Looking forward can be easier said than done. It’s easy to dwell on a divorce instead of focusing on the next relationship. It’s tempting to dwell on a previous job instead of directing your energy toward the next opportunity.
For Mike Golic, he’s shifting his focus to the next challenge, not the previous gig. It does his future no good to replay the end of his ESPN days over and over again. It’s a smart approach. If you drive down the road while only looking through the rear-view mirror, you won’t get anywhere; unless you consider a ditch or T-boning another vehicle to be somewhere. Life works the same way.
This is an exciting time for Golic. The next chapter of his career can go in many different directions. Plus, he doesn’t have to take a job he’s lukewarm about just to keep the cable on. He can pick and choose the projects he wants to dedicate himself toward fully. Golic talks about his passion for calling games and his reluctance to dive back into the local radio scene. He also has some great thoughts about weaving in fun, getting used to hard work, and not letting ego get the best of you. Enjoy.
Brian Noe: I’ve read a couple of interviews you’ve done since leaving ESPN. I’m curious if it’s gotten to a point where you’re like, I’d just rather look forward now.
Mike Golic: Oh yeah, I’ve definitely done my bit of explaining on how it all ended. It’s weird; we just posted the last show on July 31, which is just over a year ago. It was kind of a thing to look back on. But for the most part, yeah, it does me no good to look back. I explained myself a ton out there for people who asked. I have no problem speaking about it but yeah, at this point it’s like okay, what’s next?
The first thing was don’t do anything for a while. Basically have my agent say, don’t want you to hear from me for about six months. That was nice to just sleep in. Now it’s move forward, what’s next? What can I still enjoy? I’m not ready to retire just yet even though I have the gray in the hair and gray in the beard. I’m not ready to just be at home every day.
BN: If it’s sports radio full-time or only play-by-play, do you have a preference if it’s one or the other?
MG: Oh, I can do both. The analyst stuff is always on the weekend. When I first got to ESPN in ‘95, I called games right away and then we started doing NFL 2Night. It’s NFL Live now, but it was NFL 2Night. I was doing that three times a week, and doing a game on the weekend, and I was doing radio out in Phoenix with our mutual buddy Bruce Jacobs. I was actually doing five times a week on the morning show, but I would fly to Connecticut and do some morning shows from there, do three nights a week of NFL 2Night and then travel on weekends to do games. That’s when I was just starting out and doing everything under the sun. I stopped calling games for a while. I stopped because I told ESPN right when my kids got to high school, I was done calling games because I didn’t want to miss any of their stuff. That was my own hiatus on that, which I just picked up the last year. I did it for 10 years before I took a break on games. But I could do both without question. In fact that’s all I’m used to. It’s usually been both together. Whenever I’ve had to call games, I’ve usually had a show that was during all week. I’d have no problem doing that again.
BN: It’s a lot of work, right? Do you think that your playing career helped you move into working seven days a week, and flying here, flying there?
MG: A thousand percent. I told my kids that. I told any young kid I coached really in any sport. Then obviously it pyramided to football especially with my kids. My daughter was a swimmer. Forgetting how hard you work in football, it’s multiplied many times by a swimmer. Swims in the morning, goes to school, works out after school, and then swims again. I mean it’s crazy what they do. I said no matter how far this takes you, you’re going to learn how to budget your time. You’re going to learn sacrifices. You’re going to learn hard work and it’s going to help you.
I think what helped me as well, I was a 10th rounder. This is back when the draft was 12 rounds. Tenth rounders weren’t supposed to make it. I was fortunate enough to play for nine years. Mike was an undrafted free agent. He was on a couple of teams for a couple of training camps, but had to work extra hard. My son Jake and his wife, they own a couple of businesses now. They had to work hard and they had to work obviously through the pandemic. She was an athlete as well. My daughter Sydney, the same way. Hard work doesn’t affect them because they were used to doing it. Without question that helps you later in life.
BN: Would doing local radio be appealing to you at all?
MG: Umm, I don’t know. I’ve done national for so long, I don’t know because having a place here in South Bend and having a place in Scottsdale and knowing we like both places, I’m one of those guys, I like to be where work is. When I played football in the offseason I stayed in that city. Obviously at ESPN I lived in Connecticut where ESPN is. If I’m splitting time around the country in a couple of different spots and doing local but not living local, I wouldn’t like that. If I did local, I would need to stay in that area to get the feel of that area, to go to the games in that area and be part of it. Quite honestly you’ve got to dive a lot deeper.
