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Jim Graci Wants To Learn & Teach At BSM Summit

“It’s my job to help talent be better and identify what kind of road blocks I can get out of their way to perform better.”

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Surely you’ve heard The Steve Miller Band’s song ‘Rock’n Me,’ right? You know, the one that goes, “I went from Phoenix, Arizona all the way to Tacoma, Philadelphia, Atlanta, L.A.” If that doesn’t ring a bell I’ll have to seriously question your knowledge of music. 

Jim Graci, the program director at 1020 KDKA and 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, used to jokingly tell people that song was about his resume. If you didn’t know any better, you could see how it might be true, seeing as Graci’s radio career has taken him to just about every corner in the country, including the Pacific Northwest, Southwest, Deep South and now the Northeast. In reality, as many different cities are named in ‘Rock’n Me’ it’s pale in comparison to how many markets Graci has actually worked in. 

In two weeks, Graci will be one of the many talented industry professionals at the BSM Summit in Los Angeles. Along with others, he’ll be featured on the Evaluating Content and Talent panel. I can’t tell you how excited I am for this portion of the conference. The opportunity to learn from someone who’s been in the business since 1974 and developed talent in markets such as Dallas, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and others is a unique opportunity. Plus, I wouldn’t even mind hearing about his experiences as a public address announcer for both the Atlanta Hawks and Seattle Supersonics. 

Graci first dipped his toe into the sports radio industry at 16 years old. Since then, he’s gained a wealth of knowledge and experience that has turned him into one of the most well-known and respected program directors in the country. With the unique duty of being a PD at both a news talk and sports talk station, Graci has to equally balance time between both stations to make sure each is successful. Obviously, that’s easier said than done. 

Being a PD at two different stations probably means long days, constant coaching and countless planning and programming. It even means watching a long State of the Union address from President Trump, as Graci did on Tuesday night, seeing as he needed to be familiar with the speech, considering his daily programming duties with 1020 KDKA. But it’s still a blessing way more than it’s a curse. Graci knows this and looks forward to each task and challenge the everyday life in radio brings. 

Truly, its guys like Graci who will make the BSM Summit in a success. The ideas and suggestions that will come out of the summit will be invaluable to every host, producer, program director, etc. in attendance. But Graci isn’t coming to Los Angeles just to help out all his other comrades in the industry. He’s eager to learn, too. We talked about the BSM Summit and much more. 

TM: What do you look for when someone sends you their demo? 

JG: First of all, personality. Whether they sound confident, whether they’re a good story teller, whether they’re concise, whether they catch my attention, those are just the basic things of what makes a good talk show host. 

TM: Are there certain things you don’t like when someone sends you their demo? 

JG: When people send demos, they should send their demos with them right up top. They should lead off with their best foot forward, they should give us their A-game in the first 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Sometimes, people will wait 2, 3, 4 minutes into the demo until stuff starts hitting, whereas you’re never guaranteed that a program director is going to listen past the first 30 seconds. If you only get 30 seconds of their time at the very start, don’t you want to grab them with your best material? When I would build a demo I would think about how to keep the program director listening for the next 30 seconds of my demo. 

TM: Pittsburgh is always going to be a Steelers town. It’s always going to be football heavy. But the Penguins and NHL still have a big draw. Is it a requirement of a host that you hire to be able to talk hockey? Or do you think you can train a skilled talk show host that’s maybe lacking on that side of their sports knowledge?

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JG: Well, I think you need to know what’s going on in your town. Certainly, hockey is important in Pittsburgh, as well as a lot of other northeastern cities such as Buffalo, Boston, Toronto, I can think of a lot of other cities where hockey is a relevant conversation during its season. But hey, if it were an NBA town, I’d expect them to know NBA.

If I was in Seattle or Atlanta I’d expect a host to be able to know about soccer. You have to know what your town’s fans are really enjoy to be able to relate and talk about it. So yeah, hockey is important in Pittsburgh, so sure I would expect anyone coming in here to know what they’re talking about with the sport, along with the Penguins. 

TM: You’re a PD of both Newsradio 1020 KDKA and 93.7 The Fan. Which station takes up more of your time and is it difficult to juggle both a news and sports talk format?

JG: Well, its talk so we’re all trying to relate in spoken word format, so there’s that similarity. It’s easier to be able to coach in that regard, because you’re approaching the same dynamic, whereas, if I was doing news talk or if I was doing a music station, I would coach the disc jockeys a little more differently than I would the talk hosts. But which one takes up more time?

