Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Capping off baseball on TV

It seems to me that almost within minutes of Baseball taking steps to bolster their ratings for the League Championship and World Series telecasts this fall they started taking steps backward.
Marketing vs. television might become a better contest than a first place team against a last place team coming down the stretch. Sorry, but I don't see these two factions coming together like they should.

Baseball continues to go overboard with marketing and timeliness issues. Memorial Day turned into another example. Of course, I understand and appreciate the meaning of the holiday as much as anyone. (My father is a Veteran of WWII.) But, come on, the MLB teams did not all have to wear red caps during their game on Memorial Day to show it.

I tuned into the telecast of the NY Yankees game from Texas, and was astounded to see the Yankees wearing red caps with the Yankees logo. Red?? Red has never been a part of the Yankees color or logo. Let alone that it is a Texas Rangers color and the Rangers were the home team. Later on I tuned by the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs telecast. Both of those teams with red? You have to be kidding. Or wishing they were.

OK, this is not nearly as disastrous as when every player and coach on the field wore number 42 last month on Jackie Robinson, but it goes in the same category. I know it is Memorial Day and the players and teams salute it. But does it have to be by making it difficult to identify the players on TV? I have to believe there were some fans tuning around with their remote looking for the Yankees game or Cubs game or Dodgers game and saw Red caps and thought they couldn't find "their" team on TV.

Marketing seems to be leaning toward having a different uniform every day, maybe so they can sell caps and bats and jerseys to souvenir hunters. But TV should have a consistent brand on the field at all times so that fans can instantly and easily identify. The teams on the field are supposed to be rivals willing to dive and charge and stretch and do whatever it takes to win that game. If they are all going to be made to look alike, it won't matter how much earlier the World Series telecasts start.

Meanwhile, MLB Network announces it will actually televise some of the "Youth Baseball Championships" this August with a schedule of games. It's fine that August is "Youth Baseball Month" and I'm all for it. But to make a big deal about it and televise games??

The big deal to me is that these are games played by boys no older than 12 years old. National TV? Entire games?

Don't get me wrong. I love the MLB Network. I never thought any baseball show could top ESPN Baseball Tonight, but MLB Tonight does on many nights hour after hour. Yet, in August as the division races heat up, they will take hours away to show a bunch of 10 and 12 year old boys for entire games?

All they need to do is let, for example, the winning pitcher of a Youth Baseball Championship throw out the first pitch at a nationally televised game or something. Give it the 30 seconds it deserves. Not hour after hour. Even if they get to wear different caps for the different teams.
Dennis Eckersley made it to the Baseball Hall of Fame after becoming a tremendous relief pitcher, but he may need some relief from the broadcast booth after last Friday night.

Eck, continuing to fill in as analyst on NESN Red Sox telecasts for the seriously ailing Jerry Remy, was commenting about a tense situation in Friday's Red Sox vs. Mets game. When out came the s-word clear as a bell. He then did an "oops" but realized it right away.

Yet, during that same telecast, Eckersley was referring to pitcher Masterson and said "masturbate" before quickly correcting that. In addition, one of the reporters commenting about this claims that he heard Eck use the s-word another time during that same telecast.

In this instance, it was a broadcaster and not a player, coach, or fan, letting out an obscenity on the air. And Eck knew he was on the air live at the time. TV stations and networks have gotten away with someone not on the broadcast crew putting out an obscenity. This time it was a member of the broadcast team doing it. As of this writing, Dave Roberts is handling the analyst roll for the current Red Sox vs. Minnesota series, with Eckersley scheduled to re-join the team in Detroit. Nothing yet about any change in status from TBS. In fact, Eckersley is scheduled to do analysis this coming Sunday (May 31) with Chip Caray on the TBS telecast of the Yankees game from Cleveland. (He is not scheduled for the Sunday June 7 TBS telecast of Texas at Boston, which will have Ron Darling and David Wells working with Caray.)

There was the incident a couple years ago with Bert Blyleven saying the F-word on a Twins telecast, but he did not think he was live on the air at the time. Yet, there was the recent incident in Des Moines where two radio hosts were fired because of an off-the-air argument containing profanities leaked onto the air.

Will the Hall of Fame reliever be relieved of his duties? And if not, what happens to others using those words knowing they are live on the air?