When I was doing local in Phoenix, you’ve got to dive deep into the local teams in the community, where national you’re hitting more of the bigger stories and not diving as deep. Local is a lot more in-depth. If I were ever to do local, I would need to live there. I couldn’t imagine living somewhere else and doing local in the city I wasn’t in to sort of feel that city. So I doubt it.
BN: What’s something besides not having to wake up at the crack of dawn that you haven’t missed with this down time right now?
MG: That I haven’t missed. That’s a good question. Really it would probably just be the timeframe because I love doing it. Think about it, I got to talk sports. Now sometimes in the offseason the tougher times in June and July once basketball ended, you had a lot of that down time before football started up, those were always tough. Then it was who’s the Mount Rushmore of the NBA, who’s the Mount Rushmore of the NHL, who’s your top-10 list? It’s a great list time or let’s reminisce about old jingles. That’s kind of wacky radio stuff. But for the most part, I do miss it. I loved it.
Getting up sucked, but once you start going and getting to the studio and everybody is there, I loved it. There wasn’t much I haven’t missed outside of that 4:15 alarm, which I swore every single morning. Every time 4:15 hit, I had a bad word come out of my mouth.
BN: I bet. It probably wasn’t “goodie, 4:15!” [Laughs] I’m sure you’re supporting your son while he’s doing his show on ESPN. Is it awkward at all when you listen to the network knowing you were there for so long?
MG: No, I’m past that. I equate a lot of things to sports. My first two and a half years in the league, I was with the Oilers. I got cut and I went to the Eagles. I didn’t sit around watching the Oilers play going oh God, I was there. And then when I left the Eagles to go to the Dolphins, I didn’t sit around and reminisce about my Eagle days. I played with the Dolphins. You just move on.
Obviously it was a little weird at first knowing I did a show there for so long and then all of a sudden there’s other people doing that show. But my son had been there already for a few years before me, him, and Trey were doing that morning show. I had been used to seeing him on air and calling games and doing all the digital work. So it was no different.
BN: When you look back on your time on air, what’s something you either learned from someone else or learned on your own along the way that helped you get to another level?
MG: I think the biggest thing that I needed to work on was — because I was a professional athlete, and you know this, when you’re going to ask somebody a question a lot of times you kind of know what the answer is going to be. For me it was as I asked the question, I gave my opinion about the subject. I learned and I was told and I really tried to do this is the interview is not about you. I have four hours to do a show. I can explain my opinion many times. Let the guest say what they’re going to say. Then if you have a back and forth with them, fine. To drill this down is keep your questions short. Who, what, where, when, why. Keep it short; give them their time to answer. Instead of me asking a question, and then I make a statement, and then I asked the question again, and then I continue to make a statement — they’re sitting there going, is there a question in there? What are we doing? That took me a while because I would catch myself doing it. I just needed to shut the hell up, ask the question I wanted to ask, and give them their time to answer.
BN: Who told you that?
MG: There was a guy that came through ESPN that went over questions, what to ask, how to ask them, and I could only make it for one day. He would have seminars and I remember making it to one day, but that was the one day he really talked about it. It really kind of stuck with me. I would put a card in front of me at times that said short questions. Who, what, where, when, why. Then I would just try and remember that.
There were times I failed and went back the other way especially early on. We’d have listening sessions. You listen to a segment and you’d hear yourself. Man when you hear it, it’s like watching tape of me playing football and I see the mistake and go oh my God, how did I do that? You hear yourself and you sit there and time it and go, hey great job, 48-second question. You don’t need a 48-second question because I’m giving my own opinion. Just get the question out there and let them answer.
BN: What’s the most fun that you’ve had in your radio career?
MG: The most fun I ever had on radio was when it was there organically. You can set up things in a segment where you’re going to go that could lead to fun. You have a plan. But quite honestly the best radio is when you go off that plan organically. You just go to something else and the next thing you know you’re laughing your ass off, you’re having a ball, and it’s coming out of the speakers that way.
My thought process in the morning because people are driving to work, was maybe I can take you where you can’t go, I can take you into a pro athletes’ head, I can take you into their locker room, I can take you onto the field of any sport because as pro athletes you have that mentality, and can I make you laugh a little bit. If I can make you smile and chuckle a little bit on your way to work, I feel like I did my job. So to me the best part of radio is when you went off course and that turned out to be the most fun.