That’s almost like asking which of my children I like best or which finger I would keep over the other, I can’t make those choices because I go by the day and coach by need, listen to both and try to spend as equal time as possible on each.

I’m blessed because I have two stations that are live and local from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. 7 days a week. That’s a lot of local programming, so for me, it’s a constant level of trying to relate to our talent on both the news and sports side. Which, both are very vibrant in Pittsburgh. 

TM: Is there a particular name or set of names you’re looking forward to hearing from at the BSM Summit? 

JG: I’ve been in this business so long, it’s hard to name just one. Really, I’m just excited to see everyone there. I am really excited though to meet some people I’ve never met before. Those are the fresh perspectives that I want to hear. 

TM: What do you hope to get out of the BSM Summit in Los Angeles?

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JG: I love sharing ideas. I love talking to my contemporaries and comrades. I love everything about the business of radio and everything that goes into what we do and how we do it. To talk to and see a bunch of my old friends, as well as talk to a bunch of people about how we can all make our radio stations better, because let’s face it, our industry, when we’re compelling, people will turn to us.

When there’s something that’s going on, people want to know and they’ll turn to us. To be the best we can be, is what we all strive for. The only way to be better than what you are today, is to use your mind with fresh ideas. That’s why I love going to sports radio conferences like this one, because I just love to remind myself of the basics, the blocking and tackling, but also what trick plays I can use down the road. 

TM: How would you describe yourself as a PD? 

JG: I try to be honest with whatever feelings I have with anybody. If it’s my opinion and how I feel, I’m going to tell you. But at the same time, I’m going to try to be sympathetic to delivering news that you don’t want to hear, but I think it’s beneficial to know what you’re dealing with. It’s my job to help talent be better and identify what kind of road blocks I can get out of their way to perform better. I look at constructive criticism as a way to remove intimidates rather than something that’s hard to do.

You still have to talk to people about accenting their strengths and showcasing what they do right as well as what they do wrong. I try to balance that out to help people be better at what they do. I would hope my bosses would do the same for me, point out my flaws that I need to work on and improve to be a better person and performer. 

BSM Writers

Keith Moreland’s Broadcasting Fills Void Left by MLB Career

“When I got through… I wanted to do something with my life and I get that same feeling with broadcasting.”

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Austin American-Statesman

Sports color analysts are more often than not former players. This has been a consistent norm across sports broadcasting at all levels. The analyst is there to add “color” to the play-by-play broadcaster’s metaphorical and verbal “drawing” of the game. For former MLB slugger and catcher, Keith Moreland, this was the surprise post-playing retirement career that has boosted him to a key figure in Austin media and national media alike.

Moreland played football and baseball at the University of Texas before making his way to the MLB for 12 years with key contributions to the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs in the 1980s.

Moreland reminisced on his decision to play baseball full time: “I thought I was going to be in the NFL, but Earl Campbell changed that. I had just played summer ball. We had won a championship and I missed the first few days of two-a-days. I hadn’t even had a physical yet and I’m in a scrimmage. I stepped up to this freshman running back and as he ducked his shoulder, one of his feet hit my chest and the other hit my face mask and he kept on truckin’. I got up and I thought ‘I could be a pretty good baseball player.’

So I told Coach Royal after practice I was going to focus on baseball and he asked ‘what took you so long? We were surprised you came back because we think you have a really good shot at playing professional baseball.'”

It was a good choice for Moreland. He was part of the 1973 College World Series winning Texas Longhorns baseball team. While at Texas Moreland hit .388 and became the all-time leader in hits for the College World Series. After being drafted by the Phillies in the 7th round of the 1975 draft, Moreland would go-on to play in the majors from 1978 to 1989.

“You go your whole life trying to get to play professionally. When I got through my opportunity to play in the big leagues, I wanted to do something with my life and I get that same feeling with broadcasting.”

Broadcasting was not the original retirement plan for Moreland. He first tried his luck at coaching with his first stop being his alma mater as an assistant for the Longhorns. At the time, Bill Schoening (a Philadelphia native and Phillies fan), was the radio play-by-play broadcaster. Schoening made Moreland a go-to for a pre-game interview and convinced him to come on talk shows. Schoening even convinced Moreland to practice live broadcasting skills by taking a recorder to games and listening back to them to learn.

