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When Houston Froze, Armen Williams & Sports Radio 610 Didn’t

“We built a clear mission statement as to who we are and what we want to be every single segment and every single minute and every single second.”

Brian Noe

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There is a reason we don’t associate the city of Houston, Texas with freezing temperatures and winter storm conditions. It typically doesn’t come close to resembling Antarctica in H-Town.

Well, things changed in a dramatic way last week as the city was ravaged by a storm that left millions of people without power or water for days. The focus shifted from the future of quarterback Deshaun Watson to simply finding ways to stay warm and eat.

Two Freezing Nights Before a Warm Up | Houston Press

SportsRadio 610 program director Armen Williams describes the week in specific detail. He tells some remarkable stories about how his staff worked through the storm. They basically double as the SWAT team of sports radio. I think Sean Pendergast might be on the 2022 US Olympic Cross Country Team and my money is on John Lopez continuing to broadcast through the Apocalypse.

Armen also talks about how the community rallied together — even during a pandemic — to help each other out. SportsRadio 610 provided some much-needed support for Kids’ Meals Houston. It isn’t a surprise that Entercom Houston was able to assist considering its Community Impact Report states they helped raise over $18 million dollars for the area in 2020. The tales of one wild week are below. Enjoy.

Brian Noe: Did your station lose power or go off the air at all?

Armen Williams: No, our engineering team at Entercom Houston is incredible. They always rise to the occasion during crisis and this one was no different. All of our stations were on the air the entire time during the storm. We have a backup generator and we never lost power at the radio station.

BN: Was that rare in the area?

AW: You know, I don’t know. I was so focused on my own station. I heard of other stations going off the air for a couple of days, but I haven’t confirmed it. We were just so focused on trying to stay on and take care of our own staff that I’m not really sure honestly what the radio landscape across the board looked like during those few days.

BN: For anybody that doesn’t live in that area, how would you describe what the weather crisis was like for Houston?

AW: They’re calling it the worst winter storm this area has seen since ’89, maybe ‘82. It’s the coldest, iciest winter storm we’ve had in over 30 years. The city and this area just aren’t made for that. Our houses aren’t built for that. We’re just not equipped to withstand that. As a program director, my number one goal during these times is to make sure that we’re on the air and putting together a good product. But in a rare time like this — there was a moment maybe Monday afternoon into Tuesday morning — I flipped the script. I thought to myself for one of the first times in my career, the on-air content today is not my top priority. I’ve got to make sure that all of my employees are staying warm, have a roof over their head, have food to eat, and if they don’t, how do I get somebody to them?

Probably by Tuesday afternoon, we had the majority of our employees without power, most of them without water. Only one person on our SportsRadio 610 staff had electricity throughout. Everyone including myself lost it at some point whether it was for one day or four days. We got to a point where it was just more important to make sure that everyone was in a spot that was safe and sustainable for the week.

One of our guys has three young kids — six and under — and they didn’t have power or water for four days. Our focus is turning to people like that. I’ve got to tell you that the listener behavior reflected that too. Monday was Presidents’ Day and on a national holiday you always have minimal listening. Tuesday, according to streaming numbers, was comparable if not lower than Monday and it kept going down until late in the week. That tells you too that the entire city wasn’t worried about whether or not their local sports station had a signal. The entire city was all in survival mode trying to take care of their families just like we were.

You’re taking your family and you’re all sleeping in your bed together just to help each other stay warm. You’re all going downstairs to the fireplace and everyone is just sitting around the fireplace for hours and hours, for days and days, until the power comes back on. You’re trying to find whatever non-perishable goods you might have in your pantry because at that time we couldn’t go anywhere. We couldn’t even pull out of our driveways, most of us, because they were iced all the way down.

BN: Who were some of the people from your station that were in a bad spot due to the weather?