As for the Des Moines radio incident, Marty Tirrell, who was terminated by KXNO in March over the profanity filled argument not intended for the airwaves, could return to local radio next week (June 1). Tirrell is scheduled to begin an advertiser supported sports talk show from 4 to 6 PM on KBGG 1700. Marty will host the broadcast from a sponsoring auto dealership. It remains to be seen whether or not KXNO will pursue a possible non-compete clause.

Larry Cotlar, also terminated by KXNO following the March 20 incident, is already with KBGG.

On the college football front, CBS-TV is putting its SEC Football schedule together for the first season of its 15 year multi-million dollar contract extension. Highlighting the schedule is a September 19th telecast with national champion Florida taking on Tennessee at 3:30 PM ET.

Others on the docket include Alabama vs. Auburn on Nov. 27 and the SEC Championship game on Dec. 5 at 4 PM ET. Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson will handle the play-by-play and analysis.

In addition, CBS has announced the Army vs. Navy game for December 12th.

MEMPHIS: Speaking of the University of Tennessee, 680 AM, the ESPN station in Memphis, just signed a 3 year extension to carry UT football and basketball broadcasts through 2012. This includes carrying the coaches shows with Lane Kiffin and Bruce Pearl in season.

BANGOR: Congrats to George Hale on his upcoming induction into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday (May 31). The 76 year old Hale has more than 55 years of radio and TV experience, including 54 seasons as the play-by-play voice of University of Maine football. Yet, George still doesn't have an "off season" period. He co-hosts mornings on WVOM Radio with Ric Tyler, as he has for nearly 5 years.

Ft. WAYNE: Bob Chase is slowing down a bit at the age of 83 after 56 years with WOWO. Chase will retire from the morning show (sports) as of next Monday (June 1). But the word is he'll be back in October to do play-by-play of the minor league (hockey) Ft. Wayne Comets. We do mean "back". This coming season would be his 57th season of calling their games.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Earlier World Series games not totally a baseball decision............

Let's not go overboard with the announcement that the World Series and ALCS games will start about 40 minutes earlier beginning this fall. Granted, it helps the fans, especially in the Eastern time zone, to have a better chance of being able to see the conclusion of more of the games. It also gives the kids across the country a chance to see a couple more innings of each game while developing more interest and become the future spenders who watch baseball in prime time.

But this is not purely a baseball decision. There are also financial benefits for the TV and radio networks (and local radio) covering the games. By taking the 8:00 ET 7:00 CT half hour and making that time be an actual game broadcast, they no longer charge slightly less during prime time for what was pre-game show time. They will get a few thousand dollars more per spot from game time, especially since the first commercial will hit during prime time. The 7:57 PM ET start for these games means that even with a "three up three down" half inning the first commercial will air after 8:00, which is prime time. The TV pre-game show will begin at 7:30 PM ET, and be a few minutes shorter.

Elsewhere, I can understand Mike Tirico's decision to give up the ESPN Radio gig he has been doing 5 days a week and stick with his hectic but seasonal play-by-play schedule of football and basketball. Tirico will have a few weeks to prepare for the coming football season, as Ryen Russillo will join Scott Van Pelt on the ESPN Radio show (live at 2 - 4 PM ET) on July 6th. Mike Tirico will continue with ESPN Radio in a more limited role, such as hosting the weekly 2 hour college and pro football preview show on Friday nights starting in August.

Meanwhile, the death of former ABC Radio President Robert Pauley at the age of 85 earlier this month wouldn't normally make the sports pages, but it deserved to. Pauley became ABC Radio President back in 1961, and knew to use sports broadcasting as a means to grow the network. Pauley brought events such as heavyweight boxing matches and others to a national radio audience.

For example, estimates of a radio audience of more than 70,000,000 followed the ABC Radio broadcast of the 1964 Cassius Clay vs. Sonny Listion fight. In addition, it was Pauley who took a chance with an unknown but outspoken sports reporter he hired in his early days with the network. That reporter was Howard Cosell, whose "Speaking of Sports" paved the way for national sports news and comment with a then revolutionary style of controversy and opinion.
While Pauley will be missed, his influence on sports broadcasting is still as strong as ever.

SAN FRANCISCO / OAKLAND: This week brings the Bay Area's newest sports radio entry as KTRB 860 has made the switch and now competes against KNBR. The station is the flagship station for the Oakland A's games, giving them their best signal coverage in a while, even though A's television ratings have been dismal this season. KTRB also carries Stanford football and basketball.

