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The Future For Ed Orgeron Is On ESPN

“The network can take a damaged product with tremendous upside, refurbish it exactly as it needs, and ensure a bright future for one of its best-known studio franchises.”

Demetri Ravanos

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There is a topic college football fans and the media around the sport don’t want to talk about. We know that it is a conversation that has to be had sooner rather than later. If you love this sport, there is a soft spot in your heart for Lee Corso and it makes sense that you would want him to stay on College GameDay forever. The reality though is that the man just turned 86 and has already survived multiple health scares. The discussion of what comes next needs to happen sooner rather than later.

If ESPN brass is ready to have that conversation, even if just behind closed doors, this week, they got a gift from Louisiana State University. Plenty of names have been bandied about as the next potential former coach at the GameDay dais before. Ed Orgeron is the first guy since Steve Spurrier that struck me as an undeniably perfect fit.

Ed Orgeron college football

LSU announced on Sunday that it was done with Orgeron less than two years after the man coached the Bayou Bengals to a national championship. When you read Brody Miller’s story for The Athletic about his increasingly erratic behavior since that title, it makes sense why it was a move that had to be made. It also is pretty clear that no college athletic director is going to be eager to tie their future to Ed Orgeron any time soon.

ESPN has been given a gift – the kind of gift that you don’t get very often. The network can take a damaged product with tremendous upside, refurbish it exactly as it needs, and ensure a bright future for one of its best-known studio franchises.

College football fans can just look at a picture of Ed Orgeron and hear his distinct “geaux tiguhs” in their head. People that aren’t college football fans are more likely to be able to identify the coach if you played a clip of his voice than if you showed them a picture of his face. He has been around the sport for a long time. He was the head coach of one of the very best teams ever assembled. For a guy whose time in the spotlight was brief, he got really close to icon status.

That is the kind of guy that ESPN is going to need when it is time to say goodbye to the Sunshine Scooter. Orgeron is fun, he’s got a big personality, and he has enough Louisiana in him to feel obligated to turn every room he is in into the center of the party.

I can hear your objections through the computer screen. “Demetri, one of the problems LSU had with the coach is his short, volatile temper. Won’t that be a problem for ESPN too?” Do you mean the same ESPN that hired Bobby Knight and Lou Holtz? No, something tells me that isn’t a dealbreaker. “But Demetri, what about the strange behavior around women? He has a sort of icky reputation right now.” True, but just because you hire him doesn’t mean you have to put him on TV right away. Plus, all of us in this business know stories or have heard rumors about well-known names and faces in the broadcast world that betray the family man reputation so many of them have cultivated. Grow up.

Ed Orgeron is absolutely damaged goods right now. But the reality of college sports is, at best, they are an amoral enterprise. No one ever got fired for being a creep. They got fired for being a creep that didn’t win.

Very few people that are objectionable right now remain untouchable forever. I have written before about Orgeron’s former boss Les Miles. He created a really toxic culture at LSU. He probably isn’t getting another shot to be on national TV, but as I have it isn’t because of the sexual harassment allegations against him. It is because he is awful on TV.

Time heals a lot, and on top of that, America loves a redemption story. Urban Meyer left Ohio State as an absolute pariah amongst college football fans outside the state of Ohio and walked immediately onto the set of FOX’s Big Noon Kickoff. The national narrative wasn’t about how anyone could give this guy another chance for very long. It was mostly “he’s a lot better on TV than I thought he’d be.”

That was Urban Meyer, who is as interesting as a bag of sticks. Imagine how ready to forgive and move on we will be when our redemption candidate is a pudgy man whose eyes disappear when he smiles and sounds like Cookie Monster! The guy said that when he got his $17 million buyout from LSU he was going to “buy a few Sonic cheeseburgers”. How can you not smile at something like that?

Even before he suffered his first stroke, Lee Corso’s strength has always been his charm. He absolutely knows football and is entertaining as hell when he is handed a mascot head or is given a gun to fire wildly above a crowd of 20-somethings. But what makes Lee so special on TV is that he always seems to be having so much damn fun!

Ed Orgeron can be that type of guy. No one is banging the door down to get Corso off the College GameDay set any time soon. No one is banging the door down to put Orgeron in charge of their football team. Take advantage of that. The guy has the natural gifts you cannot teach. ESPN can take a couple of years to work on his presence and presentation before thrusting him into the spotlight, and he could become the same kind of cornerstone for the network’s college football coverage that Corso has been for nearly 35 years.

BSM Writers

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.

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WRONG BAD

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.

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BSM Writers

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.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

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.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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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.

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