you are on First Take, one of the most successful TV shows they have and then you’re hosting a daily three hour radio show.
WC: How did I get here…it’s actually not a very interesting answer because the way I got to ESPN is through relationships, agents and talent evaluators. I don’t mean that’s not cool, but Rob Savinelli is head of the talent department here and saw me on CNN, he saw something in me he thought would translate across different topics, he’s the main reason I’m at ESPN, but agents also played a big role.
A long time ago, I was brought in to shoot a radio pilot with Tony Reali, which now that I think about it, was probably in this studio. That was my first relationship with ESPN.
BC: How long ago?
WC: Maybe 12 or 13 years ago? Then time passed, we both moved on, but in 2014 and 15 the communication started again and still a lot of that is driven by agents and Rob. I met with the president, John Skipper. During that whole time period, I’m proving if I know sports, it’s a pretty mechanical process…
Why the rise? Because I’m really good at what I do…
And earlier you asked about credibility, the most common feedback I get from this radio show, which I love, is ‘I hated you, but now you’re my favorite at ESPN.’ I think that has to do with the credibility question, because they think of me one way…they think of me as political or conservative, argumentative or just the guy on First Take that’s always debating Stephen A.
The audience comes with these ideas, but if they take some time to listen, maybe it’s the unique way I look at sports or the fact that I can laugh at myself. I take what I say seriously, but not myself seriously…whatever it may be, after they spend some time and I become a human being to them, the credibility comes in what I say.
You also mentioned Jalen and talking about football, I understand somebody at first saying…wait he’s a basketball player talking about football…but if you give him a minute and listen to him, you judge him on what is actually coming out of his mouth. I get a lot of people to judge me and if they spend a little time, I’m comfortable with where they come down on my credibility and quality of what I do.
BC: You said you’re really good at what you do…what are your goals going forward? Stephen A. is a superstar on TV and the radio, but he still talks about wanting to move First Take into primetime and possibly trying a late night talk show again, so what would be the next step for you?
WC: First of all, I want to be doing what I’m doing now, I want to have a daily, solo radio show. I want to build an audience that understands who I am and comes here knowing what this is…it’s a place where your thoughts and ideas will be challenged. I think that’s really lacking in society. I think we’re in the process of building walls around our opinions and identities and protecting ourselves from anything that might threaten in anyway. That’s not what this show is, this show is where you come to have everything you are and everything you believe challenged, including me…and I love radio because that’s where you can do that.
But I do want more. I think that place in the media is wide open. I want to create more platforms, I’m not sure what yet, but maybe it’s debate, maybe it’s on TV, but I want to be entrepreneurial in finding ways to have challenging, entertaining, fun, provocative conversations. I know those are a bunch of generic buzzwords, but I can’t emphasize enough that I feel like everything the media has moved toward is just giving people what they already believe.
BC: Does First Take help fill that wide open space in media for debate and honest conversation where the audience is aware of any preconceived views?
WC: First Take is the best debate show in traditional television. It’s honest, it’s real, and it’s competitive. And it’ll make all the usual suspects insane to hear it, but news media would do well to learn from it.
BC: Is First Take a valuable form of promoting your radio show?
WC: First Take is one of the highest rated shows, and importantly, most relevant shows in all of sports. Athletes, owners, other media members and fans all watch First Take. It sets the agenda for much of sports talk. It’s an incredibly valuable promotional vehicle for my show. But I love First Take and did so before I had the radio show. I like the format, the people, and the concept. I love debate.
BC: Did you ever have a radio show before joining ESPN?
WC: I did a Saturday morning radio show co-hosted with S.E. Cupp for about a year.
BC: So still very new to the radio industry?
BC: Being that Max Kellerman and Stephen A. have been so successful in radio and you’re on First Take regularly, do you ever pick their brain about radio?
WC: Max and I are friendly, we enjoy each other’s debate, we haven’t talked a lot about radio. Stephen A. is someone who has been a sounding board for pretty much everything I do, meaning radio, TV, behind the scenes career stuff, I’m not going to pretend he is necessarily my mentor, but if I have on-air things that I am worried about, he would be the first person I will call.
BC: How involved are you in developing topics for the radio show?