AW: I am just so proud of the effort that the guys put into wanting to keep the radio station on for the community of Houston for those that were able to listen. Sean Pendergast in the mornings walked over two miles each way in weather below 20 degrees. He busted out his old ski jacket. He was walking in starting around four in the morning. The power is out, so it’s pitch-dark outside. The sidewalks are iced over so he’s literally walking in the middle of the road to get in. Landry Locker in middays did the same thing; walking in and out both ways for two or three days.

John Lopez on In The Loop — our midday show — this guy is incredible. He set up a generator at his house. During his show instead of powering his house, he used it to power his comrex so that he could stay on the air from his home. Literally during the show the upstairs pipe in his bathroom exploded. You could hear it in the background and the water busted through the ceiling and was flowing into his living room. He put his comrex on mute, told his wife where to go turn off the main water valve, unmuted himself and stayed on the air until the show was over. He didn’t go fix the pipe until after the show.

BN: [Laughs]

AW: If you want to talk about a professional radio savant, I don’t know how he did that. That was absolutely incredible to witness. I’m texting him going, ‘Dude get off the air.’ And he kept telling me, ‘No, I’m doing the rest of the show.’ I’ve just never seen the type of professionalism from these guys that they showed last week. Ron “The Show” Hughley, he didn’t have power for four days. He has three kids under the age of six. He’s been in the state of Texas for about a year now and they had the same story that many people had where they showed up at the hotel they had booked — the only one they could find — and their power went out as soon as they got there.

One of our producers, Tyler, didn’t have power for three or four days. One of our producers, Figgy, lived at the radio station during the week. He brought his wife up and his dog and lived at the radio station just so that he could keep us on the air. He worked through the majority of those days just to keep us on the air, producing multiple shows every single day during the week. There were definitely some unsung heroes, man, that did some pretty powerful things and have some great stories to tell.

When you asked the best way to put it in perspective for you, our country station put a poll up on Twitter and asked which was worse for you, Hurricane Harvey or this winter storm? Sixty-five percent of the people said this winter storm was worse than Hurricane Harvey. That puts it in perspective just how devastating it was during that time to not have power and water for the majority of Houston. 

BN: Wow, man. That’s wild. Are things pretty much back to normal now?

AW: Yeah. Friday was the first day that we had the full staff back. The majority of people who didn’t have water were starting to be able to take showers again on Friday. Then today you’re seeing listenership not quite be back to 100 percent, but for the first time in over a week, it’s almost there and it’s dramatically on the up. There’s no more ice on the ground. I would say nearly, if not 100 percent, of Houston has power. Most everyone has water back. There are some people just depending on availability of plumbers and where you’re located that are still working on getting their water back. But as far as our staff, it appears that we’re 100 percent back in working order.

BN: In terms of how the station sounded during that time, what direction did you give the staff as far as what to talk about?

AW: We built a clear mission statement as to who we are and what we want to be every single segment and every single minute and every single second. These guys in moments like this when it’s very fluid, they can still lean back on their mission statement and they know the direction of the content that we should project. But we did have conversations before each show during the week where I just reminded them, listen, your power and your water is out. It was a struggle for you just to find the microphone today, and you should tell that story because the majority of your audience is feeling the same way. Don’t ignore it, lean into it. Lean into the community. Let them know that we’re here for them. Let them know that if we can be an escape just for a little bit today, we want to do that. If there’s any way that we can help, shoot us a text to let us know what’s going on in your area, in your community. We definitely designated a large part of the content to that last week because everyone was going through it and it’s so rare where a phenomenon like this happened, but one of them definitely happened last week.

BN: To go from real life stuff to, “Hey, so JJ Watt and Deshaun Watson.” Was it awkward at all to turn the conversation back to sports during that time?

AW: No, because they’re so good at what they do, right? These guys, they are members of the community and so they have such a great feel of how much sports talk, how much Texans, Rockets, Astros talk Houston could handle, want to handle, or listen to during a time where everyone’s struggling. They did a really fantastic job of transitioning back and forth. It didn’t feel off because it’s just who we are.

