Tuesday evening, Sarah Spain announced this will be the last week for Spain and Fitz on ESPN’s radio network, triggering multiple schedule changes and future questions. ESPN has yet to make an official announcement on their new radio lineup.
According to Spain, she will continue to host the 6 – 9pm ET window on ESPN Radio, but her weeknight co-host of 17 months is moving to mornings. Via Twitter, Fitz confirmed his ESPN Radio move, which means a return of First & Last, a solo hosted show from 5 – 6am that precedes Golic and Wingo.
First and Last was previously hosted by Mike Golic Jr. from 4 – 6am. Much like Golic Jr., Fitz will stick around the radio airwaves following First and Last as a daily contributor to Golic and Wingo. According to Spain, Golic Jr. will remain on ESPN Radio’s morning show hosted by his father and Trey Wingo.
With Fitz headed to mornings, the 6 – 9pm show on ESPN Radio will be renamed Spain and Company, with Jordan Cornette and Jason Goff joining the weeknight timeslot to create a program filled with former Chicago sports radio hosts.
Last month, Cornette announced he would be leaving his weekday morning TV show, The Jam on WCIU Channel 26 in Chicago. This Friday is his last day on The Jam, but Cornette also co-hosts David Kaplan’s midday show on ESPN 1000.
Jason Goff, who will join Spain and Company as a full-time contributor, also has a Chicago sports radio background, having worked at 670 The Score for parts of two decades. Goff began hosting part-time and weekends for ESPN Radio last fall, and earlier this month announced an extended contract with the network. Since joining ESPN in September, Goff has served as a regular fill-in on Spain and Fitz. Goff also co-hosts a daily morning show on SiriusXM’s Big Ten channel from 7 – 10am.
Parker Hillis Named Brand Manager of Sports Radio 610
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.”
Schopp & Bulldog: NFL Has To Figure Out Pro Bowl Alternative That Draws Same Audience
“The game just could not be less interesting.”
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.”
Iowa Adds WCKG As Chicago Radio Affiliate
“The Hawkeyes open their season at home on September 3 against FCS power South Dakota State.”
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.