College football has stumbled upon something brilliant. Whether it was a conscious effort or not, the sport has found itself being talked about off the field as much as it does on the field. That’s a win.
Credit that to the idea of the College Football Playoff Rankings Show that airs every Tuesday night from now until the end of the conference championship weekend. In college markets all across the country the conversation on sports radio stations is how the committee will react to the local team just as much as it is what they did Saturday on the field.
In Birmingham this week, the LSU-Alabama game has certainly gotten its fair share of run. But the fallout of the game and how it impacts the rankings is equally as compelling.
Cole Cubelic, host of 3 Man Front on WJOX 94.5 FM talked mostly on Monday about what happened during the game, but says the conversation shifts more to the rankings as the week goes on.
“I think Monday was probably 60 or 70 percent what happened in the game,” said Cubelic. “Obviously a lot of that shifted into playoff discussion and what might happen. Tuesday, it was much more playoff talk and probably 15-20 percent of what happened in the game. ”
James Crepea of Fox Sports Eugene has taken a similar strategy.
“On the air on a Monday after a game I really look at the game first,” Crepea said. “Then, in a subsequent break, get into, alright, that happened with Oregon, here’s some things that happened nationally and what that might mean come Tuesday when the new rankings come out.”
Beau Bishop of 97.1 The Fan in Columbus has been covering the rankings since they debuted in 2014. He’s seen Ohio State both get and not get the benefit of the doubt. But it was his first year covering the rankings that has shaped his opinion on the show.
“In the first year of the College Football Playoff in 2014, we would go over it on Monday and Tuesday with a fine tooth comb,” said Bishop. “The way we approached it was with a poll mentality, which means, if you won, you either stay or you move up. If you lose, you drop, simple as that.
“Typically, in the history of polls, both the AP and Coaches, if you don’t lose it’s really hard for teams to jump you. They’re pretty static. Our attitude was always a poll mentality, thinking you’re not going to jump teams that are ahead of you. Then in the final poll of 2014, Ohio State jumped Baylor and TCU and got to No. 4. At that point, I said ‘the rules don’t apply to the College Football Playoff Committee. They can do whatever the hell they want, whenever they want to do it.’
“This is a fun thing, week-to-week, it’s a television show they’re making. They will decide in the final poll who the four teams are and the rest of it is just fun. It’s like cake. It tastes good but there’s no substance to it week-to-week, because it’s a television show. But that hasn’t stopped me from having fun with it, I put that out there to our listeners and say, look, this doesn’t mean anything, let’s have fun for 15 minutes.”
Doing my own show in Norman, OK, another college football market, I agree with Cubelic and Crepea that Mondays should still be about what happened in the game, but as Tuesday arrives, the conversation needs to heavily sway into what the upcoming rankings will look like. Then, as Wednesday comes, reactions to what the rankings mean or what the committee is telling us, should be what you focus the most on.
But what’s the biggest day for rankings talk: the Tuesday before the release or the Wednesday after?
“After, for sure,” said Bishop. “The fans love it. They absolutely love it. There’s also the SEC/Big 10 thing that’s there. The other thing we have fun with, and we talk about it quite a bit, is the fact this is a television show. Not just the poll, but the actual College Football Playoff is a television show.”
Crepea is dealing with establishing a new show on a new station, but can already see the traction that relevant discussions around the College Football Playoff has created.
“Because of the relative newness of not only my show, but the station as a whole, but especially my show, getting more by way of callers and that in-show feedback is a bit harder because of how new we are,” Crepea said. “At the moment, I’m looking more for analytics from podcasts of the show. I know last week, for the most part, we did pretty well. Both Tuesday leading into the rankings and the day after was pretty similar, from that type of metric and measure. I think as the weeks go on, and I’m on the air as the rankings come out, I would think those days will garner most of that.”
Hosts in college football markets are doing themselves a disservice if they don’t acknowledge how listeners gravitate towards content centered on the rankings. Essentially, its bonus content for hosts that is almost guaranteed to rile up a fan base, or even in some cases, multiple fan bases in a market. One thing is for sure: Fans crave it and it plays extremely well over the radio.
“Absolutely it is,” said Cubelic. “Especially in my market, because all we say is, should Alabama be in? Or, is Alabama one of the best four teams? It’s an immediate Twitter and phone feedback. Then, you’re going to get one person call in and say why they should be in and three more are going to disagree. This College Football rankings show every Tuesday, I’ve seen people make light of it or make fun of it, saying it doesn’t matter and nobody pays attention to it. What blows my mind is that people who are actually in the sports talk radio business are dumb enough to think that these ratings don’t matter, when it’s there for us. It’s instant material for us that can really last the rest of the week, if you want it to.”
What about guests to talk about rankings? It’s common to bring on someone to talk or break down an upcoming game, so wouldn’t having a guest to talk about the rankings essentially be the same thing?
“We don’t have anybody on specifically for that,” said Cubelic. “But in the past, we’ve had Heather Dinich and Brad Edwards. Peter Burns and Tom Hart were on today (Tuesday) to talk about it. Yesterday, we had Jordan Rodgers on, we asked him about it. If you get a college football analyst on the show, you’re going to ask them their Top 4, as well as if Alabama is in or out right now. It’s a direction we go, but I think if you bring somebody on just to talk about that right now, this close to Bama-LSU being over and what that game meant, you’re limiting yourself just a little bit. But that’s not to say we won’t do it down the road.”
So yes, talk about the rankings. Especially if the team you cover is in the hunt. But even if you cover a team that’s outside the Top 25 or out of the College Football Playoff race, the rankings are still compelling enough to create interesting content.
The most interesting conversations on college football this week aren’t any of the upcoming games on Saturday or even the weekends to come. The most interesting conversations sound like this: “Why did Alabama only drop to No.5? When will undefeated Minnesota get the credit it deserves? Does the committee hate the Big 12?”
That’s what the conversations around college football are right now. And it’s because of the College Football Playoff Rankings.
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.