We’ve had our ratings successes over the last two years because we have defined ourselves to the listener of what they can expect every time they come in regardless of the situation. They stuck true to that and for that reason I don’t think the listener found it odd at all. Ideally they found it welcoming, warming, and it was an escape in those moments. Again, the guys balanced it really well with talking about their own situations. Also giving some public service announcements of the local facilities that had opened themselves up if people were struggling to find a warm place to stay. They did a great job of balancing those things out.

BN: Do you guys have any charity efforts going on?

AW: Yeah, our market manager is Sarah Frazier. She’s one of the most tied in leaders to the community that I’ve ever seen. She already had her finger on the pulse and even by Thursday night when Houston was still mostly without electricity, she had targeted a nonprofit called Kids’ Meals Houston. They lost their entire food pantry with the electricity being out. They feed thousands of kids — six years old and under — every single day of the week. Without having any of their food, losing all of it last week, they’re in desperate need because kids in our Houston community were instantly going hungry.

Houston's Youth is having a “Hunger Free Summer” Thanks to Kids' Meals -  d-mars.com

Starting Friday morning we got together and all of our radio stations were running promos and digital advertisements letting everyone know how they can help make sure that we don’t have young kids in our community go hungry during this time.

BN: Did you, or have you ever, worked with local teams to get a charity event going?

AW: I have before. In this case it was really hard to communicate with people, Noe. When the power went out, cell phone coverage also went out and towers were down the majority of the time. I think there was a feeling of how can we as a team, with our eight to nine stations in the building, impact Houston in the quickest way possible, because it’s all about immediacy. These kids don’t have anything to eat right now. In this case it made the most sense to use our resources in house, not waste any time trying to get ahold of people to coordinate, and we just did our thing.

To your point, so did the local teams as well. They did their own advocacies as well. A lot of them actually mimicked and did things similar to Kids’ Meals and helped out Kids’ Meals as well. I think it’s also pretty neat when everybody does their own movements and then we can impact Houston in a wider and greater way as well.

BN: Coming from Albany and Denver, what’s the closest thing you can compare the storm to in terms of some wild scenario that was on your hands?

AW: I personally have never experienced anything like this. Everyone here compared it to Hurricane Harvey, but they said that this is even more different than a hurricane because more people were out of power and water longer than you normally are during a hurricane. Everyone here just talked about how they knew how to handle hurricanes, but they didn’t know how to handle this. I guess there’s been some winter storms in Albany and Denver that’s impacted the commute. I’ve spent the night at some radio stations when that happened, but the vast amount of houses that lost power and water in the city, I’ve never seen or experienced anything like that anywhere I’ve been. Pretty bizarre.

BN: Maybe the winter storm is a little like COVID where overall the situation sucks, but there’s some good that comes from it. What are some of the good things that came from the storm for your station?

AW: It’s another reminder even during the pandemic of our lifetime that we can come together as a community and we can help others. There are countless stories across Houston, across the state, across the country, of people helping complete strangers. You saw that in my neighborhood. I had neighbors knocking on doors of people they didn’t know and making sure that there weren’t any elderly, kids, or pets that needed warmth or comfort or food for that night.

It just brings us together as a society and maybe even more so during a time where we’ve had a year where we’ve been forced to separate. To see people mask up and operate without fear and go help other people; we feel it in the city of Houston. Today we are mentioning three to four times an hour asking for people to help us with Kids’ Meals Houston and the response has been incredible. We’ve had listeners put together hundreds of sack lunches for these kids at their house.

Armen Williams Named PD of Sports Radio 610 in Houston | Barrett Sports  Media

One of my hosts went to the grocery store and ran into listeners on the same aisle buying food for these kids. They bonded, they hugged, they took a picture together. It’s this moment that brought us all together. You’re right; we have to be better for it, or we’re going to drive ourselves insane. We’ve gotten closer. Also for the dozen people who spent several nights together at the radio station, they’re going to have stories to tell for the rest of their lives and memories of how they kept our radio stations on the air for all of Houston during that time. They should be prideful of that. The stories of individuals who did the same things during Hurricane Harvey, those stories still live today, and the stories that we have from last week will do the same thing.

