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Greg McElroy Can’t Just Roll Out Of Bed And Do A Show

“There’s no secret, we’re proud of where we’re at right now, but Cole and I both, and our program director Ryan Haney, we fully expect this to be the start not the end.”

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Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers. If you’re a fan of Garth Brooks, you instantly recognize those lyrics from the song that hit No. 1 on the country music charts in 1991. The saying can mean different things for different people, but to Greg McElroy it signifies one of the best things that’s ever happened in his life. 

It’s funny to think how much that saying can resonate with someone who won a state championship in high school at Southlake Carroll in north Texas, an SEC and National Championship at Alabama and then enjoyed a multi-year career in the NFL, where he left the league on his own accord. But if you knew how much he wanted the after his final season at Alabama in 2010, you’d understand. 

Campbell Trophy - Twice Won By Heisman Winners - Announces 2020 Finalists -  Heisman

The Campbell Trophy is essentially the academic Heisman in college football. It probably wouldn’t do much for his legacy as a quarterback at Alabama, but McElroy worked hard and really wanted to win the award. But his prayers weren’t unanswered. Instead, the trophy went to Sam Acho of Texas. 

“I was very upset about it,” McElroy said. “But it led to me attending a cocktail hour after the ceremony where I spent time with Lee Fitting, Michael Fountain, Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler.”

Greg McElory was surrounded by four ESPN college football brains who shared a great idea. Since Auburn and Oregon were set to play for the national championship in just a matter of days, they’d have McElroy on for a day. He had just played in an epic game against the Tigers in the Iron Bowl. Granted, McElroy was training for his upcoming NFL career in California, but he agreed to travel to Phoenix for a day to assist with college football coverage. He had no idea what it would turn into. 

That day, you could see McElroy’s natural abilities as a broadcaster. So much so, that ESPN made sure that he wanted to pursue an NFL career instead of a path in broadcasting. McElroy was sure about his decision. The opportunity to pursue a career in the NFL was too good to pass up. 

“I said, yeah, I want to pursue the NFL to at least scratch that itch,” McElroy said. “But it was at that moment where I thought to myself, wow, that was really fun talking about football. I’m talking about teams that I’m familiar with and I really enjoyed it. That was the moment I said, man, this might be something I would consider.”

It was the first time Greg McElroy had ever considered a career in broadcasting. But it wouldn’t be the last. 

Fast forward to early 2014 and McElroy had just finished his third year in the NFL. He played his first two seasons with the New York Jets and just completed a season with the Cincinnati Bengals as a member of the practice squad. He still loved playing quarterback but a big decision loomed for him that would significantly impact his future. 

The SEC Network was set to launch and McElroy was offered a chance to be a part of it. It was three years since he first realized sports media was an avenue he wanted to pursue, and being a part of a network launch was a tempting enough opportunity to leave football for. Ultimately he decided to retire from the NFL. 

“Once I got my pension, I said all right, I’m done,” McElroy said. “I can grind out three or four more years or I can go do something and get started on a career that I can do for the next 30. It was a pretty easy choice for me, especially knowing that the SEC Network was getting ready to launch.”

So there he was walking away from football, with the exclusive reason of chasing an opportunity in sports media. But it wasn’t a quick or an easy decision for McElroy. In fact, it meant phone calls to Mike Slive, who was the SEC commissioner at the time, to discuss the network’s launch. 

“It really came down to a conversation I had with Mike Slive,” McElroy said. “There had been other conference networks but I wasn’t sure. It was kind of a leap of faith. It was March of 2014 and he was at the SEC Basketball Tournament. I called him and I told him what I was thinking and really was asking him if the SEC Network was going to be successful. He said, ‘Greg, I promise you we’re going to do everything in our power from a conference office standpoint to make sure that this is not just successful, but the most successful launch in the history of network launches.’ And my goodness he was right. It was the best decision I ever made. I haven’t second-guessed it for a second. I’m so grateful to him for being so honest with me.”

It didn’t take long for McElroy’s career to take off. Almost instantaneously, the SEC Network was a success and he was a part of it. If you look at the talent that began at the network, it’s no surprise as to why. McElroy was surrounded by talent, with faces such as Joe Tessitore, Booger McFarland, Marcus Spears, Tim Tebow and Maria Taylor.  