BN: I call it grown-up stuff in radio that you have to execute — keep it moving, reset, don’t stray off topic too much. Do those things sometimes get in the way of having fun?
MG: No, once you learn how to incorporate it, like anything else you knew you had to do things and sometimes you were like oh hell, I’ve got to do this and it took you off course of what you wanted to do. In doing the show for 20-some years I got used to understanding that you’ve got to do those things. Weave them into the show while still maintaining the fun, while still not slamming on the proverbial brakes so I can do this and then getting back to what we were talking about. You’ve got to be able to weave it.
A lot of that just came with time. Time, experience, doing it, and quite honestly at the end not giving a shit if I got it wrong.
I’m not perfect. I’ll never have a perfect show. I think there’s a lot of that where you just do your thing and if you make a mistake, you make it. Laugh at yourself while other people laugh at you, laugh with them and move on.
BN: The Notre Dame football telecast hasn’t had many ND grads on there. Is that strange to you at all?
MG: It’s something that they do. For whatever reason they don’t want an ND grad in the booth. They probably feel they’ll be a homer. Maybe. I guess. I’ve done Notre Dame games in the past for ESPN and I would have no problem not being a homer.
Listen I love Notre Dame. I want Notre Dame to win all of their games, but I called one last year when they played at Georgia Tech. I called one when they played Air Force years ago. I had no problem doing that. But it’s not my rule. I don’t know how much of a hard, fast rule it is for them, but I know that has been something they have somewhat lived by.
We’ve had Boston College guys in there in Flutie, and Tony Dungy in there, and now a Purdue guy in Drew Brees. I’m like wait a minute, man, I’m a Domer. Let’s get a Domer in there a little bit. But I don’t get to make those decisions because I would love to do that, sure.
BN: If you were able to write out the next five years of what you were doing, what would that look like for you ideally?
MG: When I say calling games, I don’t care if it’s radio, TV, college, pro, I just love calling games. For this year at least some of it’s going to be with Learfield. It’s going to be college games. I did a thing for them last year, The Fan Exam, kind of a sports trivia for college. I’ve gotten to know those people. They’re getting a Saturday night game of the week and it worked out where I’m going to do that. I look forward to it. A full slate of college games hopefully, fingers crossed, we’re all traveling and going back out to colleges again. The script for me for the next five years would at the very least, at the very least, do college games and pro games. It would be calling games for sure.
Other than that, like I said if an opportunity arises for an everyday radio show, we’ll see. Podcast situations have come about. I’m still talking to people. We’ll see what goes on with that. I may have a fun little thing that I don’t have inked yet that has nothing to do with a sport; it’s more of a travel type of a thing that’s fun. It would be a lot of fun, which now that I’m not tied to one place like I was at ESPN I can do. Something like that. We’ll see if that turns out. That’s the beauty of it is I can kind of pick and choose now. But the constant for me would be calling games.
BN: This just randomly popped into my head; Tom Brady recently mentioned that a couple of teams were interested in him last year, and then they weren’t. He said if you had a chance to get Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky, I’m kind of scratching my head why you wouldn’t do that. If you apply that thought to you, you’re a big deal in radio. Have you ever had a moment where you’re like okay random company, I’m available and you’re not interested in me?
MG: Going in the 10th round, and basically there were maybe three years of my nine-year career where I felt very comfortable going into the season that I was going to be on the team and playing. Other than that I was kind of fighting and scratching to be on the team. Does your ego think about that and you say boy I wish this person or this network would contact me? What am I going to do? I’m not one of those that lives in the past about it. If they don’t, then I just move on to somebody who does. I’m fine with that.
Does everybody have an ego and would love the networks to give you their top spot? Well sure, but that’s unrealistic as well. My career has gone pretty well but that certainly doesn’t give me any expectation that the network is going to say, oh we’re plugging you for our number one guy, here you go, we’re bumping whoever. You know what? It’s not going to work that way for me. I know that. So I never expect it.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
Derek Futterman is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. In addition, he serves as the production manager for the New York Islanders Radio Network and lead sports producer at NY2C. He has also worked on live game broadcasts for the Long Island Nets and New York Riptide. He previously interned for Paramount within Showtime Networks and wrote for The Long Island Herald. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @derekfutterman.
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.
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.
Garrett Searight is the Editor of Barrett Sports Media and Barrett News Media. He previously was the Program Director and Afternoon Co-Host on 93.1 The Fan in Lima, OH. He is also a play-by-play announcer for TV and Radio broadcasts in Western Ohio.
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