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Omaha’s No. 1 home for local sports has secured a three-year deal to air the radio broadcasts for Creighton Men’s Basketball, as the Bluejays transition to the BIG EAST Conference. Under the agreement 1620 The Zone will air the play-by-play broadcast and all ancillary sports coverage for the team, beginning with the upcoming 2013-14 campaign.

“It’s just tremendous to earn the rights as the exclusive partner for Creighton Men’s Basketball. It’s an honor for The Zone to serve our listeners, advertisers and Creighton with this winning program. Adding Creighton Men’s Basketball to our programming lineup is a natural fit to the station’s current content and will truly enhance our entire listener experience,” explained Andy Ruback, General Manager of 1620 The Zone and Market Manager for NRG Media in Omaha.

“We chose 1620 The Zone for many reasons, but mainly because it has long been considered Omaha’s premier sports talk radio station. Its lineup, its commitment to local sports coverage, and its rank in the market made it the perfect partner for broadcasting our programs,” explained Bruce Rasmussen, Athletic Director for Creighton University.

The Zone earns the broadcast rights for a three-year term beginning the 2013-14 season. “The Creighton University men’s basketball program is one to watch this season as they are sure to be a force to be reckoned with in the BIG EAST Conference” said Neil Nelkin, Operations Manager for NRG Media and Program Director of 1620 The Zone.

1620 The Zone is the No. 1 ranked sports/talk station in the Omaha metro. The Zone features Gary Sharp and Damon Benning with “Sharp and Benning in the Morning” airing weekdays 7am-11am. The Zone also highlights John Bishop and co-host Mike’l Severe of the long-running sports talk show “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” airing weekdays from 2pm-6pm. The programs can be heard on-line at www.1620thezone.com and on the 1620 The Zone smartphone apps.

Ruback indicated that an announcement on talent for the Creighton games would be forthcoming in the near future.

About NRG Media – NRG Media is dedicated to providing Great Local Radio and is committed to being an active and integral part of the communities in which it serves. In Omaha, NRG Media owns 1620AM The ZONE, The ZONE 2, Q98.5, Power 106-9, The Big O 101.9, The Mighty 1290 KOIL-AM and La Nueva KMMQ. NRG Media consists of 45 radio stations throughout four states in the Midwest – Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Illinois.

Creighton University is a private, coeducational, Jesuit, Roman Catholic university located in Omaha, Nebraska, United States. Founded by the Society in 1878, the school is one of 28 member institutions of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. The university is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. Its Men’s Basketball program is part of the BIG EAST Conference. Creighton is the largest private religious university in Nebraska.

Read more at GoCreighton where this story was originally published.

The boys of fall

June 28, 2013

Honor Them in Your Calls, and They Will Honor You

by STAA Contributor Jay Murry

It is June 27th of 2013, and country music star Kenny Chesney performed a concert in St. Louis tonight. I didn’t get a chance to see it, but I did make sure I spent time watching the YouTube video of the song “The Boys of Fall”. It is my favorite Chesney song, because it encapsulates the experience of a senior year of high school football in a few minutes better than any other song that I have heard about the subject. The song brings back great memories of football at St. Charles High School in St. Charles, Missouri; and it also serves as a reminder to bring the passion, pageantry, and love of the game at that level to my football play-by-play broadcasts each fall.

Those who broadcast high school and small college football games can fall into the temptation of going through the motions of their calls, with little or no zest. Some who aspire to call games of NCAA Division I college football or the contests on Sunday in the NFL may think that being in a high school press box on a Friday night for a few bucks is beneath them. They may be in the very early stages of their broadcasting career, and as a result treat their early-season broadcasts in a cavalier fashion–with the intent of saving their best efforts for a state playoff game and an audition tape that will propel them to the bigger and brighter stages of the NCAA and the NFL.

Or, they may be older broadcasters who have become jaded and disappointed; providing listless calls because they never got a chance to become a network radio or TV voice. As if they might be thinking, “What’s the use of getting excited about prep or small college football? Nobody cares about them anyway.” Since the big-time network broadcast circus passed them by, those announcers may be tempted to make a minimum emotional investment in their play-by-play calls, believing that there is no point in getting excited about broadcasts that may not be sampled by viewers or listeners beyond the county line.