The station looks to emphasize the A's and Raiders, while KNBR continues as the station broadcasting the Giants and 49ers games. While the newcomer KTRB plans to eventually add local programming focused on the A's and Raiders, it debuts with syndicated programming surrounding their 5 to 6 hour blocks for the A's games. The Todd & Tyler Radio Empire airs in morning drive, becoming that show's largest market by far (Omaha NE is believed to be their 2nd biggest market). Fox Sports Radio's Chris Myers and Petros & Money shows will run during the afternoon period depending upon the start time for A's programming.

DALLAS - While the crowded sports radio market continues to unfold, KZMP 1540 has picked up ESPN Deportes, the Spanish language sports format and will begin with that on June 1st.

PORTLAND - The recent sale of KXL 750 comes to Alpha Broadcasting with an 8 year deal as flagship station of the Portland Trailblazers. KXTG 95.5 will carry the Seattle Seahawks NFL broadcasts.

HOUSTON - KILT 610 continues as the market leader in the battle of sports stations, but Bill Van Rysdam is being replaced as Program Director after nearly 9 years on the job at Houston's longest sports station. The station continues its 10 year $70 million dollar contract to broadcast Houston Texans football, but the economic impact of this contract on the station could have made an impact with this decision. Recent major league radio rights deals have been done for less money and more revenue and advertising sharing with the team. Yet, with 3 other sports stations in the market, play-by-play rights become a bidding war.

PHILADELPHIA - The 76ers will have a new TV analyst to work with Marc Zumoff on Comcast SportsNet beginning next season. The team has already announced that Bob Salmi will not return after 2 seasons in that role, having taken over for former Sixers star Steve Mix.

MINNEAPOLIS - Cheers to the University of Minnesota Radio Network for a wonderful gesture this fall. U of M plays its first game at its new football stadium on September 12th against Air Force. To help celebrate, Ray Christensen will return to the broadcast booth to call a series with the Golden Gophers on offense. He called more than 500 U of M football games before retiring in 2001, including having called the first game they played at the Metrodome.

Darrell Thompson and Dave Mona will be able to work with Ray, like they did for his last 3 seasons as the play-by-play voice at the turn of the century.

This is somewhat in the same vein as the Phillies radio allowing Haray Kalas to call the ninth inning of the Phillies' World Series win over Tampa last October. Even if this is merely a Minnesota vs. Air Force game, it should prove a wonderful gesture and a special moment for the Gophers' long time fans.

COLUMBUS: As of this past Monday (5/11), Columbus now has a 2nd sports radio station, as WHAL 1460 has changed format and picked up Fox Radio and other syndicated sports programs. These include Dan Patrick, Jim Rome, and JT The Brick. The station, which was Spanish until this week, competes against WEAM 1580's ESPN Radio. In a way, this is odd timing, given that the Blue Jackets' season ended 2 weeks earlier and Ohio State football is still 3 months away.

Ft. MYERS - Similar story in Ft. Myers where new signal WNPL 1460 will simulcast and expand the reach of 1200 AM by adding Fox Sports. Actually 1200 AM has been on the air with sports only since last summer. The stronger combined signal competes against 770 AM and its ESPN Radio programming.

OKLAHOMA CITY: Even though the NBA Thunder was a disaster in the standings during its initial season in Oklahoma City, the former Seattle SuperSonics had a positive impact on WWLS 640 and 98.1 Sports Animal. The station showed up in the top 10 overall for the market in the recently released winter ratings book, while the other sports station failed to crack the top 20.

Ratings were up as much as 70% during the evening period with the Thunder broadcasts compared with one year earlier (when there was no NBA team in town).

HATTERAS NC: WYND 97.1 has become an ESPN Radio affiliate.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The latest sports related lawsuit - Media Update 5/12

There is no name for this yet, so I'll call it the "Sports Likeness and Permission" controversy. In late April, a Federal District Court judge in Minnesota had ruled in favor of CBS Interactive regarding its use of "information" about football players without first getting permission from sports leagues. It is another step in what seems a mounting battle about the use of actual player performance statistics for fantasy, board, and computer games. But the difference between pro and college players becomes a factor on the latest development.

Then, last week, a lawsuit involving former University of Nebraska QB Samuel Keller against the NCAA and EA Games (Electronic Arts) for allegedly misappropriating his likeness in video games that simulate college matches, and he is seeking class action status.

While I'm not here to (nor am I capable) offer a legal opinion, the interesting part of this lawsuit to me is Keller's claim that the NCAA "wrongly approved" for a game company to use actual player likenesses in games, and is also profiting from having done so.