Greg McElroy: Auburn - along with Alabama, Clemson, Georgia - 'would've  dusted' UCF in CFP - al.com
Courtesy: Vasha Hunt/AL.com

“We had a really good group,” McElroy said. “One person I give a lot of credit to is Stephanie Druley, because of her eye for talent. What’s really great about it is everyone brought each other along. We were all very supportive, everyone was new in the industry so we were all about learning and attacking it to make it awesome. We had resources and unbelievable producers behind the scenes and it just made our lives really easy. I was told, at least by people in the industry, where you start is really what’s going to determine how you end up doing. If you’re surrounded by really good people in the beginning, you learn good habits and you learn what you’re doing, you’re likely going to have a lot of success. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have been surrounded by the people I was around.”

McElroy quickly excelled at the SEC Network and showed what everyone already knew: He was made for the business. Soon after, he was dipping into sports radio as a host on SiriusXM. Now, McElroy is an analyst for ABC/ESPN college football games on Saturday. He’s also the co-host of McElroy and Cubelic in the Morning on WJOX 94.5 in Birmingham. 

Initially, McElroy may have believed his path in sports media was going to be exclusively on the TV side. But he found out he’s equally as talented as a radio host. So when it came time for JOX to replace their morning show, McElroy’s history at Alabama, combined with his abilities in sports radio made him an obvious match. It was a job he loved in a city he loved. He couldn’t turn it down for many reasons, but one important factor made the move a no-brainer.

“The biggest factor was the co-host,” McElroy said. “Cole Cubelic is a guy I have so much respect for. We almost get to the point where we compete as to who watches more tape and who’s more prepared. That’s what you want, at least, that’s what I want, a partner that I know I can’t just roll out of bed and do a show. I’m going to have to be prepared. Because if I don’t I could get embarrassed. That makes me better, that makes him better and that makes the show better.”

The second thing that made morning drive on JOX attractive was the ability to be nation-wide. McElroy quickly realized the reach the station has with the apps that bring content to football fans all over the globe. Third, was the opportunity to be a part of an extremely well-resourced team with a track record of success. 

“College football is my biggest passion,” McElroy said. “I still think that the college football audience is really underserved. I’ve always felt that. I feel like there’s a thirst for college football that’s unquenchable and you’re not going to get it very many places. I feel like Cole and I can deliver a show that will be appetizing, not to just the SEC football fan, or for the Alabama or Auburn fan, but for a football fan that’s passionate about Michigan State, or a football fan who is passionate about South Carolina or even West Coast football. It doesn’t really matter, we’re going to hit at all.”

It makes sense that the guy who played quarterback at the dominant program in college football would want an opportunity to do radio at arguably the most dominant station in the Southeast. McElroy and Cubelic bring the former player side of things to the radio, but are also extremely polished in how they carry a radio show. It works. And it will continue to work for a long time. 

“When I worked at SiriusXM I had great partners, like Taylor Zarzour who was awesome and I loved Danny Kannell. But when those guys were out, I’d always tell my program director to get Cole Cubelic or Tom Luginbill. It’s good because we see the game so differently. That’s what’s been so fun for me, because I’m learning something every day. When we watch film all he’s watching is the offensive line. I never watch the offensive line. My eyes gravitate to the secondary and the wide receivers and the quarterback, etc. I see it all-22 big picture and he really lives in the trenches. That’s a really good balance for us. While some people will naturally look at our allegiance with Alabama and Auburn and say, oh, that’s where they disagree, no, the way we disagree is actually literally on everything. The way we see the game is totally opposite.”

Saban: 'There's no precedent for the consequences'

If not for the unanswered prayer of winning the Campbell Trophy, would McElroy be the media star he is today? Who knows. But there’s no doubt it put him in a position to have success after the contacts he made that evening. JOX knocked it out of the park with the pairing in the morning, but their minds are set on even bigger things in the future. 

“I love the growth potential here,” said McElroy. “There’s no secret, we’re proud of where we’re at right now, but Cole and I both, and our program director Ryan Haney, we fully expect this to be the start not the end. We’re just getting started. At some point we want this to be a visual platform and we want to be accessible to people all throughout the country and that’s my plan for the show. I feel like this is the best place to try and take it to the next level.”

BSM Writers

Sam Mayes Got A Raw Deal But Tyler Media Made The Right Call

“You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.”

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I do not envy whoever at Tyler Media had to make a decision about Sam Mayes’s future with the company after audio of a private conversation in 2016 was leaked to the media. Mayes and now-former co-worker Cara Rice made a few racist jokes at the expense of Native Americans.

The recording, according to Mayes, was made without his knowledge and leaked illegally. He says in a recorded statement that he should have been given the opportunity to address the recording on air and make amends.

OKC Radio Host Sam Mayes Fired After Racist Audio is Leaked

Maybe that is true, maybe it isn’t. I hate for Sam to lose his job as the result of an illegal recording of a private conversation, but the fact is, that conversation isn’t private anymore. Tyler Media didn’t really have an option here. Sam Mayes had to go.

