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Under The Radar – May 23, 2017

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The sports media news cycle continues to spin, and this week’s information includes a number of comings, goings, and new additions. To have your station, company or personal news shared in a future edition of UTR, please pass along all information via email to JBarrett@hvy.tcp.mybluehost.me. Now on to the news.

After 16 years, Matt Abbatacola has left 670 The Score in Chicago. The Chicago sports radio veteran served as a producer, anchor and reporter, and enjoyed a long run as Boers and Bernstein’s executive producer. He turned in his resignation to pursue other opportunities according to Robert Feder’s website.

It’s good to see “The Big DogSteve Duemig back on the airwaves in Tampa at WDAE. After a three month absence from the airwaves and an intense battle with cancer, Duemig returned to his afternoon drive slot last Monday. He says he’s feeling good and is excited to be back. To hear his emotional opening monologue click here.

ESPN 99.3FM in Southwest Florida is adding to its afternoon show. Former WEEI host Pete Sheppard has been brought in to partner with Craig Shemon weekdays from 2p-6p ET. “Shemon and Sheppard” made their debut on the station on Monday afternoon. You can learn more information by visiting the station’s website 993ESPN.com

Former ESPN Cleveland 850 WKNR talk show host Mark “Munch” Bishop has resurfaced. Bishop has signed on to host afternoons for FOX Sports Radio 1350 in Akron, Ohio. In addition to being offered locally, Bishop’s program will receive regional syndication on The Sports Animal in Youngstown, and FOX Sports Radio 1340 in Mansfield.

Joe Raineri is back on the south Florida airwaves again. The former sports talk show host on Alpha Media’s FOX Sports Radio 640 has made a format switch. Raineri is now hosting mornings on Revolution Radio 93.5FM. The station bills itself as an electronic dance station.

A new midday show is launching in June on FOX Sports Knoxville. The station has confirmed that “Talk Sports” will debut June 19th and air weekdays from 10a-1p ET. The show will be hosted by Jon Reed and Boomer Dangel.

Coming up on Saturday June 3rd, Mad Dog Sports Radio‘s Morning Men featuring Evan Cohen and Mike Babchik will present their fan appreciation party, FALCon 2017. For information on how you can attend the event click here.

101 ESPN in St. Louis is hosting its 4th Annual Baseball Camp for Kids, which gives kids ages 6-13 a chance to learn the fundamentals of baseball from a few of its hosts, who just so happen to possess on the field credibility. The event takes place at GCS Ballpark on June 3rd! Former Cardinals and World Series Champions Chris Duncan (middays) and Brad Thompson (afternoon show), and former Miami University Baseball Player Kevin Wheeler (middays) will serve as primary instructors. For more information on the promotion click here.

Congratulations to Ryan Chell who has signed on with WFNZ in Charlotte as producer of Primetime with Chris Kroeger. Chell previously worked for SiriusXM in Washington D.C. before making the move.

Ryan Radtke is leaving his position as the University of Nevada Wolf Pack‘s play-by-play voice of football and men’s basketball in order to join Westwood One as a play-by-play announcer for college football, college basketball and other sporting events. Radtke spent nine years calling Wolf Pack games and also served as the voice of the Reno Aces minor league baseball team.

New agreements have been secured by Learfield Sports with two of its existing partners. The broadcast group has extended their partnership with Utah State University and the University of North Dakota.

Alpha Media has launched a brand new sports radio station in Peoria, Illinois. The Larry Wilson led company has introduced 95.9 The Sports Nut to local listeners. The station’s programming will be largely provided by FOX Sports Radio. A local show is being hosted by Scott Robbins from 4p-6p CT.

In Nashville, ESPN 94.9 The Game 2 has added a weekly Soccer show on Saturday mornings at 8am ET. The show, which has been created in conjunction with the Nashville Soccer Club, will feature Julian Council, hosting alongside different members of the club’s front office and coaching staff. To read the press release click here.

Paul Esden Jr. has been hired as a producer at 1260 The Score in Syracuse. Esden previously worked for ESPN Syracuse 97.7 and 100.1.

Speaking of producer hires, congratulations to Gavin Kinsel who’s been named Executive Producer of the NBA on TuneIn.

Gary Lawless has left the Winnipeg Free-Press and TSN in order to join the NHL’s new expansion franchise the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Lawless worked his final shift in Winnipeg on Friday and is in transition to the city of sin. You can read his introductory column to Golden Knights fans by clicking here.

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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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Sports Radio News

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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Sports Radio News

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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