“Bill was the guy who brought me onboard and I still have those tapes and I really learned from them, but I don’t want anyone else to ever hear them!” Moreland adds with a chuckle on how far he has come in over 25 years of broadcasting.

Moreland has been a key part of University of Texas radio broadcasts for baseball since the 1990s and has catapulted that broadcast experience to Texas high school football, Longhorn football radio and television broadcasts, ESPN, the Little League World Series, the Chicago Cubs and more since hanging up his cleats and picking up a microphone.

While his playing days are well behind him, Moreland still takes the spirit of his professional athlete background to his broadcasting:

“If you don’t bring energy to your broadcast, somebody’s gonna turn the game on and wonder ‘what’s wrong? Are they losing the game?’”, Moreland remarks, “So you have to come prepared and with energy for the broadcasts.”

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BSM Writers

Radio Partnerships With Offshore Sportsbooks Are Tempting

The rush to get sports betting advertising revenue offers an interesting risk to stations in states where the activity is illegal.

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Maryland Matters

As the wave of sports gambling continues to wash over the United States, marketing budgets soar and advertisements flood radio and television airwaves. Offers of huge sign-on bonuses, “risk-free” wagers, and enhanced parlay odds seem to come from every direction as books like DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM fight over market share and battle one another for every new user they can possibly attract.

For those in states where sports betting is not yet legalized–or may never be–it is frustrating to see these advertisements and know that you cannot get in the action. However, as with any vice, anybody determined to partake will find ways to do so. Offshore sports books are one of the biggest ways. Companies such as Bovada and BetOnline continue to thrive even as more state-based online wagering options become available to Americans.

While five states–Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York–have passed laws making it illegal for offshore books to take action from their residents, using an offshore book is perfectly legal for the rest of the country. While there are hurdles involved with funding for some institutions, there is no law that prevents someone in one of those other 45 states from opening an account with Bovada and wagering on whatever sporting events they offer. The United States government has tried multiple times to go after them, citing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006, and have failed at every step, with the World Trade Organization citing that doing so would violate international trade agreements. 

While gambling is becoming more and more accepted every day, and more states look to reap the financial windfall that comes with it, the ethical decisions made take on even more importance. One of the tougher questions involved with the gambling arms race is how to handle offers from offshore books to advertise with radio stations in a state where sports betting is not legalized. 

Multiple stations in states without legalized gambling, such as Texas and Florida, have partnerships with BetOnline to advertise their services. Radio stations can take advantage of these relationships in three main ways: commercials, on-air reads, and the station’s websites. For example, Bovada’s affiliate program allows for revenue sharing based on people clicking advertisements on a partner’s website and signing up with a new deposit. This is also the case for podcasts, such as one in Kansas that advertises with Bovada despite sports gambling not being legal there until later in 2022.

People are going to gamble, and it’s legal to do so. In full disclosure, I myself have utilized Bovada’s services for a number of years, even after online sports wagering became legal in my state of Indiana. As such, advertising a service that is legal within the state seems perfectly fine in the business sense, and I totally understand why a media entity would choose to accept an offer from an offshore book. However, there are two major factors that make it an ethical dilemma, neither of which can be ignored.

First, Americans may find it easy to deposit money with a book such as Bovada or BetOnline, but much more difficult to get their money back. While the UIGEA hasn’t been successful in stopping these books from accepting money, it has made it difficult–near impossible, in fact–for American financial institutions to accept funds directly from these companies. Therefore, most payouts have to take place either via a courier service, with a check that can take weeks to arrive, or via a cryptocurrency payout. For those who are either unwilling or not tech-savvy enough to go this route, it means waiting sometimes up to a month to receive that money versus a couple days with a state-licensed service.

The other major concern is the lack of protections involved with gambling in a state where legislation has been passed. For example, the state of Indiana drew up laws and regulations for companies licensed to operate within its borders that included protections for how bets are graded, what changes can be made to lines and when they can take place, and how a “bad line” is handled. They also require a portion of the revenues be put towards resources for those dealing with gambling addiction or compulsion issues. 

None of those safeguards exist with an offshore book. While the books have to adhere to certain regulations, it’s much more loosely enforced. I’ve lost track of the number of times a book like Bovada has made somewhat shady decisions on what bets to honor as “wins”, and how they handle wagers on what they deem to be “bad lines” where they posted a mistake and users capitalized on it. Furthermore, not a single dime of the monies received go towards helping those dealing with addiction, and there are few steps taken by the offshore books to look for compulsive or addictive behaviors.  