WC: I don’t want to say I’m 100% responsible because it’s a team effort, but it’s definitely all driven around my opinion about whatever is going on. The night before, we start emailing each other about stories we want to do or think we’re going to do tomorrow. We have our meeting before the show where we narrow in on the four or five big topics we’re going to do on the show and frame them.
I used to talk to Ryen Russillo about this in terms of radio conversations. You know the difference between a Jackson Pollock painting and wallpaper? A frame…one is put into a frame and called art, the other is put on a wall and called wallpaper. I don’t mean to diminish Jackson Pollock as an artist, but the frame becomes very important.
Think about what your eyes take in on a daily basis vs. a photograph. The difference is the photograph has a frame around it. Every conversation we have has to be put into a frame. You can’t just take a game from the night before and say let’s talk about the game. What frame are you putting it in? That’s how you create conversations on the radio.
BC: How about the First Take topics you contribute to? Being that it’s a debate format, the show needs to offer the audience different opinions. If a topic is presented and everyone agrees with it, does it just get thrown out? Or do you need to take an argumentative stance regardless?
WC: I have a ton of input in developing the topics I contribute to on First Take. I want to say something and be clear about it. A lot of people believe First Take debates are manufactured, fake or we are acting. 100% false…We either have disagreement, or it doesn’t go in the show. Now, sometimes it takes work to find angles of disagreement, while other times it’s obvious and there is very little discussion ahead of time. In those cases, someone will give their opinion and his opposition will just say, “Put it on the board”. As for me, I send in thoughts and takes by email the night before so they can see what I think and where I’ll fit.
BC: Did you have radio hosts that you listened to that you looked up to?
WC: Well obviously Howard Stern is the greatest of all time. I was a massive fan of The Ticket in Dallas when growing up and I still listen to them. The Morning Musers, George Dunham, Craig Miller and Gordon Keith, who I think is a genius at radio. Later in my life, I’ve started to listen to LeBatard and I think he is really good at what he does. I take lessons from him even though we’re not doing the same kind of show.
BC: One of the things Howard Stern does better than anyone else, is making the audience feel like they’re part of the show, like a fraternity…do you feel a connection to your audience 10 months in?
WC: I do, and that’s part of the unfinished process. You asked me where I am 10 months in and what I want going forward…I want to have an audience that knows why they’re coming to where they are and what they’re going to get. First of all, we’re talking about the greatest of all time, and second, we’re talking about a guy who has been doing it for decades, but it’s enviable, that should be all of our goals to create something like that.
The callers that call in to tell me I’m wrong and say ‘I disagree with everything you say, but I love hearing you say it…you make me think’…that’s important. Also Howard’s, and this is harder for me sometimes, but the exposure of his personal life, his vulnerability as a human being. The incorporation of the people around him and their personal dynamics…that’s all important as well.
BC: Is it ever difficult being in Connecticut? You’re near the New York and Boston markets where there are great local stations. The public is talking about Yankees, Red Sox, Jets, Giants, Patriots, but then you’re not on terrestrial radio here, so you might need to be talking about college football.
WC: No, I don’t feel like everyone around here is interested in something that I’m not.
BC: So you’re able to completely separate the community you’re building in radio vs the community you live in.
WC: Yeah, definitely. My personal life and career have been modeled on being in places where I’m different. Texas kid who wanted to go to school in California, small town Texas conservative Christian that moved to the upper west side of New York. You can’t make me be in a more different place and I like that.
BC: Do you have a preference, TV or radio?
WC: I don’t think I should have to choose.
BC: Is one more pressure than the other?
WC: I don’t think so, but I also don’t have my own TV show. First Take is very near and dear to my heart, and I feel a part of that family, but it’s not my own.
BC: But you’re still on it regularly, you have specific segments you need to debate, it’s more scheduled. Whereas radio, certainly still has pressure to be successful, but you have more freedom, more of a creative release.
WC: Yep, and more responsibility. This is my thing. It’s my name on this, I will ultimately be the person responsible for the success or failure of the radio show.
BC: You would not consider your show a conservative sports show, it is just a sports show, right?
WC: Absolutely! (Will said emphatically)
BC: Is it relevant that some refer to you as a conservative host?
WC: Other people think my politics are more important to me than I do. They’re just part of who I am, but they’re below my world view. I do have a world view, so does every radio host and every human being, but my world view isn’t also my political view. If you put a bunch of conservatives in a room together, they’re still going to disagree on things like parenting, cheating and sports.