BSM Writers

Jac Collinsworth Has Learned From The Best

“The way he would take all of the young people, myself included, under his wings. You couldn’t get this anywhere else.”

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Jac Collinsworth got his first taste of Notre Dame football while watching his brother Austin play for the Fighting Irish. There was his brother playing on special teams and getting a chance to return kicks.

“I remember sitting in the stands for his first football game inside Notre Dame Stadium thinking this is the coolest thing I’ve been a part of,” said Collinsworth. “The history of this building and my brother is out there in a Notre Dame jersey.”

Not only did Jac eventually go to Notre Dame as well, but he just completed his first season as the play-by-play voice for Notre Dame Football on NBC. As a student, Jac was part of the NBC sideline production team during his four-year education at South Bend from 2013 to 2017 and he was the sideline reporter for the NBC broadcast of the Blue/Gold spring game in 2016 and 2017.

“To work on the broadcasts for four years — as an intern really — with Alex Flanagan and then with Kathryn Tappen for three years down there on the sideline and being in all those production meetings, it was such an invaluable piece of the journey for me.”

And now, the 27-year-old is the television voice of the Fighting Irish.

“To see it all come full circle and be up there in the booth, it was really a special experience every single game,” said Collinsworth.

After graduating from Notre Dame, Collinsworth joined ESPN where he was a correspondent for NFL Live and Sunday NFL Countdown while also hosting the ESPN-owned ACC Network’s football show The Huddle.

Jac then returned to NBC in 2020 and was part of the Notre Dame telecasts during the pregame show and halftime show for two seasons. Collinsworth had the opportunity to learn under veteran play-by-play voice Mike Tirico, especially during the production meetings.

Tirico became a mentor to Collinsworth.

“I felt like I was getting a graduate degree watching him handle those meetings,” said Collinsworth. “The way he would take all of the young people, myself included, under his wings. You couldn’t get this anywhere else. To be able to do that for two years and still have him as a close friend and somebody I can text…I text with him before every single game.”

Another huge mentor to Collinsworth has been the legendary Al Michaels, the former play-by-play voice for Sunday Night Football who is now calling the Thursday night package for Amazon.

“I talk to him all the time,” said Collinsworth. “I’ve had dinner with him. He invites me out to play golf. We just get on the phone and spent 45 minutes just breaking down everything.  Every time that phone rings I don’t care what I’m in the middle of, I walk outside and I take that call.”

Collinsworth, the son of former Bengals wide receiver and current NFL Sunday Night Football analyst Cris Collinsworth, first felt the broadcasting itch growing up in Ft. Thomas, Kentucky.  It goes without saying that his father was a huge influence, but Jac remembers when Highlands High School was being renovated when he was in 7th and 8th grade.

The first part of the renovation was a brand-new broadcast facility.

“It was a studio that had these amazing cameras, a desk, lights and two sets,” recalled Collinsworth. “To this day, I’ve never seen a high school setup…I mean this is better than most college setups…a state of-the-art facility.”

The class was called “Introduction to Filmmaking” and Collinsworth started out wanted to be a cameraman. 

“I became obsessed with running around the school and filming all this stuff whatever students were doing,” said Collinsworth. 

From there, Jac gained experience in editing and producing but deep down inside he thought he wanted to be a cameraman…that was until his first taste of on-air experience.

“They started a rotation where everybody in the class had to try hosting the announcements live right before the final period of the day,” said Collinsworth.

And the rest is history.

An important part of Jac’s growth as a play-by-play announcer came last spring working NBC’s coverage of the United States Football League. Paired with Jason Garrett, Collinsworth was able to continue the learning process before taking over the Notre Dame duties. He appreciated the fact that these were really good football players that were among the best players on their college teams and could very well be in the NFL.

And just like for the players, the USFL was an opportunity for Jac to get better at his craft. 