Someone had an illegal recording of the conversation and created an anonymous email account to send it to people in the Oklahoma City media. I was shown a copy of the email. The author states clearly that their goal is to see Mayes and Rice out of a job. There is nothing fair or just about that person getting exactly what they want. It feels slimy. I can’t say that it feels like it wasn’t the right call though.

We have debated whether or not someone should lose their job over comments made in a private conversation many times before. It happens in every field. It wasn’t long ago at all that we were having this same debate about Jon Gruden. His emails to Bruce Allen and others were sent in private. Is it fair he had to go when they were made public? No matter what horrible things were in there, they were said with the understanding that it would stay between friends.

I am going to say the same thing about Sam Mayes that I did about Gruden when that story first broke. You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.

You read that right. The circumstances of how the conversations in these examples came to light are absolutely unfair, but the conversations came to light. How it happened is irrelevant. Any sponsor or boss that stands behind Sam Mayes or Jon Gruden would be endorsing the language they used, either inadvertently or very much on purpose. Try explaining that to a sponsor.

People at Tyler Media may know Sam Mayes’s heart. He doesn’t seem like a bad guy. The fact of the matter is, once the audio became public, their hands were tied. There is no mistaking what was said or who said it.

How can any seller or manager take Mayes to advertisers now? How can they put him in front of the Lucky Star Casino, one of the station’s biggest advertisers? They can ask for an audience to let Sam explain himself and try to make amends. The Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribes, who own the casino, are under no obligation to forgive or even listen.

All About the Lucky Star Casino in El Reno, Concho
Courtesy: TripAdvisor/Adam Knapp

Maybe the day will come where Sam Mayes bounces back. I hope it does. I hope he gets the chance to address his comments with members of Oklahoma’s Native American community and listen to what they have to say in response. I do think it sucks that this is how his time at The Franchise comes to an end, but I get it.

If I have to explain to you why not to say dumb, racist shit, then I don’t think we have much to talk about. But, it is worth noting that the recording of Mayes and Rice’s conversation is proof that privacy is always an assumption, not always a fact.

In his audio statement, Mayes admits it is his voice on the recording. He also says that he was uncomfortable with Rice’s comments and he tried to end their conversation. I’ll take him at his word, but I will also point out that before he tried to end the conversation, he joined in on the jokes. Maybe when someone says that Native Americans are “too drunk to organize” it isn’t a great idea to respond. All it leads to is proof of you saying something dumb and racist.

Again, I’ll reiterate that how these comments came to light is unfair, but they did come to light. That is Sam Mayes’s voice on the recording. He is joining in on the jokes about Native Americans being drunks and addicts. At the end of the day, the only thing that was done to him was the audio being released. He fully and willingly committed the firable offense.

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What is the response to a client or potential client when they bring that up? All Tyler Media can do is try to recover and move forward. The company cannot do that with Mayes on the payroll.

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BSM Writers

Stop Prospecting, Start Strategizing!

“You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days.”

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Struggling to get new business appointments? Dreading making prospecting calls? Having trouble writing creative emails that seemingly never get a response?

Generating responses to new business outreach is easier than you think. Just make sure you do your homework first and keep it “Simple Stupid”.

To do that, start with asking yourself these (3) simple questions:

#1: Did I do my home work on the business itself, their competition and those I plan on reaching out to?

#2: If I were on the other end of the phone and/or email with myself would I want to engage in conversation and/or reply to that email?

#3: Am I prepared to make a one call close given the opportunity to?

If the answer to any of these is “No”… do NOT pick up the phone and by all means do NOT hit the send button on that initial outreach email! Doing so will all but ensure you fall flat on your face. On the off chance you do happen to get the decision maker on the phone you won’t make that great first impression that sometimes can be so crucial. First impressions are always important… ALWAYS!

Skipping over these critical steps is a sure-fire way to ensure your email is completely ignored and will not generate the engagement from the prospect you’d hope for. Successful prospecting is all about the front end digging and research. Do your homework first then strategize a plan of attack for your call and/or email. Taking these extra measures on the front end is absolutely “Mission Critical” and will set you up for much more success with your prospecting endeavors.

Now once you’ve answered “Yes” to all of the above, you’re ready to attack with the knowledge and confidence that should set you a part from your competition. It’s all about the Game Plan, and if you don’t have one, you’re destined for failure time and time again. Incorporate these (5) things into your prospecting Game Plan for your next call/email and watch your results dramatically improve:

#1: MAKE IT PERSONAL & CASUAL – Be informal, find out something interesting about them.

#2: MAKE IT SHORT & CONCISE – Be straight forward and to the point, people are busy.