However, the “Boys of Fall” that Kenny Chesney honors should be similarly honored by the broadcasters who chronicle their gridiron efforts every Friday night or Saturday afternoon. For those who have had the opportunity of playing high school or small college football, it should be easy to apply the excitement of your playing days to your weekly play-by-play broadcasts of the local teams you cover. If your days of football glory have receded too far into your memory vault for easy review, I suggest listening to Chesney’s tribute song before the upcoming football season. I guarantee it will bring the sights, sounds, and smells of your experience back to you, in a big vivid wave of emotion. That, in turn, can be harnessed to add more spice and flavor to the broadcast chili that you prepare every week in the press box.

In 1979 and 1980, there were seminal moments in my time as a high school football player that were happily seared forever in my mind, which later served as the bedrock of my approach to broadcasting such games after my playing days were finished. In those years before the advent of the Internet, airing high school and small college games were reserved for local radio stations. Those who played in small towns that had radio stations were treated to weekly broadcasts of their endeavors; but in larger cities, radio stations rarely broadcast high school and small college sports because there was very little interest in them. Especially when compared to the broader interest in large-university NCAA teams and professional franchises in the region.

In the St. Louis area of the 1970s and early 1980s, media interest in the football and baseball Cardinals, Blues hockey, and the University of Missouri and St. Louis University far exceeded the interest in high school and small college sports. So, on the rare occasion when a radio station decided to come out to your school to air the upcoming game, it gave student-athletes like me a rare opportunity to feel the vibrancy and taste the passion that was normally reserved for the large college and pro teams.

On one occasion in ’79, a Friday night of being involved in high school football would eventually serve as the cornerstone of my broadcasting philosophy and approach to each game. I was a junior on the St. Charles High School football team that was hosting Fort Zumwalt High School in an early-season football game. I was not a starter, but for a night I felt like a player on a nationally-ranked team that would be featured on an ABC Sports college football broadcast anchored by Keith Jackson.

The University of Missouri was getting ready to visit Champaign, Illinois to take on the Fighting Illini for an early autumn Saturday afternoon college football encounter. Mizzou’s marching band normally traveled to the destination of an away football game, stayed overnight, and played the next day before returning home. However, on one magical night, arrangements were made for the band members to stay Friday night in St. Charles with host families; since several of them were from St. Charles and surrounding towns. As a result, Marching Mizzou and its Golden Girls would perform with our high school band, at our football game! And, for icing on the football cake, the Lindenwood College radio station (KCLC-FM) was coming out to broadcast the game!

Well, you can probably imagine the electric atmosphere that followed. With Marching Mizzou and our St. Charles High band playing in unison, the Golden Girls dancing, and a radio station unfurling its banner outside the press box window to broadcast its “Game of the Week”, the pre-game warm-up on the field had such high static electricity that the hair on the back of my neck practically stood on end for an entire hour. And, we all had goofy grins plastered on our faces, and perpetual laughter coming from our grins—as if we couldn’t believe our good fortune of being able to feel like we were a part of a big-time college or pro football broadcast, if just for one night. It was more than a game that night…it was a community football festival. That festival feeling has never left me, and I use that wonderful memory as the basis of preparation for each of my play-by-play broadcasts.

Likewise, the following season as a senior was forever etched into my mind, as I was a starting defensive end for half the season while filling in for an injured player. I made sure I took several mental snapshots that season…of the sunsets casting warm ribbons of sunlight on the football field for pre-game warm-ups, the marching band playing Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust”, the thrill of running onto the field emotionally stoked to the brim as my number and name were called during the announcements of the starting lineups, and all of the ingredients of high school football games that Kenny Chesney depicts in “The Boys of Fall”—with the addition of the joy of beating archrival St. Charles West in the season finale for the conference championship and a ticket to the state playoffs. All of those snapshots were later pieced together in a mosaic that would become the blueprint for each of my play-by-play broadcasts, to try and create informative and entertaining broadcasts of high school and small college football.