This idea that conservative is at the top of the definitions of who I am…other people feel that way, I don’t feel that way. Now…is it a slice of the pie for me? Yeah, I’m a traditionalist to some extent, but I’m also a risk taker. I’ve started companies and all of these things go into the opinions I have on whether or not Odell Beckham Jr. is embodying good leadership…not my politics.
BC: If you were the same person, the same show, same opinions, but you were never on CNN or on shows as a political analyst, I don’t think the conservative narrative would be discussed much.
WC: They would start thinking about things like, where are you from, what’s your family like, how did you grow up, what are your values, and those are all big parts of me.
And by the way, I’m not running from this idea that I’m conservative, because I feel like media fails right out of the gates with this. What’s our job? To tell the truth is our number one job and I think 95% of the media stumbles on that by lying to the audience and trying to tell them you don’t have an opinion or bias, that you’re objective in telling it the way it is. BS…you’re not. So I try to be honest, this is who I am and this is what I believe.
I’m not running from the idea that I might have some conservative political beliefs, but I want the audience to know that and then if they disagree with me, they can discount that bias by having the full knowledge that it’s there. I’m not going to stumble out of the gates by lying to them. Here’s who I am, now you can do with it what you want.
BC: Before joining ESPN, could you have envisioned sports and politics getting intertwined as much as it is now?
WC: I certainly didn’t see any of that coming. I didn’t see politics becoming such an important part of every piece of entertainment. Would I have thought in 2015 that my world view might have been unique? Yeah, I might have thought that. And that could contribute to some interesting conversations, specifically in places like First Take that’s centered around debate. Stephen A. and I might see something differently. Not even a big important issue, but little issues – again, is this good leadership by Odell Beckham Jr.. We might see it differently because of our worldviews, but I never thought about that as like… Well, my politics will come in handy here.
BC: How does a sports host balance politics and sports, knowing that you can be at risk for alienating an audience?
WC: What you’re asking is a judgement call and it’s a judgement call made every day on every topic by every host and my judgement is this: am I doing this for me or am I doing it for the audience? Is this a topic of interest to the audience that put ESPN on that day for a reason, or am I doing it because I have some things near and dear to my heart that I need to get off my chest? If I’m doing it for those reasons, then I’m not making the right judgment call. Now if it’s why the audience is here, or maybe even around it in some way, then now we’re talking about something we should entertain.
I think our job is to be able to try and have those conversations in the least partisan way that we can. I don’t want to do any partisan talk. I do want to talk about issues – I will talk about that when they’re connected to sports and I think the audience is interested in it, but stay away from left, right, Republican, Democrat.
BC: That’s not a question just for your show, I think that’s a question for anybody talking sports right now just because it is intertwined, at times, with social issues. That balance of how do you navigate talking about those issues and still making sure that your show is giving the audience what they’re tuning into ESPN for is important.
WC: 100% correct…and I would add one more thing to that. If we do get into areas where we’re talking about those kinds of topics, I think it’s important, and this goes back to the identity of this show, it’s important that it is an open conversation. Here is my point of view – I’ve talked to you about my bias, you’re aware of who I am. I will tell you that I think you’re wrong on this, but I’m not closing you out, I’m not demeaning what you believe. There’s the phone number, here’s the Twitter feed, you can join the conversation and I will entertain the idea that I’m wrong and I will hear your point of view out. So many shows, channels, mediums, close out and dismiss from the conversation, people who disagree with them, or things they didn’t consider. That’s not what this show is.
BC: I think that’s the beauty of radio. Even if one listener with a different opinion doesn’t call, someone else will call or you’ll have a guest on that has a different idea, so multiple viewpoints are always represented.
WC: We go out of our way to find people who disagree with us, especially on these kinds of topics.
BC: Which brings it back to being entertaining and prevents a show from alienating an audience – If the opposing point is represented, they’re not going to change the channel, even if it’s not the host’s point.
WC: I think that’s one of the reasons…and maybe this takes us full circle, why I will hear that biggest compliment, ‘I disagree with so much what you say, I used to hate you, but now you’re my favorite.’
Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.
Brandon Contes is a former reporter for BSM, now working for Awful Announcing. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonContes or reach him by email at Brandon.Contes@gmail.com.