#3: MAKE IT TIMELY & RELEVANT TO THEM AND/OR THEIR BUSINESS – Give them a good Valid Business Reason.

#4: MAKE IT INTERESTING, COMPELLING & INFORMATIVE – Be the expert they’re missing.

#5: MAKE IT FUN – Fun people are easy to do business with and make it less like “work”.

Lastly, and most importantly, Be Yourself! You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days. When clients do find it trust me, they value it and appreciate it way more than you’ll ever know!

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BSM Writers

Good Producers Can Teach The World A Lot About Christmas

“A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition.”

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Who is Carl Christmas in your house? Who is the one that makes sure everyone that needs to get a card does? Who comes up with the plan for the lights? Who takes the reins on the shopping?

Chevy Chase, aka Clark Griswold, to light up stage in Berks | Berks  Regional News | wfmz.com
Courtesy: Warner Bros./National Lampoon

Every home needs one and in my house, that’s me. December (including the last week of November) is my time to shine, baby!

One thing I have tried to impress upon my mom and wife this year is that shipping and supply chain delays are real. So, if you are planning on procrastinating on your online shopping this year (you know, like usual) someone (me) is going to have no presents under the tree.

Veteran producers are used to operate this way. Young producers, listen up. Your job involves the most delicate balance of any in sports radio. You have to help bring your host’s and PD’s visions to life. That means you have to be able to take their direction. But you also have to keep the host on target. That means you cannot be afraid to be forceful and lead when the moment demands it.

There’s no value to being an unrepentant asshole to people, but you do have to hold them accountable. Look at that Christmas shopping example again. If you want to get what you want, you need to keep on task the people you know aren’t paying attention to the potential roadblocks. It isn’t selfish. It is making sure everyone gets the holiday W they are expecting. Sure, you would be disappointed if your gift doesn’t arrive on time, but so will the gift giver.

Being a stickler for the clock or moving a host off of a topic that has no value is the same thing. Of course there is something in it for you, but you are also helping the host do his or her job better. They may get annoyed with you now, but if you save them from an ass-chewing from the bosses or slipping ratings, then they have reaped the benefits.

I guess the unfortunate difference here is that there may be no acknowledgment of what you did or helped them to avoid. Oh well. Every producer has to expect a certain level of thanklessness.

Producers have to take on that Carl Christmas role in dealing with sales too. Remember, just because the producer’s name isn’t on the show doesn’t mean that isn’t every bit his or her show that it is the hosts’.

It’s like decorating your house for the holidays. You may have a certain design in mind. Maybe you have a traditional look you stick to every year. If your spouse or your kid comes home with a giant, inflatable Santa Claus in a military helicopter that they want on the lawn, you have a decision to make. Are you going to say no and suggest an alternative that aligns more with your goal or are you going to let your plan get run over?

25 Best Christmas Inflatables - Top Inflatable Christmas Decorations

Sales has a job to do. It is to make sure their clients’ messages are heard and to make money for the station. Both can be accomplished without sacrificing your show’s quality.

If a seller comes to you and says he wants his client to come in for five minutes and talk about now being the time to book an appointment to have your garage floors redone, you have to speak up. You have an obligation to make sure that the seller knows that even five minutes of that will hurt the show and have listeners diving for the preset buttons on their car stereo. That isn’t good for the station or his client.

Instead, offer to work with the seller and the client to come up with a piece of content that the client can put his name on and a 20-second ad read behind. Will the audience stick around to listen to some dude named Jerry talk about garage floors or will more people listen to you talk about the NFL playoff picture in a creative way and then still be there to hear Jerry’s message about garage floors? The answer seems obvious.

A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition. If the background work wasn’t done though, the problems would be right out on the front lawn for everyone to see.

“Gatekeeper” is a term I really hate. It implies that someone is telling others what they are and are not allowed to enjoy. It is a necessary term though to properly describe what it is that a great producer and a great Carl Christmas do.

We don’t shut people out from being able to enjoy or be a part of what it is we are creating. We set or are handed down expectations and we block anything that can get in the way of achieving them. Sometimes, that is more thankless work than it should be. It is necessary though.

Kevin Anderson on Twitter: "Just noticed that I've been blocked by the  international civil aviation authority @icao Have others working on  aviation emissions also been blocked? Appears to be that their commitment

As my home’s self-appointed Carl Christmas and a former producer, let me give my countrymen the thanks others forget. We are the ones that make it possible for everyone else to be mindless. Wear it as a badge of honor. We may not get the kind of recognition we deserve everyday, but when plans go off without a hitch, we are usually the first to be recognized for making it happen.

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