EA Games profits from Division I college football and basketball games every year, in which it uses computer graphics to depict specific teams and players, including a likeness to "perform" within its games. There have already been several court rulings regarding the rights of game companies and media organizations (including fantasy sports web sites) to use publicly accessible player statistics.

What is also interesting to me is how little media attention this story is getting. The same local stations and TV and radio networks which pay millions of dollars for rights to broadcast the games and performances of these players. The same stations and print + online media which broadcast and/or publish "fantasy update" stats to draw viewers, listeners, and readers on a regular basis.

From the fans' perspective, these video and virtual games with actual players "performing" (as opposed to only a statistical reflection) will continue to exist and be as current as possible.

Actually, they will benefit by all of this. The publicity of this lawsuit will call even more attention to these games where players "perform". (Fantasy leagues are based on actual in-game statistics - where is in a virtual game, a player designed to physically and performance wise resemble specific players are involved in an actual game setting.)

If the court rules against virtual games and they would need to cough up royalties (as this lawsuit seeks), the game companies would realize that they would then have to significantly increase prices. Not a viable move in this econonmy. But they would have an out. All they need to do is create nameless characters who resemble certain teams and hold to those teams and player statistics. For example, they could put out a college football fantasy game, with 2 of the teams being "Lincoln vs. Norman". The players and statistics would match those as the universities in the towns of Lincoln and Norman, and not have to pay any royalties.

Fans in the know would figure out that these really represent the U. of Nebraska and Oklahoma (which play in Lincoln NE and Norman OK respectively) and simply insert the appropriate player names on their home version.

Hopefully the courts will make some defined rulings, such as pro vs. college players and fantasy vs. virtual instead of this going case by case. Maybe it's time to plan a radio and TV show to help virtual game players match the statistics against the "real" teams.

Meanwhile, after months of suggesting this, an attempt to make HD Radio relevant is finally entering the sports community. WXDX Pittsburgh will launch an HD channel specific to the NHL Penguins and NHL Radio this September, to coincide with the start of training camp. As I have been suggesting, this will be a dedicated 24 hour channel, and is expected to include broadcast replays, historical game replays, and innovations such as broadcasts of the Penguins' minor league team games. This announcement comes shortly after WXDX announced a new 6 year contract with the team.

While this is believed to be the first 24 hour channel dedicated to a team, there is also KRLD in Dallas planning to use an HD channel for "extensive coverage" of the Cowboys.

It's a start!

Meanwhile, I am delighted about ESPN hiring Matt Millen as a football analyst starting for the coming season. His new role will include both college and pro games, although his NFL analysis is limited to studio work for Monday Night Football. Here's hoping he is judged for his broadcasting ability, was was excellent several years ago on Fox, and not against his General Manager duties for the Detroit Lions.

NEW YORK - WEPN 1050 has renewed with N.Y. Giants players Eli Manning and Brandon Jacobs for weekly appearances during the coming season. These will be done at separate times.

This is fine as long as both players continue reasonable media cooperation at other times. It is certain players who sign media contracts and then take the "I'm not getting paid to talk to you" attitude that ruin this type of arrangment.

LOS ANGELES: The Dodgers continue to unveil their "Women's Initiatives Network" program as a means to attract more of a female audience. Now they have hired Janne Zelasko, known to baseball fans as the former host of Fox-TV baseball coverage for the past few previous seasons, to call play-by-play of Wednesday home Dodgers games for the rest of this seasons. Her call, along with Mark Sweeney as analyst, will be heard on www.Dodgers.com/win. I didn't know that women weren't happy with Vin Scully and Charlie Steiner handling the call.

Speaking of calling Dodgers games, still another (and well deserved) award for the 60 year voice of the franchise. On Monday night (5/11), Vin Scully received the Sports & Entertainment Ambassador Award of Excellence from the Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission at a dinner held at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.

SAN FRANCISCO: The Oakland A's struggle to call attention to their games has suffered another blow, however temporary. Many fans have given up on the weak signal radio coverage in place for this season. Now, Dish Network has dropped some A's games due to more negotiation problems with Comcast SportsNet. This on the heels of a report that last week the Giants telecasts delivered more than 5 times the total audience of the A's games - when they were available on Dish Network. This could be an attempt by Dish Network to gauge interest in the A's before they pay to the piper (CSN) to carry all of the games once again.

