The Heisman Trophy will be handed out on Saturday night. Three quarterbacks will be on stage at the Downtown Athletic Club. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa or Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray could walk away with the hardware. Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins…well, at least he gets a free trip to New York.
As the college football season winds down and award after award is handed out, we thought it might be fun to hand out some college football accolades of our own. Who has made the greatest impact going from the college football field to a radio studio? Each of Barrett Sports Media’s contributors have an opinion and are ready to hand out their Sports Radio Heisman Trophy.
JASON BARRETT – Boomer Esiason (Maryland Terrapins QB, WFAN morning host)
When you think of former football players who’ve transitioned into sports radio and made a permanent impact there’s no better example than Boomer Esiason. He’s performed like a hall of fame talent for two decades, and is my choice for the Sports Radio Heisman.
I could begin by highlighting his TV work on CBS, ABC, and Showtime but since this is a radio piece, I’ll start by pointing out that Boomer spent 19 years on Westwood One calling Monday Night Football games, a broadcasting record.
Next, it’s well documented that without Don Imus, WFAN doesn’t become a dominant force in New York. When Imus was let go by The Fan after his Rutgers remarks in 2007, the hole in mornings on the radio station was enormous. Esiason wanted the challenge of replacing Imus, teamed up with Craig Carton, and proceeded to own morning drive in the nation’s #1 market for the next decade.
Then, just as everything was going perfectly, Carton was arrested in September 2017 for his involvement in a ponzi scheme. The Fan could’ve easily lost its way in mornings, but Boomer wouldn’t let that happen. The morning show finished 1st for the 2017 fall book, the first following Carton’s exit. Fast forward to 2018 where Gregg Giannotti has since replaced Carton as Boomer’s partner, and The Fan’s morning show is once again high atop the ratings.
Keep in mind, Boomer was a football star. He earned a good living on the gridiron. Most athletes in his position wouldn’t wake up and host a radio show at 6am for 11 years, work Sunday’s each football season on CBS, and spend 19 years with Westwood One working Monday Night football games. Nor would they want the pressure of replacing a New York radio legend like Imus or take on the challenge a second time when losing a partner who they just spent a decade having incredible success with.
From a hosting standpoint, what impresses me most about Boomer is that he does his homework on all sports, speaks with authority, and doesn’t take himself too seriously. He also uses his profile to lift up his teammates. Those qualities have helped him become just as elite of a host as he was a football player, and that’s saying something because he won an MVP award, led the NFL in passing 2x and played in 4 pro bowls during a 14-year career.
DEMETRI RAVANOS – Petros Papadakis (USC Trojans RB, KLAC Afternoons)
There are plenty of guys that go from the gridiron to the broadcast booth. A good portion of them come into their new job willing to have fun and make fun of themselves. No one does it with more enthusiasm than Petros Papadakis.
The former USC fullback and his partner, Matt “Money” Smith, were a revelation for so many of us that lived outside of LA when the duo began filling the night time slot on Fox Sports Radio. Those guys know sports. Petros himself is the national radio personality that I trusted the most to talk college football. It was clear his opinions were backed up by observation and facts.
But it wasn’t his knowledge that made me a Petros loyalist to the point that I continued listening to the show on the iHeartRadio app even after it went back to being an LA-only entity. No one on radio has more fun than Petros Papadakis. His Lance Romance bit, the nonsensical show themes like “walk your bike Wednesday,” hell even his voice all point to the fact that this is a guy that isn’t concerned whether or not you think he’s a genius. He just wants to make sure you think he is worth coming back to listen to over and over again.
TYLER MCCOMAS – Mark Schlereth (Idaho Vandals G, 104.3 the Fan Mornings)
“Cleats on the grass!”
When I hear that, I instantly think of Mark Schlereth and his famous tagline heard on 104.3 The Fan in Denver. To me, “Stink” is the most polished show host out of any former football player on the airwaves. That carries over in the booth, where he excels at in-game analysis as a color commentator.
Along with co-host Mike Evans, ‘Schlereth and Evans’ has been at the top of Denver sports radio for a very long time, which doesn’t seem like it will change anytime soon. Schlereth can Talk Rockies or Nuggets, but he sticks with what’s he knows best – the Broncos and the NFL. Having Stink on the airwaves gives 104.3 The Fan a perspective from both the former player and the national expert with a voice that several people across of the country recognize.
BRIAN NOE – Mike Golic (Notre Dame Fighting Irish DT, ESPN Radio Mornings)
When it comes to a debate of who should win the Sports Radio Heisman of former college football players turned talk show hosts, it’s a no-contest. The only part to figure out is who will finish in second place behind Mike Golic.
One of the most popular shows in sports radio history was ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike. It was a 17-year run for Mike Golic on the show. Since that time, he is still in the national spotlight while hosting Golic and Wingo. The show is celebrating its one-year anniversary this week.
What other former college football player has those credentials? That would be no one from the University of Non-Existent. Better yet, not only has Golic been highly successful in sports radio for nearly two decades, he’s routinely repping his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, which further heightens his association with college football.
