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How Barnhart Became “Mr. SEC”

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Tony Barnhart never set out to become “Mr. SEC,” let alone “Mr. College Football,” the sobriquet he earned during a 30-year writing career, first at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and, since 1994, as go-to SEC guy for ESPN and later CBS.

Back in 1976, Barnhart – now part of the SEC Network and aiming toward Aug. 28’s football debut of Texas A&M at South Carolina – was another recent University of Georgia graduate. Then as now, there was a recession, and jobs – especially in newspapers, most especially covering sports – were few and far between.

“I graduated June 10,” Barnhart said, laughing at the memory, “and I saw a 3-by-5 index card (on a UGA journalism-school bulletin board) that said the Union (S.C.) Daily Times needs a sports writer.”

On June 11, he spoke with Union editor Don Wilder, who asked, “When can you get here?”

“I’ll be there tomorrow,” Barnhart said.

That next day, after a couple hours’ conversation, Wilder reached into a desk drawer, withdrew a sheath of papers and told the wannabe reporter, “I’ve got this many applications, but I’m going offer (the job) to you right now.”

For $125 a week – trust me, that wasn’t bad in 1976 – Barnhart had his start.

Flash forward to this year. Barnhart, who departed the Journal-Constitution in 2008, turning his part-time TV gigs with ESPN and CBS into a national profile among college football fans, signed on with the fledgling SEC Network, where he’ll make – well, considerably more than $125.

It was a no-brainer, he says.

“It was one of those things, when I learned the SEC Network was about to become a reality, and they said, ‘Is this something you’re interested in?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’

“CBS was very good to me” – Barnhart was part of “College Football Today” from 2004-2013 – “but the chance to get in on the ground floor here is sort of cool,” he said. “The SEC is on an incredible run in all sports (especially football), so to be in at the beginning of the network, helping shape it … I’m honored to be a part of it.”

The SEC Network could hardly call itself that without Barnhart. Starting as the AJC’s Georgia beat writer (1984-85) and moving on to be its national college football writer, no reporter in America has been more closely identified with the conference – not even his new colleague, longtime Alabama radio talk-show host Paul Finebaum. When Barnhart recently filled in for the Controversial One on his national radio show for two days, it looked to be a seamless handoff.

In fact, Barnhart said, laughing, “after doing it for four hours (each day), I have even greater respect for Paul.

“The ‘traffic cop’ aspect (of fielding callers), getting into commercials (and) setting things up – he makes it look easy. It’s not.”

Still, he said, “I’m glad I did it and hope to do it again.”

The SEC Network plans on Barnhart doing a multitude of cross-media jobs, from pregame studio work to writing a weekly Friday column for SECSports.com. He also returned Aug. 11 to AJC.com, writing columns Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. He has his own site, tonybarnhart.com; and does “a little radio” in Atlanta.

For the rest of the article visit The State where it was originally published

Sports Radio News

Bobby Valentine Tells Boomer & Gio Donald Trump Photo Sunk Him

“Valentine ran as an unaffiliated candidate and fell to Democratic State Rep. Caroline Simmons in the Stamford mayoral race.”

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Courtesy: WFAN

Former MLB manager and ESPN baseball analyst Bobby Valentine joined WFAN’s Boomer and Gio this week to discuss his mayoral campaign in Stamford, Connecticut. 

Valentine ran as an unaffiliated candidate and fell to Democratic State Rep. Caroline Simmons in the race. He claims that a decades-old picture with him and former President Donald Trump sunk his chances.

“We had a photo taken together in 2000 for the World Series and so the last day of the campaign all around the neighborhoods, a picture of Donald and Bobby with the quote ‘only poor people and dumb people pay taxes,’” Valentine told Boomer and Gio about the photo that circulated around the town on Election Day.

“That really helped with the minority vote in my town,” Valentine said sarcastically.

It wasn’t all bad news for Valentine, who was enamored with the campaign-building process, among other things.

