10:22 a.m. update below.
First the Twins, now Gopher athletics: WCCO Radio has lost more legacy sports properties.
The University of Minnesota athletics department announced Wednesday that beginning this season, Gopher football will move to KFAN and its FM sibling, KTLK. Meanwhile, Hubbard Broadcasting’s 1500ESPN will get Gopher men’s basketball, men’s hockey and women’s basketball. All are three-year deals.
The move has to be a heartbreaker for Sid Hartman, whose blood runs maroon. I can’t believe Gopher announcer Dave Lee is feeling all that great today, either, since his tenure is now effectively ended.
Mike Crusham, general manager of KFAN/KTLK owner Clear Channel, says his operation had wanted Gopher sports for a long time. The station now has a ratings winner on autumn Saturdays to go with the Vikings on Sundays. “This fits perfectly into our overall plans — no pre-emptions,” he noted.
Crusham says the deal does not involve revenue-sharing and when I asked about rights fees, he said “not necessarily.” (I’ve heard no money is changing hands.) The stations will profit on shows surrounding the gamecast — pre-game, post-game and coaches’ shows.
As for the 1500 crew, I haven’t connected with vice president Dan Seeman, but the hockey-crazed Hubbards have long coveted Gopher puck.
None of Hubbard’s three sports are big ratings winners like football; it’s believed the U (actually, its syndicator, Learfield Sports) paid WCCO big to carry hockey and women’s hoops, and perhaps even basketball. But for 1500, a year-old sports station, a big boost in game inventory is a good thing, even if Learfield pays less for carriage.
[Update: As expected, Seeman wouldn’t talk money — I still say Hubbard is getting paid something. However, Seeman did note Gopher baskeball announcer Mike Grimm, unlike Lee, would be back.]
Meanwhile, all may not be lost for WCCO.
Yes, it’s another hit to their prestige and lineage, but if the U and Learfield were intent on spending less, this might not be an awful bottom-line move for the Good Neighbor. WCCO has solidified their talk line-up, and the most recent ratings were the strongest in years despite disappointing years for the Gophers teams. There will be fewer shows pre-empted, though WCCO retains the NHL Minnesota Wild.
Still, Sid’s sports huddle got a lot smaller today.