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McNeil Ready For a Change

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Dan McNeil had a chance to return to his old turf.

WSCR 670 AM called a couple of weeks ago when former Bear Patrick Mannelly decided to walk away from his role as McNeil’s replacement on the midday show.

McNeil listened, but he said his mind already was made up. It was time to head in another direction.

Or as he says, “I knew I was ready for a change in the backdrop.”

Tuesday, it was announced officially McNeil will team with Pete McMurray for a new morning show on “The Drive,” WDRV-FM 97.1. Initially reported by Robert Feder, the pair will replace Steve Downes, who is retiring.

McNeil said the new show, which will begin in early March, will feature “a guy-talk format” on the classic rock station.

“I get excited talking about music and movies,” McNeil said. “You know, the type of stuff guys talk about with their buddies on the golf course. That’s what the show will sound like.”

Of course, there will be sports talk. McNeil figures Bears discussion will be prevalent on Mondays after a game. However, unlike his previous jobs, he won’t be involved in 24/7 chatter about who will fill the Bears’ holes at linebacker.

“We’re not going to ignore what a huge percentage of men want to talk about (the Bears),” McNeil said. “But let’s put it this way: I can kick around Jay Cutler for five minutes and say, ‘Here’s ACDC,'”

McNeil made his name during nearly 30 years in sports talk radio. His shows have delivered strong ratings at WSCR and WMVP-AM 1000. However, when he parted ways with WSCR in August, he said it had more to do than not coming to terms on a new contract. He walked away from a reported $350,000-400,000 per year offer.

McNeil describes himself as a “risk-taker” who gets “uncomfortable sometimes with routine.”

“The station was great to me, and (program director) Mitch Rosen has been as loyal to me as anyone in radio,” McNeil said. “There was nothing contentious in our parting of the ways. A lot of this was about me wanting to do (something different).”

In October, McNeil said he heard from Greg Solk, the senior vice president of programming for Hubbard Radio, about the possibility of coming to “The Drive.” Eventually, their discussions led to a new job that McNeil said “fulfills a dream I’ve had for close to a decade.”

“Anyone who knows me or has heard me won’t be surprised by this,” McNeil said. “My passion for music often exceeds that for ballgames. One of the biggest appeals to me was how fond I was of the station. It is a crown jewel of Chicago radio. It seemed like the perfect fit.”

It’s not all perfect. Pre-dawn wake-up calls will require a considerable lifestyle change for McNeil. That’s hardly a small detail considering his openly-acknowledged battles with depression and addiction problems.

McNeil said he already is adjusting his body clock by getting up early in anticipation of his new job.

“If I continue my mental health regime, I’m good,” McNeil said.

When told during a 8 a.m. interview on Tuesday that his day would be half-finished in his new role, McNeil laughed and tried to look at the bright side.

“Yeah, sometimes it’s going to suck waking up at 4,” McNeil said. “But being on the tee box at 11 doesn’t sound like a bad idea.”

Credit to the Chicago Tribune who originally published this article

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Parker Hillis Named Brand Manager of Sports Radio 610

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Goodbye snow and hello heat! Parker Hillis is headed to Houston. Audacy has announced that he will be the new brand manager for Sports Radio 610.

“Parker is a rising star,” Sarah Frazier, Senior Vice President and Market Manager of Audacy in Houston, said in a press release. “He has impressed us since day one with his innovative ideas, focus on talent coaching and work ethic. We’re thrilled to have him join our Audacy team.”

Hillis comes to the market from Denver. He has spent the last three years with Bonneville’s 104.3 The Fan. He started as the station’s executive producer before rising to APD earlier this year.

In announcing his exit from The Fan on his Facebook page, Hillis thanked Fan PD Raj Sharan for preparing him for this opportunity.

“His leadership and guidance set the stage for me to continue to grow and develop in this industry, one that I absolutely love,” Hillis wrote. “This is a special place, one that I am honored to have been a part of and so sad to leave.”

Sports Radio 610 began the process to find a new brand manager in February when Armen Williams announced he was leaving the role. Williams also came to Houston from Denver. He started his own business outside the radio industry.