“Built it [the campaign] from scratch, which was a wonderful experience” Valentine explained. “Figuring out how to get volunteers together, and money together, and office, and headquarters together. We actually ran a six-month—perfectly clean—campaign. Not one negative word mentioned the entire time. Got 14,000 votes, more than any non-Democrat ever got in our city, and almost won that thing.

“I’m glad that I was the candidate, and I’m also glad that I’m not the mayor because it’s really a tough job. I got four years of my life back when the votes came in.”

Valentine worked at ESPN for a few years in the early part of the 2010s before re-entering the managing circuit with the Boston Red Sox. He famously managed the Mets to one of their two World Series appearances this century in 2000.

“It’s a little bit of the seven-year itch,” Valentine said when asked why he’s always looking for the next obstacle. “I did seven years in Texas; seven years in New York; seven years in Japan; seven months in Boston. Then I did seven years at Sacred Heart. So, yeah, it’s all about the sevens.”

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Sports Radio News

Tony Rizzo To Baker Mayfield Critics: I Hope You’re Happy

“850 ESPN Cleveland host Tony Rizzo laid it all out on the table during The Really Big Show.”

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Courtesy: ESPN Cleveland

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield hasn’t looked like much of a franchise star so far in 2021, and it has all the attention of sports radio in The Land. 

850 ESPN Cleveland host Tony Rizzo laid it all out on the table during The Really Big Show.

“You happy?” Rizzo said to his co-host, Aaron Goldhammer. “Are you Baker [Mayfield] haters? Are you guys happy? Baker looks bad, and you wanna jump down his throat. I’M A BROWNS FAN! I’M A BROWNS FAN. IT’S LIKE YOU’RE ROOTING AGAINST OUR QUARTERBACK!”

Mayfield has struggled with shoulder and knee injuries throughout this season and ranks 25th out of 33 qualified quarterbacks in ESPN’s QBR metric (42.9 out of 100).

“You want him to fail,” Rizzo continued. “To prove what? You were right? Do you realize what happens if this kid isn’t the right guy? WE’RE GONNA SUCK, AGAIN. You don’t find quarterbacks. It took you 20 years to find a guy to win 11 games. Now you don’t think he can take you the rest of the way? Are you happy?”

The Browns went on the road this past weekend and the New England Patriots stomped them 45-7. The loss meant Cleveland still hasn’t won in Foxboro since 1992, when, ironically, now Patriots head coach Bill Belichick held the same role with Cleveland.

“I hope you’re all happy,” Rizzo declared. “I hope you’re happy; so you can draft some quarterback in the 30s and try and pray…Don’t you understand? If Baker fails it’s back to the drawing board for my franchise.

“We know that everything has to be right for Baker to win. Sobering stuff for me. This year has been sobering; however, he’s got a bad shoulder, he’s got a broken bone. Now he’s got a bum knee and bum foot. He’s getting beat up. Maybe he can’t play the position.”

Watch the full clip from ESPN Cleveland above.

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Sports Radio News

Kraig Riley Named Brand Manager Of 93.7 The Fan

“He has been with The Fan since its launch in 2010.”

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There’s a new leader in Pittsburgh and Audacy did not have to look too far to find him. Kraig Riley has been promoted to brand manager of 93.7 The Fan.

Riley is a familiar face in the building and voice on the air. He has been with The Fan since its launch in 2010. He has served as producer of the station’s afternoon show The PM Team with Poni & Mueller. He also was the host of the station’s pre and postgame coverage of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The opening was created earlier this year when Jim Graci exited The Fan and sister station KDKA New Radio. Audacy hired industry veteran Dave LaBrozzi, who most recently served as Vice President of Programming for WABC Radio in New York City, to lead the news talk station.

“As both KDKA and The Fan continue to evolve into full multi-platform operations serving our listeners in new ways every day it is clear that both stations need focused leadership,” Michael Spacciapolli, Senior Vice President and Market Manager of Audacy Pittsburgh, said in a press release. “The addition of Dave and promotion of Kraig will help us continue that evolution. There is an expectation of excellence at both stations from the city of Pittsburgh that I have no doubt Dave and Kraig will continue to build on every day.”

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