SEATTLE: The addition of KIRO 710 to all-sports and the move of all-news to KIRO FM at 97.3 has influenced news rival KOMO. Starting this Friday (5/15), KOMO 1000 will simulcast on 97.7 FM. This means the end of "the Eagle" and its classic hit music format.

DENVER: Jim Armstrong of the Denver Post returns to sports talk radio on July 13th. After a 2-year stint during afternoon drive on The Fan 104.3, Armstrong will join Les Shapiro during morning drive on KCKK 1510 starting at that time. Shapiro will continue with guest co-hosts until that time.

Former Colorado University QB Joel Klatt has joined Nate Kreckman on the 3 - 6 PM show on 1510 as of last week. Klatt has other local broadcasting experience prior to this.

No word yet about a new radio play-by-play voice for the Denver Broncos for the upcoming season. It seems that another casualty of Clearance Channel was David Diaz-Infante, who had called the games on KOA 850.

WASHINGTON D.C.: Congrats to former Redskin Brian Mitchell on being named to the Redskins' "Field Ring Hall of Fame" during a game next season after his 10 years of special teams work for the Redskins. However, Mitchell had been working in radio ever since. Only days after learning of his honor from the team, Mitchell was let go from 890 ESPN after more than four years hosting or co-hosting various shows.

One other important fact to all of this. The radio station is one of the stations owned by the Redskins' owner.

RALEIGH: Congrats to The Buzz 850 Sports Radio upon a 25% increase in total weekly audience according to the recently released first quarter ratings.

HUNTINGTON: Congrats to Paul Swann of WVHU 800 on a first place and two second place awards at the recent West Virginia Associated Press Broadcasters Association Awards Banquet held in Charleston. Swann too honors for "Best Host" and received Honorable Mention for "Best Sports Talk Show".

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Changing stadiums and uniforms ?

I would like to believe that stadiums and uniforms should be a constant in the world of us sports fans, but it seems more and more as though the media does not. And like ticket prices as well as the cost of watching our respective favorite teams on TV (via cable or satellite), it looks like still more sacred turf is getting out of hand. I don't see why stadiums and uniforms should receive anywhere close to the amount of media time they get these days.

Land Shark Stadium??? I heard about this and I thought about the hysterical sketch on the early (and funny) days of Saturday Night Live with Chevy Chase knocking on apartment doors and "eating" the residents who opened the door for his "Land Shark" costume. Then I saw this in print, and thought that maybe a reputable news operation had picked up a story from The Onion.

But, silly me. This could happen as soon as this coming Friday. It seems that name is now the name of a beer. This could be the name of the same stadium the Miami Dolphins have played in for years. The stadium I still refer to as Joe Robbie Stadium, since that's how it was introduced and Joe Robbie was the Dolphins' owner who got it built.

The same stadium that right now technically isn't named for the team that plays in it (Dolphin Stadium and NOT Dolphins Stadium). The former Underwear Stadium (whatever). The same facility that cuts off beer sales at half-time and had to implement a "family section" so that kids attending a pro football game would have a safe harbor. Let alone that it is not and has never been in Miami.

Yet, the media will accept this and mention the name on any and every report. This could wind up even worse than Enron Stadium in Houston. Or whatever it is called this week.
The same radio and TV stations hard up for advertising revenue won't carry a report "from Miami" or "from Houston" about the Dolphins or Texans games? They act as if there is an obligation to include the corporate stadium name.

What all of these changing stadium and arena names does for the hardcore sports fan is to add distance between us and the teams we follow. Personally, all I need to know is which is the home team when watching or listening to a game or highlights.

Then there is the matter of inside the stadiums and arenas. Telecasts are now littered with advertising on the field (and ice for hockey games) and in almost every shot. Yet, when it comes to uniforms, teams won't allow any advertising on those, such as what NASCAR does. (And I'm not complaining about that!)

Yet, now the NFL announces it will hold a series of "AFL Legacy" games during the coming regular season, to feature the 50th season for many of the old American Football League teams. I'm fine with that. History is a huge part of sports. However, the NFL is making the participating teams wear retro uniforms for the entire game.

Even without advertising on them, these retro uniforms used on occasion by pro teams, are a terrible distraction. The novelty has worn off, if it was even there in the first place. Fans watching the game lose identity for "their" team because it becomes harder to recognize the players.