“Just continuing to learn the art form of calling a game,” said Collinsworth. “The timing and getting out of the way sometimes and letting the broadcast breathe and rising for those big moments.” 

An incredibly big moment for Jack would be if the opportunity to work a game with his father ever presented himself. It’s something that he’s thought about and would love to see come to fruition somewhere down the road.

But if that happens, there could be a problem for the viewers.

“Would anybody be able to tell who is talking?” joked Jac.  

Jac and his father sound so much alike it’s scary. In fact, during our twenty-minute phone conversation, I really had to pay attention to listen for any discernable difference between Jac and his dad and it was very hard to find any.

But it would still be fascinating to hear them work together.

“I think it would be a very cool experience,” said Jac. “We would have so much chemistry that it would be a crazy experience. I would love to do it. I’d be getting out of his way and let him make points and I wouldn’t be afraid to take a couple of shots at him. I think it would be damn entertaining.” 

While their on-air roles are different, Jac has been able to learn a lot about broadcasting from his father. While he does — for the most part — give his son some space when it comes to work, Cris leaves Jac a note prior to each broadcast, mainly has it pertains to a specific aspect of a telecast like coming back from a break or the flow of a telecast.

But there’s one valuable lesson that Jac learned from his dad years ago that he has adopted for himself.

“Probably the biggest thing I’ve learned from him is, he is a worker man,” said Collinsworth.  “He just works at this stuff.” 

Jac would constantly see his father going through film at various hours during the day, but Cris would still pay close attention to his son’s studies at school and would let Jac know about it if he saw something wasn’t right.

Like when Jac would be having some difficulty with a math assignment.

“I’m like ‘Dad, this is calculus, I can’t figure out how to do this equation’,” said Jac. “He would put that clicker down and come up and he would be deep in the math book going through the chapters learning all this calculus that he hasn’t done in 40 years.  I’d come down at six in the morning and he’d still be flipping through the math book while I’m eating breakfast and he’s teaching me the lesson to make sure I got it for the quiz.

“That’s how he was…just the work element is the biggest thing that I still use every day and I definitely got it from him.”

Aside from his football duties, Collinsworth has also been a NASCAR studio analyst for NBC and he’s also been the voice of Atlantic Ten Men’s Basketball and the Atlantic Ten Tournament. There’s something to be said for getting experience in multiple sports because each sport has its own pace and its own flow.

Some play-by-play voices specialize in one sport and some can handle multiple assignments.  In Jac’s case, there’s one sport that stand above all the others.

“The rhythm, feel and flow of a football game is my favorite,” said Collinsworth. “Football has always been my first love and grew up around it. Basketball happens fast not to mention you’re on the court and you’re right there in the middle of it. I’ve called baseball games too and that’s a very slow game.” 

Jac Collinsworth is still very early in his broadcasting career but he has great talent and he’s been rewarded with some amazing opportunities like Notre Dame Football and being part of NBC’s NFL coverage.

But he knows that he’s had some help along the way and he’s very grateful for it.

“I feel like I’m living out a dream and I feel like I’m standing on a lot of people’s shoulders that helped me get there,” said Collinsworth. “I think about a lot of people who didn’t need to but chose to help me when I was a kid. I feel like I have a great responsibility to take that advice and take it as far as I can and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

And it all started with a high school television studio and his willingness to try all different aspects of the business.   

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BSM Writers

Chris Kinard Has 106.7 The Fan, The Team 980 Primed For Continued Success

“Coming right out of the books and beating our direct competitor in the first month will always be something I’m proud of.”

Derek Futterman

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When Jim Riggleman resigned as manager of the Washington Nationals in June 2011, it was the first time Chris Kinard thought the fanbase cared about the team.

Riggleman wanted the Nationals to pick up the option on his contract and effectively remove the “interim” tag from his job description, and once they declined to do so, he essentially packed up and left.

From the time he was young, Chris Kinard was interested in media, and he had early exposure in the industry since his uncle Lee worked as a television news anchor in Greensboro, N.C. The elder Kinard was the pioneer of the Good Morning Show on WFMY News 2 and was honored with the dedication of the main studio in his honor from where he worked since 1956.

