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Le Batard Move = More Changes

Jason Barrett

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South Florida’s sports radio landscape, marked by turnover and tumult all summer, is on the verge of undergoing its most seismic change yet:

At ESPN’s urging, Dan Le Batard is expected to move to the 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. slot, replacing Fox-bound Colin Cowherd, provided ESPN Radio agrees to contractual terms with Le Batard’s on-air partner, Jon Weiner.

Though Le Batard is on board with the move, the network must still negotiate with Weiner, known to most of the country as Stugotz. Le Batard naturally wants his friend to be taken care of, so that small hurdle remains.

ESPN President John Skipper is a big fan of Le Batard and the top ESPN executives all advocated his move to mornings, partly because more affiliates carry ESPN Radio from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (morning drive on the West Coast) than from 4 to 7 p.m.

There has been no decision on whether Fusion television will continue simulcasting Le Batard’s show; discussions are ongoing.

Presuming the deal gets done — and all parties are declining comment — here are the wide-ranging ramifications:

### Though no final decision has been made, former Miami Herald sports writers Ethan J. Skolnick (most recently of Bleacher Report) and Israel Gutierrez (who works for ESPN) are considered top candidates to fill Le Batard’s afternoon slot locally on 104.3 The Ticket but not nationally on ESPN Radio.

Under that scenario, there would be some consideration to adding a third person in a traffic-cop type host role, but that decision hasn’t been made. Chris Wittyngham and Josh Friedman would be capable options for that position, but station management prefers not to break them up, which seems sensible because of their strong chemistry.

Adam Kuperstein, who would like to resume doing local radio after being dropped by WQAM-560, cannot do a late afternoon show because of NBC-6 commitments. Friedman, Brian London and Eric Reed would be internal options.

The program would run from either 3 to 7 p.m. or 4 to 7 p.m. There is some thought being given to airing a “Best of Le Batard” show, with highlights of his morning program, from 3 to 4 p.m.

Even a taped Le Batard hour probably would be a stronger lead-in to Skolnick and Gutierrez (should they land the gig) than a live show hosted by someone else.

Over the past three years, Skolnick has appeared regularly during the 1 to 3 p.m. slot with Reed and former NFL player Leroy Hoard. Gutierrez appears twice a week on The Ticket’s morning show with Jonathan Zaslow and Joy Taylor.

### Le Batard and Weiner have expressed a willingness to do a “local hour” from 9 to 10 a.m., similar to their current 3-4 p.m. hour that airs only The Ticket.

Joe Rose has been the most competitive of any WQAM host in the ratings battle against The Ticket, with Rose and Zaslow/Taylor each winning multiple ratings books against the other over the past few months. A Le Batard hour at 9 a.m. might draw some listeners from the final hour of Rose.

### Wittyngham and Friedman, who shifted to mornings following Cowherd’s departure last month, likely would return to 7 to 10 p.m., unless the station decides to shift them to afternoon drive.

### Bomani Jones, who hosts a 9-11 p.m. show on ESPN Radio, is the front-runner to replace Le Batard nationally from 4 to 7 p.m. But The Ticket — which has a marketing partnership with The Miami Herald — prefers to air local programming during those hours.

ESPN Radio is expected to ask The Ticket to air an additional ESPN program besides Le Batard’s, but the station’s contract doesn’t explicitly require that.

At some point, The Ticket might air ESPN Radio on one of its signals (790 AM) and local programming, plus Le Batard, on the other (104.3 FM).

### Marc Hochman, whose WQAM show recently moved up an hour (to 2 p.m.) and added Channing Crowder, would no longer be competing with Le Batard, whose program Hochman previously produced. Le Batard generates the market’s highest sports-talk ratings.

Le Batard’s shift to mornings could give the personable Hochman a chance to make inroads in the ratings, though a potential Skolnick/Gutierrez pairing also would have wide appeal and name recognition inside the market.

### One other notable local media change that has nothing to do with Le Batard: Former UM All-American safety Bennie Blades will be WQAM-560’s new analyst on Hurricanes postgame shows, replacing Duane Starks, who has been working as a Baltimore Ravens scouting intern.

Those UM postgame shows have increasingly become a vent-and-bash-the-coaches session after losses and even after unimpressive wins. Blades was critical of UM coaching in an interview with Kuperstein last week. Randal Hill, who’s running for U.S. Congress, will remain WQAM’s pre-game analyst.