And what if any of these games has a team or league record broken? Or a significant individual or team achievement on one or a series of plays? The result is that highlights shown for years to come show the player(s) involved in a completely different uniform than all of the other highlights. Again, a terrible distraction. This one has nothing to do with advertising.

My frustration is that both the Miami area stadium and AFL Legacy games are and will get significant media attention this week and beyond. I would much rather hear and see about the teams playing in those games. Maybe THAT would attract more advertisers for the starving radio and TV sales.

NEW YORK - The NHL continues to make decisions which hurt its television exposure even into the playoffs. The league which chose Versus, which many people don't even know where to find, over ESPN two seasons ago, and allows NBC-TV to televise games at staggered times each week, has managed another similar accomplishment.

Ratings were down in New York even though the Rangers and Devils both had 7 game playoff series in the first round. The reason? The 2 game 7's were scheduled to start one hour apart, thus segmenting what might have been a huge audience for either game.

Yet, there is no similar excuse in Buffalo, which only has NHL and NFL as its major league pro teams. Thus far this playoff season, NHL playoff ratings overall have dipped below local NBA playoff ratings. Ouch.

BOSTON - Here's hoping for a full recovery of Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy, who is again sitting out from NESN telecasts this week while trying to shake his bout with pneumonia. Even though Jerry missed much of spring training, it appears he was not yet fully recovered. NESN borrowed Buck Martinez from TBS for the Tampa series this past weekend, and has Dennis Eckersley (also of TBS) working with Don Orsillo during the current Yankees series instead of his NESN studio role. Word is that Remy could return for this upcoming weekend.

HOUSTON - Sorry to hear of the death of McCoy McLemore, the former NBA player who served as analyst on Houston Rockets telecasts on HSE back in the late 1980's. He passed away at age 67 from cancer.

ST. LOUIS - With 3 sports stations now in the St. Louis market the recently released winter ratings book took on additional meaning. Newcomer WXOS 101.1 FM seems to have taken more audience away from perennial sports talk leader KFNS, leaving KSLG 1380 as the leader among men 25-54. WXOS began the sports format (and new call letters) on New Year's Day. Yet, KSLG had its strongest finish, with its addition of Kevin Slaten, now on afternoons, appearing to be making a difference.

WXOS figures to grow later in the year when it begins Rams football broadcasts and coverage.
Meanwhile, 74 year-old Jay Randolph has added co-hosting a horse race handicapping show on KFNS 590 each Saturday at 10 AM that will run through June 6th, the day of the Belmont Stakes. Jay continues his duties on Cardinals telecasts on KSDK-TV this season as well.

ATLANTA - Congrats to Lary Munson on his induction this past Monday night (5/4) into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame. The 86 year-old Munson called U. of Georgia football from 1966 through 2007, and videotaped his acceptance message when health concerns prevented him from traveling to the event.

SEATTLE - University of Washington football for the coming season looks so promising that the TV people are jumping on the bandwagon already. The Huskies' season opener vs. LSU on Sept. 5 will air on ESPN in West Coast prime time (7:30 PT), while the Sept. 19th game against USC will be an ABC-TV afternoon regional telecast. In addition, the Huskies will appear on NBC-TV on Oct. 3rd at Notre Dame, although that is due to Notre Dame and not the Huskies' possible ranking at the time. ESPN still has the option to pick up at least one additional telecast up to 2 weeks before a scheduled game.

COLUMBIA SC: Mike Morgan is out as basketball and baseball play-by-play voice for the University of South Carolina. The school will seek a replacement, but it will not be current and continuing football voice Todd Ellis. Ellis, the former SC quarterback, has held the role (succeeding Charlie Alexander) from the 2003 season. This will keep SC as one of only 2 SEC schools (Alabama is the other) using separate announcers for football and basketball play-by-play.

SOUTH BEND: Here's a different impact for college hockey on local sports radio than usual. WPNT 1620 is now carrying ESPN Radio in South Bend since sister station WDND 1490 has gone dark. The reason? WDND's replacement transmitter tower (built early 2008 after a wind storm knocked down the original one) needs to be moved - because Notre Dame is building its new hockey arena on the same site. WDND could remain dark for the remainder of the year.

SALEM OR: KVXX 1390 is still sports radio, but the language has changed. As of last Friday (5/1), the station now carries ESPN Deportes. The next closest ESPN signal, on KFXX 1080, does not cover the entire market at night and will also make hearing Seattle Mariners games a local challenge. KVXX will carry Spanish broadcasts of the NBA Portland Trailblazers starting next season.