By the time he was in fifth grade, Chris Kinard began listening to radio and realizing it may be a viable career path for him to pursue. He shadowed his uncle in 1996 to learn about news media and television broadcasting; however, he gravitated towards working in radio in part because of WJFK-FM, and had an affinity towards professional sports.

“A local morning show here in D.C. on a top 40 station was kind of my entry point,” Kinard said. “I listened to that show actually when it moved over to WJFK for years in middle school and high school.”

At the time, WJFK-FM was broadcasting in the talk format and was among the network of stations syndicating The Howard Stern Show and other programming targeted towards the male 25-54 demographic. Kinard was an avid listener of the station, tuning in to its programming for several hours a day over the course of many years.

Today, it is known as 106.7 The Fan and it is managed, along with Audacy’s cluster of radio stations by Kinard himself. He was responsible for flipping the station’s format from talk to sports in 2009 and has helped cement the brand as dominant in the ratings.

“Flipping the station to sports will always be a bittersweet thing for me,” Kinard said. “I grew up with the station [in] the previous format and I took a lot of pride in what we were doing at the time, but I think we launched with great success. Coming right out of the books and beating our direct competitor in the first month will always be something I’m proud of.”

During his freshman year at American University, he got word that The Sports Junkies were making a public appearance a few minutes away from his childhood home. Additionally, he found out the show was looking for people to volunteer to serve as interns, an opportunity he knew was simply too good to pass up.

Inherently shy, Kinard introduced himself with the hopes of landing an internship at WJFK-FM. A few weeks later, he received a phone call informing him that he was selected to work as an intern, a surreal opportunity for him to begin working in sports media. Little did he know he would still be working at the station, albeit in a more substantial role, 25 years later.

“When it started and when I was actually in the building and seeing the behind the scenes, I was kind of in awe,” Kinard said. “….I had no idea what I was doing really except that I really wanted to be there and couldn’t believe that I was and wanted to soak it all in.”

Three months later, one of the show’s producers who largely acted as a call screener left the station to pursue another opportunity in media. As a result, there was a gap to be filled, and since Kinard had been diligent and responsible as an intern, he was hired part-time to take over the role. At the conclusion of his sophomore year in college, he was hired full-time as the producer of The Sports Junkies – a development in his career he calls “fortuitous” initially difficult to foresee balancing with two years remaining to earn his undergraduate degree.

“It was a really kind of interesting conversation with my parents about whether to do it or not and how it would impact my schoolwork and that kind of thing,” Kinard said. “I just was determined to take that opportunity; I knew how scarce they were I guess just by seeing people who had been at the station and working part-time [for] several years who had left because they couldn’t get a full-time position.”

By the time he was in his junior and senior years, Kinard had valuable professional experience from working at WJFK-FM and also interning at the local ABC affiliate station. Although he participated in some of the student-run media outlets at the school, his mindset was to prioritize what he was doing off campus.

“I’m not sure that I actually got a lot out of college to be honest with you because I was doing it outside of school already just by kind of virtue of connections,” Kinard said. “Being in Washington, D.C. and all the opportunities that are available here, [that was] really… my focus more than anything else.”

During his first year as show producer, The Sports Junkies became nationally syndicated on Westwood One Radio and was achieving notoriety and high ratings within the marketplace. The show is hosted by four childhood best friends – John Auville, Eric Bickel, Jason Bishop, and John-Paul Flaim – who began the program on public access television in Bowie, Maryland before joining WJFK-FM as evening hosts in 1996. None of them had any formal broadcast training, instead utilizing their indelible chemistry and local background to auspiciously impact sports media.

“They’re very authentic,” Kinard expressed. “I think when people hear them, they can relate to them. They sound like every guy’s group of friends sound when you get together. I think they sound like our city; they sound like sports fans in Washington over the last 30 years.”

All four co-hosts recently inked four-year contract extensions to keep The Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan, officially putting pen to paper together in studio earlier this month.