“I’m excited to join the Sports Radio 610 team in Houston,” said Hillis. “The opportunity to direct and grow an already incredible Audacy brand is truly an honor.”

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Schopp & Bulldog: NFL Has To Figure Out Pro Bowl Alternative That Draws Same Audience

“The game just could not be less interesting.”

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After years of criticism and declining television ratings, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell publicly stated this week that the Pro Bowl, as it is currently contested, is no longer a viable option for the league and that there would be discussions at the league meetings to find another way to showcase the league’s best players.

Yesterday afternoon, Schopp and Bulldog on WGR in Buffalo discussed the growing possibility of the game being discontinued, and how the NFL could improve on the ratings it generates with new programming.

“The same number of people [who] watched some recent… game 7 between Milwaukee and Boston… had the same audience as the Pro Bowl had last year,” said co-host Chris “The Bulldog” Parker. “….Enough people watch it to make it worth their while; it’s good business. They’ll put something in that place even though the game is a joke.”

One of the potential outcomes of abolishing the Pro Bowl would be replacing it with a skills showdown akin to what the league held last year prior to the game in Las Vegas. Some of the competitions held within this event centered around pass precision, highlight catches and a non-traditional football competition: Dodgeball. Alternatively, the league could revisit the events it held in 2021 due to the cancellation of the Pro Bowl because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which included a virtual Madden showdown and highlight battle, appealing to football fans in the digital age.

Stefon Diggs and Dion Dawkins of the Buffalo Bills were selected to the AFC Pro Bowl roster this past season, and while it is a distinct honor, some fans would rather see the game transformed or ceased entirely – largely because of the risks associated with exhibition games.

In 1999, the NFL held a rookie flag football game on a beach in Waikiki, Hawaii before the Pro Bowl in which New England Patriots running back Robert Edwards severely dislocated his knee while trying to catch a pass. He nearly had to have his leg amputated in the hospital, being told that there was a possibility he may never walk again. Upon returning to the league four seasons later with the Miami Dolphins, Edwards was able to play in 12 games, but then lost his roster spot at the end of the season, marking the end of his NFL career.

“You might not want to get too crazy with this stuff, but there’d have to be some actual contests to have it be worth doing at all,” expressed show co-host Mike Schopp. “Do you not have a game? I don’t know.”

The future of the Sunday before the Super Bowl is very much in the air, yet Goodell has hardly been reticent in expressing that there needs to be a change made in the league to better feature and promote the game’s top players. In fact, he’s been saying it since his first days as league commissioner in 2006, evincing a type of sympathy for the players participating in the contest, despite it generating reasonable television ratings and advertising revenue.

“Maybe the time has come for them to really figure out a better idea, and maybe that’s what’s notable [about] Goodell restating that he’s got a problem with it,” said Parker. “If there’s some sort of momentum about a conversation [on] creating a very different event that could still draw your 6.7 million eyeballs, maybe they’ll figure out a way to do something other than the game, because the game just could not be less interesting.”

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Iowa Adds WCKG As Chicago Radio Affiliate

“The Hawkeyes open their season at home on September 3 against FCS power South Dakota State.”

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Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa, sits just over three and a half hours from Chicago. It makes sense to assume plenty of alumni move to the Windy City after school and that other Iowa fans live in the metro area as well. That is why the Hawkeyes have struck a deal with WCKG to become their radio affiliate in Chicago.

The station, which is heard on 1530 AM, will air the entire season of Iowa football.

“Iowa Football’s storied history, continued success, and loyal fan base and alumni network throughout Chicagoland made this move a no-brainer for WCKG,” WCKG Sports Director Jon Zaghloul said in a press release. “I’m excited to bring the Hawkeyes to Chicago, and can’t wait to start airing games this Fall. It’s a huge acquisition for our brand, and, more importantly, our devoted listeners.” 

The Hawkeyes open their season at home on September 3 against FCS power South Dakota State. Gary Dolphin has called all of the school’s sports on radio since 1996. Ed Podolak is his partner in the booth during football season.

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