Colorado Hiring Deion Sanders Will Be Constant Gift for College Football Media
“If Coach Prime achieves the same sort of success that he did with the Tigers, he will be far more than a curiosity. Sanders will be a disruptor.”
Deion Sanders quickly made it clear why the University of Colorado chose him to be its next head football coach.
Coming off a weekend in which the four College Football Playoff teams were announced and all of the other bowl-eligible teams accepted their invitations, Colorado — which went 1-11 this past season — made news for hiring Sanders, the former NFL star who was phenomenally successful at Jackson State.
The media that covers college football and sports as a whole should be thrilled that the Buffaloes program decided to take a big leap for attention and notoriety. Sanders is a bold, risky hire. But he’s also been successful in virtually every venture he’s taken. “Primetime” had a Hall of Fame NFL career and also played Major League Baseball. And he’s a master at drawing attention to himself.
During his first meeting with his new team, Sanders made sure to mention that he has Louis Vuitton luggage to make the point that some of his Jackson State players are coming with him to Boulder — including his son, quarterback Shadeur Sanders. Nick Saban and Kirby Smart probably don’t cite luxury fashion when explaining to their players that they’ll have to compete for starting positions.
Coach Prime will not be boring to cover. (That self-appointed “Coach Prime” title, which was on his name plate at his introductory press conference, is a big clue there.) He never has been. This is a man who said during the 1989 NFL Draft, after being selected No. 5 overall by the Atlanta Falcons, that if the Detroit Lions had selected him at No. 3, he “would’ve asked for so much money, they’d have had to put me on layaway.”
Even if he doesn’t win as much as Colorado hopes, Sanders will pursue top talent — players who want to perform on a larger stage than the FCS-level Jackson State allows — and impact athletes will be attracted to him. He got the No. 1 recruit in the nation, cornerback and wide receiver Travis Hunter, to play for him. (Hunter is following his coach to Boulder.) Now that Sanders is at an FBS school in a Power 5 conference, more stars will surely come.
But if Coach Prime achieves the same sort of success that he did with the Tigers — going 27-5 in three seasons, including a 12-0 campaign in 2022 — he will be far more than a curiosity. Sanders will be a disruptor. And he’ll get the attention that such figures typically draw from media and fans. According to the Denver Post‘s Sean Keeler, at least 400 people attended what felt more like a celebration than a press conference.
Coach Prime wasn’t going to just win the press conference, which is what any school and fanbase want when a new coach is introduced.
If Colorado wanted someone to sit at a podium, and give platitudes like “We want to win the Pac-12 and get to the College Football Playoff,” “We’re going to build a program with young men you’ll be proud of,” or “It’s time to restore Colorado to the football glory we remember,” Sanders isn’t the guy for that.
“Do I look like a man that worries about anything? Did you see the way I walked in here? Did you see the swagger that was with me?” Sanders said during his introductory presser. “Worry? Baby, I am too blessed to be stressed. I have never been one for peer pressure. I put pressure on peers. I never wanted to worry, I make people worry. I don’t get down like that. I am too darn confident. That is my natural odor.”
To no surprise, Sanders announced his presence in Boulder with authority. He had cameras following him as he met with Colorado players for the first time. How many other coaches would have recorded what many would see as a private moment for posterity and post it online?
Sanders caused a stir by putting his players on notice. He warned them he was coming, telling them they’ll be pushed so hard they might quit. He told them to enter the transfer portal and go someplace else if they don’t like what he and his staff are going to do.
That candor, that brutal honesty surprised many fans and media when they saw it Monday morning. For some, that message might have felt too familiar. How many in media — or many other industries — have worried about their job status when a new boss takes over? What may have seemed secure days earlier is now uncertain.
But how do we know other coaches haven’t said something similar when taking over at a new job and addressing their team? We just hadn’t seen it before. But Sanders has been in the media. He knows social media. He understands controlling his own message and telling his story.
Sanders also knows what kind of value he brings to any venture he takes on. How many people would have left an NFL Network gig for Barstool Sports? But Sanders went to where his star would shine, where he was the main show, where he could be Deion Sanders. Maybe he’ll have to turn that down just a bit at Colorado. But athletic director Rick George knows who he hired.