By using a similar approach, you can create similar festivals that honor the efforts of the Boys of Fall, and you can become a part of a soundtrack to the players’ season that will be long remembered and appreciated by the players and their families and friends. Perhaps that lively and entertaining soundtrack can also help you move on to a network play-by-play gig. But, at the very least, your calls with dutiful energy and effort could become a part of a future Kenny Chesney song—or, half-hearted play-by-play efforts could be largely forgotten by an unimpressed audience and local community.

The choice is yours.

I feel that chill, smell that fresh-cut grass
I’m back in my helmet, cleats, and shoulder pads
Standin’ in the huddle, listening to the call
Fans goin’ crazy for the Boys of Fall…

If you put your heart and soul into your play-by-play, the fans will go crazy for your calls as well. That’s a feeling just as special as being a player on the field, celebrating a championship…and that’s how you want to be remembered, if the broadcast is your last.

Some summer food for thought, while we await the emergence of this season’s Boys of Fall.

–Jay Murry, Play-By-Play Announcer, Washington University in St. Louis

Herbstreit-KirkKirk Herbstreit is a trusted, almost always measured voice on college football for ESPN. And he will remain with the network for at least another 10 seasons.

Herbstreit will continue to be one of the analysts for ESPN College GameDay and remain on the ABC Saturday Night Football package. Beginning in January 2015, he also will be in the booth for one College Football Playoff semifinal as well as the National Championship Game.

In addition to his booth and studio work, Herbstreit this fall will join ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd each Tuesday on College Football Live, the network’s daily afternoon college football show.

Herbstreit’s announcement comes on the same day Fox Sports announced the acquisition of another prominent ESPN college sports analyst, basketball voice Bill Raftery. With the proliferation of new national and regional sports networks, there have perhaps never been more opportunities for leading sports commentators.

In a statement John Wildhack, ESPN executive vice president, production, said,”Kirk Herbstreit is synonymous with college football’s biggest stage and moments. He is at the top of his game and he’s ours into the next decade. We’re thrilled.”

Herbstreit, who will enter his 18th season as a part of ESPN’s college football coverage, said in a statement, “I’ve always felt that ESPN and ABC are the home of college football and even more so now that they have the College Football Playoff for 12 years. Considering the opportunities that lay ahead and the great people I get to work with every day, it was an easy decision to stay with the company that gave me my start.”

Read more at USA Today where this story was originally published.

The latest shakeup in St. Louis sports-talk radio involves some high-profile hosts.

Tim McKernan is getting the boot from KFNS (590 AM) as it is in its final steps of converting from the sports approach to guy talk, and said that he and his insideSTL Enterprises LLC company signed a deal Thursday night to lease weekday air time at WGNU (920 AM) — which now is in the urban-talk format.

The new lineup is to debut Aug. 1 and feature some of the biggest names in the history of St. Louis jock jabber. The roster includes McKernan’s morning drive-time show, which has Doug Vaughn and Jim Hayes. Also coming is Frank Cusumano, who is being snatched from KFNS. And McKernan is grabbing Kevin Slaten from WQQZ (1190 AM) plus Jack Clark from KFNS to work together.

Read more at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch where this story was originally published.

naoko_funayamaIt’s not just a couple of popular players such as Andrew Ference who won’t return to the Bruins next season.

NESN announced in a press release at 8:02 p.m. Thursday night that Naoko Funayama, the respected sideline reporter, will not have her contract renewed when it expires this summer.

Funayama worked at NESN since 2007. She was hired after covering Daisuke Matsuzaka’s introductory press conference as a reporter for New Hampshire’s WMUR during which she aided the Japanese pitcher’s struggling translator.

Funayama joined the network full-time in August 2008 as the Bruins reporter.

In the release, NESN said it had “elected to go in a different direction” and the search for her replacement is underway.

“I want to thank everyone at NESN for five fantastic years and to also thank all the wonderful people I met along the way.” she said, according to the release.

“To have witnessed and covered the Bruins’ resurgence during this time has been a thrilling and unforgettable experience, and now I’m very much looking forward to the next chapter in my career.”

Funayama was widely respected by players and media alike for her good nature, work ethic, and professionalism, and news of her departure was greeted with remarkable backlash on Twitter.

Read more at Boston.com where this story was originally published.

und-north-dakotaFans of North Dakota Athletics will once again be served by a strong UND Sports Radio Network in 2013-14.