Credit to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald who broke this story and published this article

Sports Radio News

Bobby Belt: ‘Pat McAfee Butchered The Name Shan and RJ’

“I mean, it clearly says on the graphics ‘Shan and RJ’.”

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Shan and RJ is a show that routinely finds itself in the media spotlight. They may be a Dallas show, but when Jerry and Stephen Jones routinely appear on your airwaves, you are going to draw attention from outside of the market.

On Tuesday, Pat McAfee played a clip of the hosts talking to Jerry Jones. McAfee threw to the clip introducing the show as “Shan, RJ, and Chop.” On Wednesday morning, the 105.3 The Fan’s morning show had some fun with the former Colts punter’s struggles.

“There’s a lot to unpack here,” newly added co-host Bobby Belt said after listening to McAfee and his crew take three unsuccessful cracks at naming the show.

“Reggie made a good point yesterday when I was talking to him about this,” Belt said. “Reggie was like ‘I think McAfee was going to the clip, saw three faces and didn’t know a third name, and so he’s like ‘well, that must be RJ and Chop.’”

Belt delighted in the idea that in McAfee’s mind, RJ Choppy goes by “Chop” on air and even pointed out that one of the producers said that RJ “looks like a Chop.”

Pat McAfee called the show “Shan, RJ, and Chop,” “Shana, RJ and Chop,” and “Shannon and RJ” on different occasions according to Belt. He didn’t think it was disrespectful. He just didn’t understand how McAfee got it so wrong so often.

“They butchered this three ways to the weekend. I have no idea. I mean, it clearly says on the graphics ‘Shan and RJ’.”

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Sports Radio News

Cubs Radio Voice Pat Hughes Named 2023 Frick Award Winner

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Chicago Cubs radio voice Pat Hughes has been honored as the 2023 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award.

The award is given annually for “excellence in broadcasting” by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

“Known throughout the Midwest for his easy delivery and unparalleled knowledge, Pat Hughes has called some of the biggest moments in Cubs history and has provided the narrative for one of the most successful eras in the history of the franchise,” said National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum President Josh Rawitch. “Since arriving at Wrigley Field in 1996, Pat has served as the radio voice for nine postseason teams – matching an ardent fan base with his own passion in every broadcast. His reverence for baseball history and gift for storytelling have made him one of the game’s broadcast treasures.”

Hughes has spent more than 25 years as the voice of the Cubs, and is a nine-time winner of the Illinois Sportscaster of the Year Award. Earlier this year, Hughes found out on-air that he would be inducted into the Cubs Hall of Fame.

Hughes was previously a finalist for the award in 2016 and 2020.

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Sports Radio News

Craig Carton: Jon Heyman ‘No Longer An Insider’ After Aaron Judge Gaffe

“That’s a bad job. And all that is is a guy trying to get ahead of everybody else. He screwed the pooch. That’s embarrassing.”

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MLB Network Insider Jon Heyman erroneously reported that New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge was signing with the San Francisco Giants in free agency yesterday. That news was not well received by WFAN afternoon hosts Craig Carton and Evan Roberts.

After Heyman rescinded his original tweet saying “Arson Judge” appeared headed to the Giants, he resent a new one with the correct spelling. During the confusion, Roberts told producers to get Heyman — who is an Audacy contributor — on the phone, which Carton immediately shot down.

“No, we’re not putting him on the air,” Carton said. “I’m not putting him on the air. He doesn’t get a platform on this show. Listen, he made a deal with the devil when he took a job with The (New York) Post. That’s his business.”

While Carton and Roberts processed the news, producer Chris McMonigle said he was certain that Judge would be signing with the Giants, but that was not Heyman’s report, and would hold off until it was official.

Roberts mocked McMonigle by saying he was in denial. “He still hasn’t accepted that Jon Heyman knows what he’s talking about,” Roberts said. Moments later, McMonigle read Heyman’s follow up tweet apologizing for “jumping the gun”.

“That is a horrendous job by Jon Heyman,” Carton replied.

“Heyman’s done,” Roberts shouted. “Jon, what are we doing?”

“Heyman is no longer an insider,” Carton added. “That’s a bad job. And all that is is a guy trying to get ahead of everybody else. He screwed the pooch. That’s embarrassing.”

Carton later took umbrage with Heyman deleting his tweets.

“To play fans like that is absolutely unacceptable. It’s not right. Sorry. That’s because everyone’s gotta be first. God forbid someone else has it first. You’re a clown. Your entire career’s work has just been flushed down the toilet.”

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