Since 2016, The Sports Junkies has been simulcast on NBC Sports Washington, and although listeners now have the ability to add a visual component to their experience, it did not change how any of the co-hosts approach the job. From the beginning, there was a mutual understanding that the show would still operate in the same way with the cameras serving the purpose of pulling back the metaphorical curtain.

“It is really a fast-paced show in terms of the camera switching and the direction of it because there’s four guys, so I think this show translates really well,” Kinard said. “There’s a lot going on because there are four hosts, not just two talking heads. There’s also two producers that chime in a lot. There’s a lot of movement, I think, within the show because of just how dynamic of a cast it is.”

Since its official shift to the sports talk format in 2009, 106.7 The Fan had primarily competed with The Team 980 to try to win in the ratings. In November 2020, Audacy, officially agreed to acquire various stations across the United States owned by Urban One, including The Team 980, effectively ending that competition. Part of Kinard’s job is to oversee both sports talk stations, which now compete with ESPN 630 DC.

“We have some really talented staff,” Kinard said. “I’m not sure we’ve ever had more talent under one roof than we have now. Having two stations in my market allows me to groom new people and give people opportunities quicker than I could with just one station.”

Moreover, he helped launch 1580 The Bet, a radio station broadcasting in the growing sports gambling format in partnership with the BetQL Audio Network and CBS Sports Radio. Its creation coincided with a nationwide effort by Audacy to better utilize certain signals to their full potential, and with the proliferation and legalization of sports betting in select states across the country, many of them flipped to this format.

“I think it was important to have the BetQL Network represented in Washington at a high level because of the proximity to the MGM National Harbor, which is just kind of 15 minutes away from the radio station,” Kinard said. “[It is] on a signal that, in the past, had not been a big ratings play, so that was a great opportunity to just kind of own sports in Washington – to have 106.7 The Fan; The Team 980; and 1580 The Bet all under one umbrella.”

A compelling draw to sports radio is live game broadcasts, and as brand manager of Audacy DC, Kinard is responsible for maintaining 106.7 The Fan’s relationship with the Washington Capitals and Washington Nationals. When the teams are doing well, it usually results in better metrics for the station.

“There’s a huge correlation between winning and listenership and also advertiser interest,” Kinard said. “There’s a segment of the fanbase, I think, that thinks that local sports radio roots against the teams. It’s not that we root for the teams necessarily, but if you ask any host probably on any radio station in America whether it’s better for their individual show’s success and their overall station success if the teams are successful, I think everyone’s going to say it’s way better.”

Prior to the start of this NFL season, Audacy DC parted ways with the Washington Commanders due to a disagreement regarding “the value of the broadcasts.” The Team 980 was previously owned by the Washington Commanders franchise itself and had been the flagship station of the team for several years through its sale to Urban One in 2019. The Fan had not had the radio broadcast rights to the Commanders since 2006 before it was broadcasting in the sports talk format, hence why The Sports Junkies co-host Eric Bickel stated that the station had had no relationship with the team for two decades.

Since the Commanders officially entered into a new partnership with iHeartRadio, its flagship station has been BIG 100, which airs a classic rock format. Consequently, The Team 980 had the opportunity to change its on-air strategy, airing five hours of pregame coverage every week followed by extensive postgame coverage. During the games themselves, the station has broadcast Burgundy & Gold Gameday Live, a show that has had stellar listenership thus far.

“I think play-by-play rights are really important and do have a ton of value, but only if it’s done in a way where there’s partnership on both sides but also an understanding on both sides that the team has a job to do and the radio station has a job to do,” Kinard expressed. “Our focus is just to continue to provide great talk and coverage of the teams.”

As media continues to evolve with changes in technology and consumption habits, Kinard remains optimistic about the future because of the influx of new talent and the leadership at Audacy.

“We have just a wealth of talent and content, and I think that content will cut through no matter what’s going on with technology,” he said. “I think that we will continue to push to make sure that we are on the platforms that we need to be on and that we own that content and can monetize it for the future. I don’t know how anyone could compete with that, so I’m really excited about it.”