Colorado could have made a safer choice, including previous head coaches Tom Herman, Bronco Mendenhall, or Gary Patterson. A top assistant from one of this year’s Playoff contenders — such as Georgia’s Todd Monken, USC’s Alex Grinch, Alabama’s Bill O’Brien, or Michigan’s Sherrone Moore — could also have been an option.
But what fun would that have been? What kind of tremor would Colorado have created in the college football news cycle? How much attention would a more conventional hire have received? Yes, Sanders has to recruit and win. However, if the objective was to make Colorado football a talking point again, that’s been accomplished.
There could be some friction too. Sanders has already been criticized for being a champion of HBCUs, only to bolt for a mainstream Power 5 program when the opportunity opened. (To be fair, other columnists have defended the move.)
At Jackson State, Sanders tried to control local media when he didn’t like how reporters were addressing him or covering a story. Last year during Southwestern Athletic Conference Media Day, he balked at a Clarion-Ledger reporter addressing him as “Deion,” not “Coach,” insisting that Nick Saban would’ve been shown that respect. Earlier this season, Sanders admonished a school broadcaster (and assistant athletic director) for speaking to him more formally on camera than he did off-camera.
Will that fly among Boulder and Denver media, or the national college football press? It’s difficult to imagine. Maybe Sanders will ease back on his efforts to control reporters within a larger university environment, metropolitan area, and media market. But we’re also talking about Deion Sanders here. He doesn’t bend to outside forces. He makes them bend to him.
Sanders’ stint in Boulder — whether it lasts the five years of his contract and beyond, or less than that — will not be dull. There could be no better gift for the media covering Colorado football. Or college football, a sport already full of bold personalities, eccentric to unhinged fanbases, and outsized expectations. Coach Prime will fit right in.
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at email@example.com.
The Media Is Finally Strong Enough To Take On The Rose Bowl
“The whole Rose Bowl organization is stuck in a black and white TV world. The future playoff is Marty McFly stepping out of a Delorean and the Rose Bowl is the Enchantment Under the Seas Dance.”
I am a sucker for packaging. Take me to a grocery store and show me a uniquely packaged sauce or condiment or waffle syrup and I’ll give it a try just based on bottle size or design. The one packaging ploy that has vexed me is the “biggie size” at the local drive through. I’m always interested in the largest drink possible but don’t necessarily want a grain silo full of fries passed through my window. The College Football Playoff is going “biggie sized” in 2024 and I’ll take all of that I can get.
The College Football Playoff Committee made official last week what had long been speculated, that the four-team playoff field would increase to 12 teams starting with the 2024 season. This was an inevitable move for money and access reasons. The power conferences and Notre Dame stand to gain significantly in TV revenue and the “non-power” conferences finally get the consistent access they have long craved.
What may have finally pushed the new playoff over the finish line was the end of an ultimate game of chicken between college football powers and the Rose Bowl.
There is a scene from the movie The Hunt for Red October when the rogue Russian nuclear submarine is trying to avoid a torpedo from another Russian submarine. The American captain, aptly played by Scott Glenn, tells Jack Ryan; “The hard part about playing chicken is knowing when to flinch.”
The Rose Bowl finally flinched.
The only thing that delayed an earlier move to this new world was the insistence of the Rose Bowl Game to cling to the bygone era of the antiquated bowl system. Only in college football could an organization that runs a parade hold such outsized influence but, until recently, the Big Ten and PAC 12 gladly enabled their addiction to a specific television time slot.
Dan Wetzel is a Yahoo! Sports National Columnist, he also wrote the book Death to the BCS which laid out a very early argument for dumping the bowl system for a Playoff.
“The single hardest thing to explain to people is that the Rose Bowl and its obsession of having the sunset in the third quarter of its game was a serious impediment to a billion dollar playoff,” Wetzel wrote.
Wetzel makes the point that simply moving the game up one hour would’ve helped the playoff TV schedule immensely, “They were adamant that they get to have an exclusive window on New Year’s Day, the best time of all, not only would they not give that up but they wouldn’t even move it an hour earlier (to help Playoff television scheduling) because then the sun would set at halftime. It was so absurd but for a lot of years they got so much protection.”
