Dubbed “The Kingmaker” by then-SportsCenter anchor Rich Eisen in 1996, Al Jaffe earned the royal moniker through his 28-year ESPN career. Jaffe, whose real title is Vice President, Talent Negotiation and Production Recruitment, retires Friday following a career where he hired and negotiated contracts with scores of ESPN broadcasters.
Linda Cohn, Rece Davis, Neil Everett, Mike Greenberg, Suzy Kolber, Kenny Mayne, Karl Ravech, Robin Roberts, Stuart Scott, Mike Tirico, Trey Wingo and Stan Verrett are among the many that Al hired at ESPN.
When he joined SportsCenter in 1987, he also hired production assistants, the gateway position to the ESPN production department. The “Jaffe Quiz” which tested the sports knowledge and instilled fear into applicants, included everything from knowing who won the Vezina Trophy to naming the backup catcher of the Kansas City Royals.
Hundreds of people working today in sports television passed the quiz and launched their careers as ESPN PAs, including several current ESPN leaders from Senior Vice President, Production and Remote Events Mark Gross to Senior Vice President, Production College Events Stephanie Druley.
Al says the best part of his job has been identifying and recruiting new talent, particularly taking chances that later paid dividends.
“It’s been gratifying seeing people do well and get rewarded for talent and hard work,” he says.
His 15 minutes of fame began in 2004 when his talent scout skills and quick wit were put to use on-air as the Simon Cowell-like judge for Dream Job, an ESPN show designed to uncover new on-air talent.
The three seasons of Dream Job even led to a live stage show version at ESPN the Weekend at Walt Disney World, with Al the featured judge who, in the spirit of the happiest place on earth, heaped praise on the contestants.
He also got to play himself in a “This is SportsCenter” spot featuring agent Scott Boras (see below) and anchor Scott Van Pelt.
Out of the thousands of resumes he received, his favorite was sent to him inside a plastic wiffle ball bat.
He also remembers one very aggressive candidate who followed him into a men’s room at a conference to hand him a tape and a resume.
Neither approach landed the people jobs. It seems the Kingmaker preferred traditional qualities like smarts and experience.
Credit to ESPN Front Row where this story was originally published
Jeff Rickard Named Program Director of WFNZ in Charlotte
“After our first conversation I knew Jeff was the one to take us to the next level.”
Jeff Rickard is headed to Charlotte. The sports radio veteran has been named the new program director of WFNZ, one of the Southeast’s premier sports radio brands.
Rickard replaces Terry Foxx who announced in February that he was leaving Charlotte to take over KUT in Austin.
“We are committed to making sports radio even bigger in Charlotte, adding the 92.7 FM signal in March was just the beginning of that commitment,” Marsha Landess, Regional Vice President of Radio One, said in a press release. “Having a successful veteran like Jeff Rickard join our team will help take us to the level that a passionate sports city like Charlotte deserves. Jeff brings to WFNZ extensive sports experience, talent, drive, and a passion for success. He will be a great complement to our incredibly talented local Charlotte on-air team. After our first conversation I knew he was the one to take us to the next level. As the flagship station for the Charlotte Hornets as well as Charlotte FC we are looking forward to an incredibly successful future with Jeff leading the charge.”
Rickard’s resume in sports radio speaks for itself. He was most recently the brand manager at WEEI in Boston, a role he exited in January. Prior to that, he spent six years at 107.5 The Fan in Indianapolis serving as both a weekday host and the station’s program director. He has also worked nationally for ESPN Radio, FOX Sports Radio, and SiriusXM, and spent time during the early part of his career working in Denver and Salt Lake City.
“I had been planning on taking a professional sabbatical this year but after meeting with Marsha Landess and learning more about Radio One, I began to get more excited to get back to work,” shared Rickard. “Radio One as a company, combined with Marsha’s leadership and the potential for WFNZ, was just too appealing to not be a part of. I am extremely grateful to Radio One for this opportunity and can’t wait to start working with the talented staff in Charlotte. My family and I are all in on this situation and can’t wait to get started on this new chapter.”
Not one to waste time diving in, Rickard officially stepped into the Charlotte offices today to meet his new staff.
Kirk Herbstriet Wants To Be Held To Same Standard For NFL As College Football
“Herbstreit was on The Pat McAfee Show on Friday and he said he is already at Pro Football Focus in Cincinnati doing his research.”
The NFL schedule was released last week, and Thursday Night Football has a lot of interesting matchups for its first year on Amazon Prime. It is also a new broadcast booth with Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit on the call.
With Herbstreit now adding Thursday Night Football to College Gameday, he has already started preparing for the upcoming season. Herbstreit was on The Pat McAfee Show on Friday and he said he is already at Pro Football Focus in Cincinnati doing his research.
“I’m just trying to lay a foundation,” said Herbstreit.
Herbstreit told McAfee that whenever anyone asks him to talk about a college team, he can quickly tell them what the DNA of that team is. Now he wants to bring that level of preparation to his NFL broadcasts. He will look at a different matchup every week this summer to get a more detailed idea of what each team is about:
As for his connection with Al Michaels, Herbstreit mentioned he has gone out to dinner with him a couple of times and he wants to make going out to eat with his broadcast partner a frequent deal.
“Hung out with him 2-3 times. Had a chance just to get to know him. When you go into a new deal, I love like Wednesday night dinner, I want to make a staple and just hang out and get to know him and hopefully he will get to know me. When you do that, it allows you to have natural chemistry.”
Andrew Mason To Succeed John Clayton At 104.3 The Fan
“Mason comes to The Fan from DNVR, a digital outlet where he provided written and audio content for the last three seasons.”
John Clayton passed away earlier this year. That left 104.3 The Fan without a lead Broncos writer for the 2022 season. On Monday, the station announced that it had hired a successor in Andrew Mason.
Mason comes to The Fan from DNVR, a digital outlet where he provided written and audio content for the last three seasons.
“Mase’s work speaks for itself as one of the market’s most respected analysts when it comes to writing about and discussing the Broncos,” Raj Sharan, The Fan’s program director, said in a press release. “Replacing someone of the legendary stature of John Clayton was not something we took lightly, and we believe Mase is the perfect person to pick up that mantle and bring tremendous credibility and content to our rapidly growing digital platforms.”
Andrew Mason has a lot of credibility with Broncos fans. He has covered the team for 19 years. He has also written a book called Tales from the Denver Broncos Sideline.
The Fan won’t be his first foray into Denver radio either. Mason has previously been a host on Mile High Sports Radio and the defunct KDSP- AM.
“I’m thrilled to join The Fan team and add what I can to the efforts of building Denver’s premier online destination for Denver fans,” said Mason. “Being tasked with replacing a legend like John Clayton is a responsibility I take very seriously, and I’m honored The Fan has entrusted me with this opportunity.”