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Welcome To The 2016 Sports Radio Draft

Welcome to the second annual sports radio draft. I created this project last year to introduce sports radio fans, and industry people to some of the sports format’s top program directors, and offer a small snapshot of the way they view the nation’s top personalities and talk shows.

If you love sports the way many of us in the sports talk format do, then you recognize that an event like the NFL draft is a crapshoot. Proclaiming victory or defeat after selecting a player without seeing them suit up and make plays on the field is pretty silly. But, most of us can’t resist the temptation to do it anyway.

What fun would the draft be if we couldn’t second guess the general manager, head coach, and owner of every single NFL franchise for the moves they make?

Well, in sports radio it’s not much different. Any time a personnel decision is made, there’s instant reaction from the audience. New shows are written off before they hit the air. The program director is met with a barrage of insults, and threats through email and social media, and the thought of waiting twelve to eighteen months to evaluate a program is considered absurd. It’s even worse if a radio station brings in a host or show from another city.

Although it may not be sexy or what people want to hear sometimes, it takes time to gauge whether or not a show is going to work. It’s no different than a football team using a high draft pick on a prospect, and giving them multiple opportunities to prove that they can be a difference maker on the professional level.

If a franchise is going to invest a high draft pick, and big dollars on someone who they believe can make their team better, they’re not going to bail on that individual after their first or second game or play. Fans may not like it, but teams need to employ a long-term strategy rather than overreact to short-term problems. In radio, the same holds true.

Are there exceptions? Yes of course. A great programmer can tell when they have a bad combination on their airwaves, or a person’s work ethic or attitude isn’t where it needs to be for the station to experience success. Those are tough calls that have to be made on occasion. Once a decision is made to pull the plug and move on, it isn’t usually until all options have been exhausted. There are only so many times when a programmer can call the head of the company and say “I screwed up”.

As I watched the NFL Draft unfold last night, I was reminded of how inexact the entire process is. It’s important to study your information, exhaust your resources, and listen to your inner circle, but when the time comes to make a choice, the best thing you can do is trust your gut.

We applaud some organizations for being ballsy, and criticize others for being timid, when in reality we have less information, and skill to make the selection than the individuals who are paid to run each war room. Do terrible general managers, and organizations exist? Yes. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not more advanced in their scouting of talent than we are. I stress this point because the same situation presents itself often in radio.

The audience likes who they like, and want what they want, and anything less is considered awful – until they get used to it. Most people are creatures of habit, and resist anything new. Once it becomes comfortable, they adapt.

Many listeners aren’t privy to the information that the programmer has at their disposal. They just want to hear the hosts in a setting that they prefer. But more goes into it decision making than that.

There are economics, relationships, schedules, creative styles, ratings track records, and a myriad of other factors to consider when putting a show on the air. Even smaller things such as “is the show better suited for morning or afternoon”, “should we feature a solo program or team show”, “do the hosts sound too much alike”, “are they too far apart as people to develop a consistent flow”, “are they coachable”, all come into play when deciding if a show fits what the programmer wants on their radio station.

I decided to put thirty two of the nation’s best sports radio minds on the clock, and give them an opportunity to select one show each. Unlike last year where we focused on individuals, the goal this year was to select full shows. That meant they could draft a solo hosted program, or a show with two, three or four personalities.

To create the draft order I stuck with what worked last year – pulling thirty two names out of hat (if it ain’t broke don’t fix it). However, I did make two key changes.

First, I changed up some of the programmers to give other station leaders an opportunity to participate who weren’t involved last year. There are some familiar names and faces still in the mix, but altogether I included sixteen new people.

Secondly, I prohibited each programmer from picking one of their own local talk shows. It’s natural to want to appease our own people, but if everyone had a blank canvas tomorrow, and could hire one dynamic show to grow their station’s ratings, and revenue, we may or may not stick with what we have. This put the entire crew in a position to be a little more neutral.

I want to thank each of these programmers for not only taking part in the exercise, but also putting their names behind each selection. I also want to congratulate the shows that made the list of 32. Keep in mind that each programmer has a different perspective on what makes a great sports radio show, and the results are often determined by where an individual picks. Just because someone chooses a particular show, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t take a different one if they had a higher draft choice.