We may never know what it was that finally forced the Rose Bowl to play ball with the rest of the college football world. There are many possibilities, not the least of which was the presence of SoFi Stadium just down the road. The College Football Playoff committee could have always taken the bold step of scheduling games at SoFi, in the Los Angeles market, opposite the Rose Bowl TV window to try to squeeze them out.
It is also possible the Rose Bowl scanned the landscape and realized that, if a 12-team playoff already existed, their 2023 game would’ve been Washington (10-2) versus Purdue (8-5). That shock of reality came with the understanding Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Utah and USC would enthusiastically choose a 12 team playoff bid over a Rose Bowl invite. That was the future the Rose Bowl faced with the departure of USC and UCLA to the Big Ten and the 12 team playoff gobbling up the top remaining PAC 12 teams.
I have proposed that theory to many people in the college football world and have received some version of this response from many of them: “They really wouldn’t care who is playing as long as they can still have their parade.”
That is one of the issues at play here; in many ways, the whole Rose Bowl organization is stuck in a black and white TV world. The future playoff is Marty McFly stepping out of a Delorean and the Rose Bowl is the Enchantment Under the Seas Dance.
One other possibility is that the television executives of the major networks, primarily FOX, may have put the pressure on the Big Ten and Pac 12 to have a little less interest in keeping college football stuck in the late 1970’s. It makes sense, FOX has nothing to gain by the Rose Bowl keeping influence. Fox may have everything to gain by getting a media rights cut of the future playoff. Many believe FOX was a driving force behind USC and UCLA bolting to the Big Ten. If that much is true, pressing for less Rose Bowl influence is child’s play.
No matter what was the catalyst to the expanded playoff, it worked and the fans benefited. College football is moving into a brave new world all because the college football powers finally stood up to the old man yelling at the clouds.
Turns out, it was all a game of chicken. And the Rose Bowl flinched.
Ryan Brown is a columnist for Barrett Sports Media, and a co-host of the popular sports audio/video show ‘The Next Round’ formerly known as JOX Roundtable, which previously aired on WJOX in Birmingham. You can find him on Twitter @RyanBrownLive and follow his show @NextRoundLive.
Andrew Perloff Learned From The Master of Sports Radio on Television
“I think I’m really lucky because I went from a really fun and supportive place in the Dan Patrick Show and have now transitioned into what I would also call a very fun and supportive place at CBS Sports Radio/Audacy.”
It’s a fact of life that not everybody loves their job. To have a job that you love and have fun at is pretty special. For Andrew Perloff, life is good.
“I’m just watching so much sports during the week,” said Perloff. “I don’t come up for air watching sports and I love that. And the fact that we get paid to sit on the couch for 72 hours…oh my God…it really is the best job in the world.”
That job is being the co-host of Maggie & Perloff weekdays from 3pm to 6pm eastern time on CBS Sports Radio and simulcast on CBS Sports Network. Perloff was an on-air personality on The Dan Patrick Show beginning in 2009 before making the switch to CBS Sports Radio for the new show with Maggie Gray that launched this past January.
And so far, the move has worked out.
“I’m really happy,” said Perloff. “I think I’m really lucky because I went from a really fun and supportive place in the Dan Patrick Show and have now transitioned into what I would also call a very fun and supportive place at CBS Sports Radio/Audacy. I miss the DP Show but I love my new co-workers. (Vice President of Programming) Spike Eskin and (New York Market President) Chris Oliviero have been great. We get a lot of support and a lot of help from those guys and they’ve made the transition so much easier.”
When a new radio program begins, chemistry between the hosts is vital to the success of the growth and success of the show. In the case of Maggie & Perloff, they had an existing friendship from their time working together at Sports Illustrated.
And that relationship is certainly evident to the listeners.
“I’m having a great time with Maggie,” said Perloff who was an editor and contributing writer at Sports Illustrated and SI.com. “We knew each other pretty well at Sports Illustrated. We’ve been friends for a while now. I have gotten to know her a lot better through the show. It took a couple of months to really find our rhythm and get the show to where we wanted to get it.”
There has been a fun and evolving dynamic to the on and off-air chemistry between the hosts. Perloff is from Philadelphia and a die-hard Eagles fan while Gray is a fan of the Buffalo Bills. The Eagles have the best record in the NFC at 11-1 while the Bills are among the best teams in the AFC at 9-3.
Perloff has come to understand just how much Gray loves the Bills and there is a chance that their two teams could meet come February 12th in Arizona for Super Bowl LVII.
