Friday, October 21, 2016

Editorial: Dear Big 12, can you do me this one favor?

By: Kin Kinsley

It was once sung that video killed the radio star.  It was not an Orwellian statement, but there was certainly some truth to it.  Radio has not gone away, however.  MTV has gone away from music videos and would rather keep up with the Kardashians or have show us what the real world is like in a fake setting.  ESPN has gone from informative to laughable.  Radio has adapted in the last generation and with internet radio, satellite radio, podcasts, apps and more and is still viable.

Most weekdays from 7am until 430pm or so, I am listening to radio.  It may not be non-stop but I am listening.  It through the methods above that I listen – via Sirius/XM on the way to and from work and via radio station apps and podcasts while I am at work.  I know that not everyone is like me.  However, many are.

I will admit I am a radio homer.  There are times that my mind brings back childhood memories and a lot of them are of fall Saturdays listening to Jack Fleming and Woody O’Hara call Mountaineer football games.  In my teens I began listening to Pat Foley and Dale Tallon not only call the current Chicago Blackhawks game, but also teach me about the game of hockey.  I also fondly remember the voices of Hank Stram, Myron Cope and Brad Sham calling NFL games.  These men were major factors in me wanting to go into sports radio.

Things did not work out that way.  I have a degree in Journalism from West Virginia University and went through the TV and radio broadcasting sequence.  I worked on the sports staff at U-92, the student radio station.  It was working on that staff that I realized sports radio was not the career for me.  I did not love sports the way the other guys did.  They would stay up until the last west coast game was over just to see what happened.  It did not matter what the sport was.  I did not and still do not have that love.  I was well into my junior year when I discovered that radio was not what I wanted to do.  However, I went ahead and finished out my degree.

Fast forward to the present and I work an office job for a fantastic company.  My career has me doing something that I enjoy and that suits my talents.  I have no complaints.  I do get to listen to radio (much of it sports radio) while I’m working.

All of that brings me to this point.  The Big 12 Conference should “think outside the box” some and start their own radio network.  For whatever reason, there is not a Big 12 television network.  The “why” does not matter, it simply is a fact.  I will not give the conference too much hassle for this since it appears political.  There is no conference championship game.  I understand why.  I know the current rules.  The conference failed to name “one true champion” after the 2014 football season, which likely kept the conference out of the initial College Football Playoff.  The conference’s “Big 12 Insider” Wendell Barnhouse does not even have a Twitter account.  When you start adding together the pieces, it makes the conference appear out of touch.

Less than a year ago I moved to Arlington (Texas).  The Big 12 is run from Dallas.   Any time that I turn to one of the local sports radio stations, they are talking Cowboys, Rangers or Mavericks.  There is little mention of Texas, TCU or any other college program.  I understand that this is a pro-centric area.  All major cities are.  However, walking through the parking garage for my office, you can find stickers or license plates representing almost every Big 12 school.  There are millions of people in this area alone and there is certainly a college sports fan base that is not being catered to.  In smaller areas where most of the schools are based (like Morgantown or Waco), how is the local school represented on radio?

There are options to hear college football talk on the radio.  I listen to WJOX, based out of Birmingham, because I can get 90% college football talk.  It is catering to an SEC audience though. Sirius/XM has a station devoted to college sports.  However, the SEC is the dominant conference in college football right now and is more likely to have their fans listening than other conferences.  While they touch on all schools and conferences, it is limited in the amount of time it can dedicate to the Big 12.

Not everyone that is an alum or fan of a Big 12 school has an office job and can listen to radio at work.  In the last two years, I’ve worked in three different companies’ corporate offices and typically you do not walk more than a few yards without seeing someone with earbuds in or headphones on, listening to something.  From West Virginia coal miners to Texas and Oklahoma roughnecks, there are plenty of folks that won’t have that ability, but there are plenty that would.

I’m not suggesting that the conference should attempt to get onto Sirius/XM.  However, you could make it stream from the website and an app.  If radio stations in the sticks can make that happen, then the deep pockets of the Big 12 can allow for this.

The conference covers a lot of country, but only has schools in two time zones.  Morning and afternoon talk time wouldn’t be too far off.  You can have those issues with national programs.  Think about ESPN’s “Mike and Mike.”  The start time in Los Angeles is when some night owls may just be headed to bed.  That would not be an issue inside the actual school footprint of the conference.

In general, sports radio personalities have multiple jobs.  Off the top of my head, I can think of ones that work on TV as well, as PA announcers, as play-by-play or color commentary announcers and some even have additional radio shows.  For most, it is not a full-time job.  It’s feasible to have personalities on-air less.  It makes a need for more personalities with opinions and insights.  This is critical to keeping sports radio from getting stale.  Why not have a few hours a day of “general” sport talk and then have some that is more school specific?  Perhaps have someone well respected in each school’s area take on a show for a few hours a week.  Why not have a Paul Finebaum type for the Big 12.

I will not throw names out there, but there are plenty of people across the conference footprint that could provide quality content if they wanted to.  I can think of more than a few in West Virginia alone.  There are people that I follow on Twitter that hold other jobs in sports and/or have their own podcasts that would be solid, informative and entertaining personalities.  Why not the BGS radio show that will be starting soon?

I do not have all of the answers and do not claim to.  I do not have a business plan.  I know that it’s not just something that you can put together in a couple of months.  However, it would be something that could benefit the conference in many ways.  It can bring conference-centric content to the fans.  A Finebaum type show could get fans fired up.  It shows how passionate many fans are and could help create rivalries.  At this time, West Virginia does not have a rival at all.  There are many more benefits that even if not at face value are monetary, could result in financial gain on the back end.

But this is just one guy’s thoughts.

You can follow me on Twitter at @kin_kinsley.  I tweet all my interests, including WVU football, from that account.



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