Put it all together and it’s a no-brainer. Mike Golic wins this contest by a mile.
DAVE GREENE – Cole Cubelic (Auburn Tigers C, Jox 94.5 Middays)
Since Archie Griffin is the only two-time winner, when you’re talking about a Heisman candidate it should be someone making a big impact that’s fairly new on the scene. This is a good description for Cole Cubelic. A former Auburn offensive lineman (1997-2000) and team captain, Cubelic has risen quickly over the last few years and is becoming one of the top college football analysts in the country.
On radio, Cole teams with Aaron Suttles and Landrum Roberts in middays on JOX 94.5, a powerhouse station in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. On television he teams with Tom Hart and Jordan Rodgers during SEC Saturday Night on SEC Network.
An 18-game starter at center during his days with the Tigers, Cubelic has a knack for making X’s and O’s football discussion incredibly compelling. Cubelic’s passion for college football comes bursting out of the microphone whether he’s in the studio at JOX, on camera while down on the sidelines for television or during one of his many guest appearances on shows across the country including The Paul Finebaum Show. Whether you’re listening, watching or reading Cole’s takes on the SEC and college football, you can expect to be highly entertained while being well informed, an award winning combination in my book.
MATT FISHMAN – Rick Neuheisel (UCLA Bruins QB, SiriusXM ESPNU Radio Middays)
For those not young enough to remember Rick Neuheisel as a player, he was a quarterback at UCLA and won the Rose Bowl MVP in 1984 as UCLA upset #4 Illinois. Following his playing days, primarily in the USFL, he went on to be the head coach at Colorado, Washington, and UCLA.
Since 2012, Rick has been a host on SiriusXM. He currently co-hosts “Full Ride” with Chris Childers weekdays from 10am to 1pm Eastern on ESPNU Radio, SiriusXM Channel 84. Steve Cohen, SiriusXM’s SVP of Sports Programming says of Neuheisel, “The knowledge and passion he possesses for college sports is infectious. He’s never boring and fans love the entertaining way he presents his brand of college sports talk. “
I really like that Neuheisel has fully embraced the medium. He doesn’t take himself too seriously and he has written and performed numerous college sports related parody songs including “Born in the SEC,” “We Love This Game” and “Johnny Football.”
I chose Rick for the sports radio Heisman for his knowledge, personality and preparation. Additionally, Rick was a quarterback and since 2000, only two non-quarterbacks have won the Heisman.
BRANDON CONTES – Brian Jones (Texas Longhorns LB, currently off air)
I can listen to anyone talk about the NFL, NBA or baseball, but as a native Long Islander and St. John’s alum, my college football fandom was never strong which is exactly how I know Brian Jones is great.
The first time I heard the college football analyst and former NFL linebacker was on CBS Sports Radio. Jones was hosting weeknights with Chris Moore and I followed him through his years as a morning host with Gregg Giannotti.
I didn’t find Jones entertaining because of his college or NFL affiliations, but because of his infectious personality. Sure the insight is intelligent and the analysis is well-thought, but its Jones’s genuine energy that makes whatever topic he’s talking about a must listen.
Networks are filled with talented college football talkers, but in a sport where it’s difficult to keep my full-attention, I seek commentary from Jones. Through his ability to entertain, when you hear Jones on the radio you forget he’s a “football guy” and understand his talent as a “radio guy.”
Jones hasn’t had a regular radio show since CBS Sports shuffled their lineup after Giannotti joined Boomer Esiason on WFAN. He keeps busy with multiple TV shows along with contributing as a radio guest, but I hold out hope that at least a podcast is in Brian’s future.
Keeping Premier League Games Shouldn’t Be A Hard Call For NBC
“Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans.”
NBC Sports is facing some tough, costly decisions that will define its sports brand for the rest of this decade. A chance to connect with viewers in a changing climate and grow Peacock’s audience as well. However, making the right choice is paramount to not losing to apps like Paramount+ (pun intended).
NBC is currently in the business of negotiating to continue airing the Premier League as their current deal ends after this 2021-2022 season. NASCAR is contracted to NBC (and FOX) through the 2024 season.
NBC’s tentpole sports are the NFL and the Olympics.
Negotiations for the EPL are expected to go down to the wire. Rather than re-up with NBC, the league is meeting with other networks to drive up the price. NBC has to then make a decision if the rights go north of $2 billion.
Should NBC spend that much on a sport that is not played in the United States? It’s not my money, but that sport continues to grow in the US.
If NBC re-ups with the Premier League, will that leave any coins in the cupboard to re-up with NASCAR? Comcast CEO Brian Roberts hinted that there might be some penny pinching as the prices continue to soar. This may have been one of the reasons that NBC did not fight to keep the National Hockey League, whose rights will be with Disney and WarnerMedia through ESPN and TNT, respectively.
“These are really hard calls,” Roberts said. “You don’t always want to prevail, and sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong, but I think the sustainability of sports is a critical part of what our company does well.”
Roberts was speaking virtually at the recent Goldman Sachs 30th Annual Communacopia Conference. He told the audience that between NBC and European network Sky, that Comcast has allocated approximately $20 billion towards these sports properties.
Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh spoke virtually at the Bank of America Securities 2021 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference and echoed that the company is in a good position to make some strong choices in the sports realm.
“The bar is really high for us to pursue outright acquisitions of any material size,” Cavanagh added. “We got a great hand to play with what we have.”
While the European investments involve a partnership with American rival Viacom, the US market seems to have apparent limits.
Last Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway was seen by around 2.19 million people. It was the most-watched motorsports event of the weekend. That same week eight different Premier League matches saw over 1 million viewers. More than half of those matches were on subscription-based Peacock.
Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans. A game of typical soccer fan is used to a sport that is less than two hours long. The investment in a team is one or two games a week.
My connection to the Premier League began before the pandemic. When I cut the cord in late 2017, I purchase Apple TV. Setting it up, it asks you to name your favorite teams. After clicking on the Syracuse Orange and the New Jersey Devils, I recalled that my wife has family based in London, England. They are season ticket holders for Arsenal, and that family redefined the word “die-hard” fans.
I’ve long been a believer that sports allegiances are best when handed down by family. I love hearing stories of people loving the New York Giants because their parents liked them, and they pass it down to their children.
I’ve successfully given my allegiance to the Devils to my young daughters.
By telling Apple TV that I liked Arsenal, I get alerts from three different apps when the “Gunners” are playing. The $4.99 is totally worth it to see Arsenal.
Whenever I told this story, I was amazed to see how many other American sports fans had a Premier League team. Students of mine at Seton Hall University rooted for Tottenham Hotspurs, while an old colleague cheers on Chelsea.
This is not meant to say that NBC should sign the EPL on my account. The key for any US-based soccer fan is that between Bundesliga, Serie A, and other leagues, there will be no shortage of soccer available on both linear television and streaming services.
Besides, Dani Rojas did say that “Football is life.” NBC, originator of the Ted Lasso character, should make keeping its Premier League US connection a priority.
Media Noise – Episode 45
Today, Demetri is joined by Tyler McComas and Russ Heltman. Tyler pops on to talk about the big start to the college football season on TV. Russ talks about Barstool’s upfront presentation and how the business community may not see any problems in working with the brand. Plus, Demetri is optimistic about FOX Sports Radio’s new morning show.
6 Ad Categories Hotter Than Gambling For Sports Radio
“Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life.”
For years sports radio stations pushed sports gambling advertisers to early Saturday and Sunday morning. The 1-800 ads, shouting, and false claims were seedy, and some stations wouldn’t even accept the business at 5 am on Sunday.
Now, with all but ten states ready to go all in on sports gambling, sports radio stations can’t get enough of that green. Demetri Ravanos wrote about the money cannon that sports gambling has become for stations. Well, what if you are in one of those ten states where it isn’t likely to ever be legal like California or Texas? Where is your pot of gold?
Or, let’s face it, the more gambling ads you run, the more risk you take on that the ads will not all work as you cannibalize the audience and chase other listeners away who ARE NOT online gambling service users and never will be. So, what about you? Where is your pot of gold?
Well, let’s go Digging for Gold.
The RAB produces the MRI-Simmons Gold Digger PROSPECTING REPORT for several radio formats. In it, they index sports radio listeners’ habits against an average of 18+ Adult. The Gold Digger report looks at areas where the index is higher than the norm – meaning the sports radio audience is more likely to use the product or service than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. The report, generated in 2020, indicates that sports radio listeners are 106% more likely to have used an online gambling site in the last thirty days. That’s impressive because the report only lists 32 activities or purchases a sports radio listener indexes higher than an average adult. I looked at those 32 higher indexes, and I think we can start looking for some gold.
Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life. The gambling companies who commit significant money to get results will continue advertising and chase the others away. So, the future of sports radio needs to include other cash cows.
If it is evident to online sports gambling services that sports radio stations are a must-buy, who else should feel that way? I looked at the Top 32 and eliminated the media companies. ESPN, MLB/NHL/NFL networks, and others aren’t spending cash on sports radio stations they don’t own in general. But Joseph A Bank clothing, Fidelity, and Hotwire should! Here’s your PICK-6 list I pulled together that’s hotter than sports gambling:
- Sportscard collectors, Dapper Labs, Open Sea- read about Sports NFT $.
- Online brokerage firms-Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Robinhood, Webull, TD Ameritrade
- Golf courses, resorts, equipment, etc.- we play golf at home and vacation
- Hotwire.com, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, Carnival Corporation, and Priceline.com- we’ve used Hotwire in the last year.
- FedEx, UPS, U.S. Postal Service, Venmo, PayPal, Zelle-we wired or overnighted $
- Jos. A. Bank, shein.com, macys.com, nordstroms.com- we went to Jos. A. Bank in last three months
The sports card/NFT market is 32% hotter than the sports betting market for sports radio listeners. Everything on the PICK-6 is at least 100% more likely to purchase than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. All listed are at or above indexing strength compared to sports betting. The individual companies I added are industry leaders. Bet on it! Email me for details.
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