“She’s a very passionate Buffalo Bills fan,” said Perloff. “I always knew that, but to actually sit there on a daily basis and see her sweat out every detail about the Buffalo Bills has been a lot of fun. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we’re on a collision course for the Super Bowl and we’re already trying to figure out a Super Bowl bet.”
The easy wager to set up would involve food.
If the Bills win, Perloff would have to give Gray some Philly cheesesteaks.
If the Eagles win, Gray would have to furnish Perloff with some Buffalo Wings.
But it appears as if management wants there to be more at stake for the potential bet.
“Our boss wants us to do something more severe,” said Perloff. “The truth is I’m an Eagles fan so I’ve already won my Super Bowl. Maggie, on the other hand, has no idea what that feels like. I almost feel sorry for her because it’s tough being a Bills fan.
“We have a pretty big rivalry with our team because she’s a Mets fan and I’m a Phillies fan. We get along great expect for those areas.”
The Maggie & Perloff chemistry extends throughout the show and that includes producer Michael Samtur who has his own rooting interests.
Samtur is a fan of the New York Jets who are having a better-than-expected season.
“When the Jets win, I don’t want to see Mike on Monday mornings because he’s smiling so much,” said Perloff. “He’s an unbelievably cynical Jets fan…it’s hysterically funny.
“Mike is doing a great job. It’s really an all-hands-on deck show. I think we all sort of kind of wear each other’s hats at certain times.”
An added element to the show is that it is also simulcast on CBS Sports Network. If there’s one thing that Perloff learned from working with Dan Patrick — who also has a simulcast on television — is that the program is a radio show that just happens to have cameras in the studio. At the end of the day, it’s a radio show on television and not a television show on the radio.
“That’s also my philosophy,” said Perloff. “From a logistical standpoint, to do a good radio show you can’t really focus on the TV side of it. For us, the foundation of the base is to really focus on the radio show and the TV and video comes naturally after that.”
Perloff’s resume also includes writing and co-writing an assortment of magazine stories, books, and television shows while also hosting his own weekend show on NBC Sports Radio from 2016 to 2019. But it was working on The Dan Patrick Show where he learned an important aspect of being a talk show host that he continues to live by at CBS Sports Radio.
What he learned was that you just have to be yourself.
“Dan always wanted us to be authentic in the sense that don’t try to be someone you’re not,” said Perloff. “Don’t try to come up with hot takes just for the sake of hot takes. When you listen to Dan Patrick on the radio, you’re really hearing Dan. He’s not a radically different person off air.”
This is a huge time of the year for sports radio.
The NFL’s regular season is winding down and college football is heading towards bowl season and the College Football Playoff. Throw in the NBA, college basketball, NHL, and the World Cup and there’s so much going on in the sports world to talk about.
Perloff can’t get enough of it.
“I love it so much,” said Perloff. “College football is just huge right now. When we bring up a college football story, the phone lines just light up which I think is a reflection of the growing interest in that sport. This is the best time of the year. It’s incredible.”
As Maggie & Perloff head towards their first anniversary on the air, there are goals and expectations heading into 2023. The show has grown tremendously over the course of the first year and while that may have occurred faster than expected, the hope is that the trend continues.
“I’ve been a little surprised by how fast the audience has grown and our connection with the audience,” said Perloff. “One of the great things about The Dan Patrick Show was the community feel with the show and all of the listeners. That’s definitely growing with us and I’d like to see that really take off next year. It makes it so much more fun when you’re doing the show and everybody is along for the ride.”
It’s been a great ride so far and it should be interesting to see what happens if that ride includes an Andrew Perloff vs Maggie Gray Super Bowl matchup in February. It’s not even because the breakdown of Eagles vs Bills would be fascinating but the audience wants more.
That Super Bowl bet would certainly be intriguing.
Peter Schwartz has been involved in New York sports media for over three decades. Along the way he has worked for notable brands such as WFAN, CBS Sports Radio, WCBS 880, ESPN New York, and FOX News Radio. He has also worked as a play by play announcer for the New Yok Riptide, New York Dragons, New York Hitmen, Varsity Media and the Long Island Sports Network. You can find him on Twitter @SchwartzSports or email him at DragonsRadio@aol.com.