SBJ/June 25 - July 1, 2001/This Weeks Issue

USC, broadcaster near choice in hunt for football play-by-play voice

The new Sporting News Radio affiliate in Los Angeles, KMPC-AM, is culling the field and expects to name a play-by-play announcer for University of Southern California football in the next few weeks. (The university and station recently signed a partnership.)

"This has been the most coveted play-by-play job in Los Angeles since 1976 when the Dodgers hired a third announcer," said program director Kurt Kretzschmar, explaining that most other positions, (like the one left open when Dodgers broadcaster Don Drysdale died in 1993, have been filled without open searches.

This job is not entirely open, either: Candidates must be USC alumni or somehow connected to "USC family." But Kretzschmar said he still received applicants from 20 serious candidates "from all over the country." Most are working at college football play-by-play jobs or in NFL fill-in roles.

KMPC is not deciding alone but is working closely both with parent SNR and partner USC. The relationship was to begin with the football season, but KMPC got a head start by carrying USC's College World Series games.

KMPC and Sporting News Radio hope to take USC to the Notre Dame level by creating a national radio presence. The football games are already cleared for all of Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego, and Kretzschmar said once the broadcasters are in place, he expects to clear more deals. Even Pac-10 Conference cities, which are limited by all-or-none conference rules that prevent stations from cherry-picking key games, have expressed interest.

Meanwhile, KMPC is now the only station in Los Angeles with a billboard campaign to promote a specific host, as opposed to overall station ads. It began touting morning show host Jay Mariotti earlier this month.

And speaking of individual hosts, Kretzschmar has been talking with Bob Golic, who was recently dropped by Fox Sports Radio, although Kretzschmar said there is no specific opening.

 SNR GRABS TWO: On the corporate front, KMPC's parent, Sporting News Radio, has hired two key behind-the-scenes players from the now-defunct SportsFan Radio network: program director Ryan Williams and marketing and promotions director Jennifer Hadden. Earlier, Fox Sports Radio hired SportsFan's most recognizable on-air talent, John "J.T." Turnour, for its pivotal p.m. drive slot. At SNR, Williams will be sports director and Hadden will be executive producer. Both will report to Mark Gentzkow, vice president of programming. Williams will help oversee day-to-day operations of on-air talent, while Hadden will handle remote broadcasts while working with owned-and-operated affiliates as well as the other Sporting News media platforms.

  VIKES' EMPTY SEAT: Having vetoed Mike Norris, the Minnesota Vikings don't have a radio color analyst and probably won't until after the Fourth of July holiday. "It's not on the fast track anymore," said Gregg Swedberg, operations manager of KFAN-AM, which submitted Norris as its first choice as partner with play-by-play man Lee Hamilton. "Everybody and his brother is on vacation now."

The Vikings cited their former center's lack of professional experience in nixing Norris, who played for the Vikes from 1991 to 1999, but some local reports say Norris has a strained relationship with coach Dennis Green. Either way, Swedberg said, this problem won't arise with whomever his second choice should be. "We're probably a little smarter now," he said. "I ran my whole list past the team now for approval."

  LACROSSE ON THE DIAL: Major League Lacrosse is making its first inroads into radio. The Rochester (N.Y.) Rattlers' 14 games will be broadcast live on WYSL-AM and the coach, Guy Van Arsdale, will appear weekly during morning drive to talk about the team and the league.

Stuart Miller can be reached at smiller@amcity.com.

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