The University of Illinois announced a multi-year partnership with Cumulus and their new flagship radio station, WLS-AM 890. The agreement replaces Entercom’s 670 The Score as The University of Illinois flagship radio partner and lasts through 2023-24 season.
“We’re thrilled to be a part of this great combination; a program rich in college sports history with a station rich in radio history… serving Chicago, Illinois, and much of the lower 48 for 95 years! We look forward to delivering high-quality game broadcasts and programming for the passionate Illini fanbase, ensuring they won’t miss a key moment of any game, home or away,” said Jeff Hill, VP of Sales for Cumulus Chicago.
In addition to broadcasting games, the partnership also allows WLS to carry a weekly radio show with head football coach Lovie Smith and head basketball coach Brad Underwood when their teams are in season.
“Our new agreement with WLS-AM 890 fulfills our longstanding interest in a strong, dedicated, synergistic radio partner in the Chicago market,” said UI Director of Athletics Josh Whitman. “The Chicago media market is extremely competitive, but now Fighting Illini fans throughout the Midwest can listen to each of our football and men’s basketball games on the powerful signal that WLS brings to the airwaves. We are excited about this new relationship and are grateful to WLS-AM 890 for their partnership, along with our colleagues at Fighting Illini Sports Properties for brokering this promising new arrangement.”
The Fighting Illini Sports Network boasts 50 radio affiliates in the Midwest. All broadcasts are managed by the University’s multimedia rightsholder, Fighting Illini Sports Properties. WLS coverage as an affiliate of the Fighting Illini begins with the 2019 football season.
Eric Chiofalo & Zack Wolchuck Join GBag Nation
“Wolchuck and Chiofalo join the show on a permanent basis beginning on Friday.”
Jeff Cavanaugh exited 105.3 The Fan in March. It has taken a while, but on Thursday, GBag Nation introduced the men that will take his place on the station’s afternoon show.
Nighttime hosts Eric Chiofalo & Zack Wolchuck are moving from their show The Nosebleed Seats into the afternoon slot. They will join Gavin Dawson, Lucious Alexander, and Bryan Broaddus as the newest members of the GBag Nation cast.
Dawson said that the show heard from a lot of people that wanted a spot on the show. They went through months of auditions and conversations before making their decision.
“The Nosebleed Seats united inside the GBag Nation joining the three of us,” Dawson proclaimed. “We are once again five-wide, gentlemen. We couldn’t be more excited to add you. Thanks for coming aboard.”
Wolchuck began his sports radio days as an intern for the show while attending the University of North Texas.
“This is pretty big,” he said. “It really is a dream come true, growing up in the Metroplex to now be in afternoon drive with you here on the best station in the world. This is what it is all about boys.”
Eric Chiofalo joked that his mother sent out a group text to “about 100” family members and friends telling them to listen to the announcement on 105.3 The Fan. As a result, his leg was vibrating like crazy as people text in their congratulations to him.
Wolchuck and Chiofalo join the show on a permanent basis beginning on Friday.
John Skipper: ‘Charles Barkley Is The Only Broadcaster Fans Tune In To See’
“Dan Patrick asked Skipper if that meant ESPN ever tried to sign Barkley while Skipper was in charge.”
John Skipper has a very high opinion of Charles Barkley. He joined Dan Patrick on Thursday to talk about Tom Brady’s new deal with FOX. The Meadowlark Media boss made it clear that he thought Barkley was in rarified air amongst his broadcasting colleagues.
“I think there are only three or four people in the history of broadcasting that you can genuinely say people tune in to see them. The late, great John Madden, who just recently passed, was one of those guys. Barkley is the guy right now in all of sports that you can say people will tune in to see him.”
Dan Patrick asked Skipper if that meant ESPN ever tried to sign Barkley while Skipper was in charge.
“There’s almost nobody who’s really, really good that we didn’t try to get,” Skipper said adding that the problem was that ESPN asks its employees to work too much.
He said this same problem came up when he talked to Shaquille O’Neal about coming to Bristol. Skipper pitched Shaq on being the star of ESPN’s NBA coverage instead of “playing second fiddle to Barkley on TNT.”
Skipper says Shaq told him that he had already talked to Charles Barkley, who had said that at TNT there were no rehearsals, no First Take appearances and no SportsCenter hits. The Inside the NBA crew gets to just show up and talk basketball. That was all Shaq was looking for.
John Skipper acknowledged that the workload can be a disadvantage for ESPN in those situations. ESPN has a lot of programming to fill though and the model they use has worked for them. It wasn’t for Shaquillel O’Neal or Charles Barkley, and Skipper says that is okay. TNT created a show that stands out above other studio shows because it plays to its cast’s strengths.
“It’s because they look like they’re having fun,” Skipper said, explaining why Inside the NBA is his favorite sports studio show. “They know what they’re talking about. They’re willing to be provocative, they’re willing to mash it up, and it’s great.”
FanDuel CMO: ‘We Will Never See All 50 States Legalize Sports Betting’
“I think you’ll see a continued, steady pace for the next few years and then you’ll get close to a critical mass, but my hunch would be no. You won’t get all 50.”
Every year a group of new states decides to legalize sports betting. FanDuel CMO Mike Raffensperger doesn’t think that means there will be a day when his company can take bets from wherever it wants in the United States.
“I don’t think it will ever get to 50,” he told Pat McAfee on Thursday.
There are still 15 states where betting on sports is illegal. Raffensperger cited Utah as an example, saying that in some places, the opposition to gambling is built into the state constitution. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t expect progress to continue elsewhere.
McAfee theorized that the Covid-19 pandemic, while not a good thing, was beneficial in the effort to legalize sports gambling across the country. He asked Raffensperger if it created a culture where more people became used to connecting to the rest of the world on their phones.
Raffensperger answered that it certainly helped. Plus, it was a time when state governments needed to find new sources of income. Sports betting created a whole new tax revenue stream in a time when large sectors of the economy were shut down. That is why he is confident that a good chunk of the 15 holdouts will eventually embrace sports betting.
“This is really common sense legislation,” he said. “Everybody pretty much wants this to happen. It’s taking a black market that is unregulated and unsafe into a safe and regulated environment and it creates new revenue for the state.”