UND Athletics Director Brian Faison announced today that all 12 of UND’s radio affiliates will return from the 2012-13 season, including North Dakota affiliates in Beulah, Bismarck, Devils Lake, Dickinson, Fargo, Grand Forks, Langdon, Minot, Williston and Wimbledon, as well as Minnesota affiliates in Mahnomen and Warroad.

“We are excited that Clear Channel Grand Forks will continue to serve as our flagship stations for North Dakota Athletics,” said Faison. “We continue to enjoy exceptional local coverage throughout the state and the region for UND Athletics thanks to a great group of affiliates.”
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SkipperIt would not be an exaggeration to say that John Skipper presides over the most valuable media content company in the world. The most profitable of The Walt Disney Co.’s brands, ESPN is valued at $40 billion, nearly half of the entirety of its parent company. ESPN and ESPN2 are in more than 100 million U.S. homes, and ESPN commands the richest subscriber fees in all of cable — at more than $5 a subscriber a month, contributing more than $6 billion annually — while ad revenue at ESPN exceeds $3 billion.

Not bad for the son of a mailman from Lexington, N.C., who arrived in New York City nearly 40 years ago with a dream of becoming Maxwell Perkins, the famous literary editor to Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe. “I actually thought I wanted to be Thomas Wolfe, but I didn’t have the talent,” admits Skipper. “So I thought I could edit Thomas Wolfe.”

His career in publishing began during the 1970s, soon after finishing a master’s degree in literature at Columbia, when he landed a job as a secretary at Rolling Stone. His entrée to ESPN came through magazines; during the mid-’90s, he was senior vp at Disney’s publishing group when former ESPN chairman Steve Bornstein decided he wanted to start a magazine. Then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner said, “Well, we got a magazine guy,” recalls Skipper, 57, a married father of two grown sons who retains his North Carolina drawl. ESPN The Magazine was a quick success and now has a circulation of 2.1 million (and a total readership of 14 million).
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EnbergDick Enberg is as at home in London as he is in San Diego.

When you spend three weeks every year for 28 years at Wimbledon and become known as “the Voice of Wimbledon,” you get to know the roads, the hotels, the restaurants and the people.

But while Enberg knows his way around the grounds at the All-England Club and certainly knows the broadcast compound, he did something this year he has never done before…sit in the Royal Box.

Read more at the San Diego Union Tribune where this story was originally published.

Stevens-DonDon Stevens just completed his 27th season as the Amerks play-by-play announce. Stevens has helped the team in a number of different ways, whether it was public relations director, TV host, or radio talk show host. Even though Rochester is his home now, broadcasting has taken Stevens to a lot of different places, including Canada and Europe along with a collection of different cities in the United States. We spoke to the “Voice of the Amerks,” and found out a little more about his life out of the booth.

Q: Did you play any sports in high school or college?

A: I played football and baseball in high school and then one season of baseball in college.

Q: What was your first job out of college?

A: I worked at a small station in Grand Island, Nebraska, called KRGI Radio. I was doing everything; I was a sports director, news director and community service director. It was an entry-level job and that’s really how you learn the business, by just learning everything.
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darren daultonFormer Philadelphia Phillies catcher Darren Daulton, an immensely popular member of the 1993 National League championship team, is scheduled to have surgery next week after doctors discovered two brain tumors.

Daulton, 51, retired after the 1997 season. He now hosts a daily radio show on the 97.5 The Fanatic called “Talkin’ Baseball with Dutch.”

“Darren Daulton has not been feeling well over the past two weeks,” the station said in a statement. “He went to the doctor who discovered two brain tumors and is scheduled for surgery early next week. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family at this difficult time. Of course we want to respect his privacy at a time like this, but if you would like to send him get well wishes you may do so at dutch@975thefanatic.com.”

“Dutch” arrived in the big leagues for good in 1985 and spent most of his 14 seasons with the Phillies. He finished his career with the Florida Marlins, who would go onto win the ’97 World Series. In 1993, he hit 24 homers and drove in 105 runs for a Phillies team that lost to the Toronto Blue Jays in the World Series.

Read more at the Chicago Tribune where this story was originally published.

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