Stories about opportunities for college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness have been a dime a dozen over the past two months. It’s still a novel thing. Players used to only be able to take payment in the shadows or through multiple intermediaries. Now, it is all out in the open, and that is interesting to all of us that cover and love college football.
There have already been some really interesting partnerships. Miami quarterback D’Eriq King is endorsing the Florida Panthers. Wright’s BBQ in Fayetteville, Arkansas is sponsoring the Razorbacks’ entire offensive line. Dr. Pepper is building a national ad campaign around Clemson’s DJ Uiagalelei.
Sports radio stations and podcasts have been paying college football insiders for interviews during the season forever. Now that those payments can go directly to players, it was really only a matter of time before some group announced that would be their move.
Enter The Next Round, the new digital venture from the former morning hosts at Birmingham’s JOX 94.5. They tweeted on Monday that Alabama and Auburn fans would hear from their team’s biggest stars during the season. Mondays would feature Auburn quarterback Bo Nix. Thursdays it will be Alabama wide receiver John Metchie.
“Bo is an obvious choice, he’s the starting quarterback and the most talked about player at Auburn by a longshot,” host Ryan Brown told me when I asked how they decided who was the best investment in terms of creating interesting content. “We have conducted several interviews with John Metchie and really liked what he brought to us in an interview. We felt as though we had a really good chemistry with him.”
What will be so fascinating as radio and digital shows go down this path is exactly where the money will be. Birmingham routinely delivers some of the best TV ratings for college football in the entire country. Are mid-size Southern markets like that where there will be the best chance for players to make money?
Think about it. Even in Atlanta, where college football is huge, would an interview with JT Daniels or one of Georgia’s other popular players be worth the money to the station or interviewer? There is so much going on and the city is so full of transplants that it tends to be the pro teams that are the unifiers. The same is probably true in Cleveland. Ohio loves the Buckeyes, but does it make sense to pay for some of Chris Olave’s time if more of the audience wants to talk and hear about the Browns?
For the markets where the investment makes sense though, it can pay dividends in terms of listeners and revenue. That is why Brown calls it “the biggest game-changer in that realm in the entire time I’ve been doing shows.”
“Keep in mind, when I first started in sports media, back in my radio days, you couldn’t even interview SEC players live,” he says. “All interviews had to be pre-recorded and scheduled through the school media relations department.”
Athletes, especially college athletes, have never really done anything for me on air. Either they are from a program, like Alabama or Notre Dame, that invests so much money in teaching the players to say nothing, or they are 18 and 19 year old kids that, even with a little freedom, just have nothing interesting to say.
Maybe that changes now. No one wants to listen to a ten-minute interview that is nothing but coach-approved platitudes. If no one wants to hear it, no one is going to pay for it either. If there is money to be made, players could see the benefits of learning how to be interesting and entertaining.
It isn’t just the players that stand to make money. When we talk about name, image and likeness deals, our minds tend to go straight to the money being paid. We rarely think about the money being generated. Paying an athlete for their time means there is a level of reliability that you can then take to an advertiser. Suddenly, there is a new benchmark you can price at a premium.
“The players get a nice payday for 10 minutes on the phone, or in our case on video. We have a very attractive sellable product that can be a good revenue generator,” says Ryan Brown. The Next Round has sold Nix’s and Metchie’s appearances to local heavy equipment rental company CraneWorks. I don’t really see a loser in this whole deal.”
There will be a segment of the sports media that spends this entire colege football season wringing its hands over the damage NIL deals can do to the sport. They are going to focus on what will change for the worse. Smart hosts and companies will figure out how the new landscape can work for everyone.
It’s not just about what goes on the air today. Imagine using a name, image and likeness deal to secure time with a local star that doesn’t make it to the NFL. If he is good on air, don’t you then have a potential building block for your future already on the payroll?
There are so many ways to make this work. As Brown told me, “It is literally a situation where we all win.”
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.