Kinard’s vertical movement in the industry might not have been possible without finding a mentor in Michael Hughes, the station’s general manager. Over the years working in the industry, Kinard grasped that managers are often not thinking about the needs and wants of individuals because of the myriad of responsibilities they are juggling related to the entity as a whole over any given period of time.

As a result, it is essential for subordinates to communicate with their superiors, as they are “at the mercy of the communication [they] receive,” according to Kinard.

“I had a conversation with him about… wanting to be a program director,” Kinard said of Hughes. “I think he took that seriously and took that to heart and he said, ‘Well, let me help you be prepared for that when the time might come.’ It just so happened that it came less than a year later.”

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BSM Writers

Pete Thamel Was ESPN’s College Football Missing Link

His no-frills approach is refreshing in a time when many “insiders” view being as famous as the athletes they cover as a quasi-goal for their futures.

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For a network often accused of “running” college football, it always seemed odd to me that ESPN never had that true news-breaking reporter it had for other sports. That is, until it hired Pete Thamel in January of this year.

ESPN poured resources into “insiders” like Adam Schefter, Adrian Wojnarowski, and Jeff Passan while it poured rights fees into the SEC, Big 12, Pac-12, ACC, and the College Football Playoff, but from the outside, it looked as if the network just wasn’t interested in having that same type of reporting for college football, which is truly puzzling.

When the entire postseason of the country’s arguably second favorite sport is centered around what is best for your television channel, you would think supplementing it with high level, national reporting would be a priority.

Maybe the right deals never came to fruition or maybe the value just wasn’t seen by the network until Thamel became available, but his contributions to ESPN’s college football coverage have been immeasurable.

In a day and age where reporters break news on Twitter and get around to eventually writing a story for their outlet’s website, Thamel flexed his reporting chops in a major way on Sunday. While the rest of the college football world was still pondering whether Ohio State should consider firing Ryan Day, Thamel dropped a bomb on the sport’s landscape by revealing Wisconsin had hired Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell to run their program. His initial tweet was accompanied by a link to ESPN’s website with further details about the move.

Pete Thamel was so convinced he was the first and potentially only person working on that ever-changing breaking news story, that he took the time to write the story, submit it through ESPN’s editorial staff, and then release the news before anyone else. In 2022, that’s the equivalent of mailing his story from side of the country to the other in order to break news. And yet, he was so far ahead of the game that he was able to take his time, gather his facts, and report an accurate, succinct story that would be of value to him and his network. What a novel concept.

One of Thamel’s best qualities as an “insider” is he — thus far — hasn’t been plagued by questions that have been a factor in the perception like his ESPN counterparts. Schefter, Wojnarowski, and Passan have each faced their own incidents during their time as the lead reporters for ESPN but Thamel, in my opinion, is unlikely to be pulled into those scenarios. It seems clear Thamel doesn’t release things for the benefit of anyone other than himself and the outlet he works for.

He doesn’t seem to be swayed by agents, athletic directors, coaches, boosters, or anyone else with skin in the game. His no-frills approach is refreshing in a time when many “insiders” view being as famous as the athletes they cover as a quasi-goal for their futures.

Last week, College GameDay host Rece Davis noted on the show’s podcast that Thamel brought “something to GameDay that GameDay’s desperately needed for years”, and he’s right. Not only did ESPN need a news breaker for it’s digital outlets, but it needed that presence on its pregame show.

And when you think about it, nearly ever other pregame show has that role filled. Schefter and Chris Mortensen hold that role for ESPN’s NFL coverage, FOX Sports has Jay Glazer in its NFL pregame show and Bruce Feldman for Big Noon Kickoff. It’s just an area ESPN lacked.

But they made a fantastic hire by bringing Thamel aboard, and his reporting will serve the worldwide leader well over the course of the following weeks as the college coaching carousel heats up.

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Barrett Media Writers

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