The sports radio industry has hundreds of people hosting programs all across the country each day, and many are doing it well. But talent isn’t the only thing that matters. It’s often about fit, style, sound, work ethic, attitude, connection, and ratings and revenue potential. Certain shows may deliver big numbers for one programmer, but fire blanks for another. They may dominate in one market yet crash and burn in another.

As you watch the NFL Draft, I hope you’ll take some of these things into account. One team’s trash can be another one’s treasure, and sure-thing prospects, and no-chance free agents, often succeed or fail depending on who they play for, and which system they perform in. The radio business is eerily similar. Which is why hiring people and/or shows can be challenging, rewarding, and occasionally catastrophic.

Now without further delay, it’s time to unveil the 32 sports radio talk show selections in the 2016 Sports Radio Draft! Let the debates begin!

Order Programmer/Station Show/Station
1. Matt Nahigian, 97.5 The Fanatic-Philadelphia Dan Lebatard w/ Stugotz-ESPN Radio
2. Mike Thomas, 98.5 The Sports Hub-Boston Valenti & Foster-97.1 The Ticket
3. Chad Abbott, KFAN-Minneapolis Dave “Softy” Mahler-950 KJR
4. Justin Craig, 98.7 ESPN-New York City Stephen A. Smith-Mad Dog Sports Radio
5. Ryan Maguire, 560 WQAM-Miami Josh Innes-Sports Radio WIP
6. Brad Willis, 104.5 The Zone-Nashville The Dan Patrick Show-Fox Sports Radio
7. Gavin Spittle, 105.3 The Fan-Dallas Mike Meltser & Seth Payne-Sports Radio 610
8. Adam Delevitt, ESPN 1000-Chicago Mike and Mike-ESPN Radio
9. Armen Williams, 104.3 The Fan-Denver Boomer and Carton-WFAN
10. Bruce Gilbert, Cumulus Media-Dallas Colin Cowherd-Fox Sports Radio
11. Steve Torre, Mad Dog Sports Radio-New York City NBA Today w/ Justin Termine & Eddie Johnson-SiriusXM
12. John Hanson, 610 Sports-Kansas City Dan Barreiro-KFAN
13. Kevin Graham, WEEI-Boston Mad Dog Unleashed w/ Chris Russo-SiriusXM
14. D.J Stout, 610 The Fan WFNZ-Charlotte Mike Francesa-WFAN
15. Lee Hammer, KNBR-San Francisco The Musers-Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket
16. Scott Masteller, WBAL-Baltimore  Jorge & Izzy-ESPN Radio
17. Ray Necci, ESPN Radio-Bristol Tony Kornheiser-ESPN 980
18. Jay Taylor, 97.1 The Fan-Columbus Petros & Money-AM 570 KLAC
19. Ryan McCredden, 610 KILT-Houston Gio and Jones-CBS Sports Radio
20. Scott Shapiro, Fox Sports Radio-Los Angeles Paul Allen-KFAN
21. Tim Spence, 97.9 ESPN-Hartford Big Al & D’Mac-104.3 The Fan
22. Ryan Hatch, Arizona Sports 98.7FM-Phoenix The Hardline-Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket
23. Chris Kinard, 106.7 The Fan-Washington DC Toucher & Rich-98.5 The Sports Hub
24. Dennis Glasgow, 99.9 The Fan-Raleigh The Drive w/ Cooley & Czabe-ESPN 980
25. Gregg Henson, 970 ESPN-Pittsburgh Mark Madden-105.9 The X
26. Tom Parker, 105.7 The Fan-Milwaukee Amy Lawrence-CBS Sports Radio
27. Dave Tepper, 1620 The Zone-Omaha The Blitz w/ Fred and AJ-ESPN 97.5
28. Allan Davis, WGR 550-Buffalo Damon Amendolara-CBS Sports Radio
29. John Mamola, WDAE-Tampa Waddle & Silvy-ESPN 1000
30. Rich Moore, 950 KJR-Seattle Mike Missanelli-97.5 The Fanatic
31. Jeff Austin, 1080 The Fan-Portland Brock and Salk-710 ESPN
32. Brian Long, XTRA Sports 1360-San Diego Mason and Ireland-ESPN LA 710

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