As states look to move sports betting out of the shadows, the decision whether to take advertising dollars from offshore books seems to be an even larger gray area than ever before. Although it is perfectly legal to accept these funds when offered, it feels unethical to do so. There are moral obligations tied to accepting the money involved, especially given the lack of regulations and safeguards for players in addition to the limited resources for those who find themselves stuck in a situation they may struggle to escape. While it’s possible to take steps to educate listeners on these pitfalls, it simply feels irresponsible to encourage people to utilize these services given the risks involved, and the lack of protections in place.

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BSM Writers

Saban v. Jimbo Is WrestleMania for College Football Fans

Ryan Brown says the Nick Saban versus Jimbo Fisher feud is one made for pay-per-view and we have nearly five months to hype the match.

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Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

It was the day after I turned eleven that Hulk Hogan body slammed Andre ‘The Giant’. WrestleMania III filled 90,000 seats at the Pontiac Silverdome and the living room of one of the houses in my neighborhood. Real or fake, we didn’t care. Three decades later, Nick Saban versus Jimbo Fisher is 100% real and it is coming to a living room near you.

I live in the capital city of SEC Country – Birmingham, Alabama. SEC football needs no additional drama here. You get a complete college football obsession at birth. That said, the October 8th Texas A&M visit to Alabama will be among the most anticipated regular season college football games both regionally and nationally.

One would think CBS will use their annual prime time date for that Saturday just as they did for last season’s Alabama at Texas A&M game, you know, when Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher were on speaking terms. Not knowing how the season will play out, it would be no surprise if ESPN’s College Gameday is in Tuscaloosa as well. While we are at it, let’s just cut to the 2024 chase and schedule a Presidential debate in Tuscaloosa that weekend, as well.

Not one person will be surprised if Alabama is undefeated and the top ranked team in the nation that week. The surprise, based on the rest of the Jimbo Fisher era, will be the Aggies being unbeaten. Their trip to Alabama comes at the end of a five game stretch that includes Appalachian State at home, Miami at home, Arkansas in Dallas and a road game at Mississippi State. Incidentally, the same Texas A&M team that was able to upset Alabama last season also managed to lose to Arkansas and Mississippi State.

Just the prospect of the two teams being unbeaten and highly ranked causes some to say this game would need no extra storylines. Shouldn’t that, and being on CBS in prime time, be enough? The Saban-Fisher Feud already has people discussing this game nationally and Lee Corso hasn’t even donned a body odor-filled mascot head yet.

I would like to project this game to deliver the largest TV audience of the regular season but I can’t, for one reason: I’m not certain it will be close. I think Alabama is that much better than Texas A&M. That’s why the build up will deliver a huge first half audience.

For perspective, in the 2021 regular season, the Alabama at Texas A&M game had the fifth largest TV audience, in a game that went down to the final play. The Ohio State at Michigan game had 15.8 million viewers on as part of FOX’s Big Noon Kickoff, almost double that of Alabama at Texas A&M on CBS in prime time.

That brings me to another misconception: big games have to be in prime time to get a big audience. Of the top ten largest college football audiences in the regular season and conference championship weekend, only half were prime time games. College football fans, and NFL fans for that matter, will find the best games no matter where they are placed.

So, back to Saban v. Fisher; why is it a bad thing? Would SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey prefer it not happen? Of course. Will it bring more attention to a game in the conference he oversees? I say, absolutely. Heck, my daily show is already selling t-shirts for the game. You may say “shameless plug”, I say paying for my kid’s college. Tomato, tomahto.

This is what made “Mean” Gene Okerlund a household name in the 1980’s. He was the far too serious host that interviewed the wrestlers who challenged other wrestlers to a grudge match in exotic places like the Macon Coliseum and the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum and the Dallas Sportatorium. Why did they do that? First, it was entertaining but, primarily, it sucked the viewer into making plans to view those matches.

I mean, if Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat said he was going to rip the head off “Big” John Studd, was I going to miss that?

That was why a bunch of kids crowded into a living room in Anniston, Alabama in 1987 to watch WrestleMania III, The Main Event. I can’t tell you who was on the undercard that night. The only wrestlers we cared about were Hulk Hogan and Andre “The Giant”.

Actually, my friend’s mom thought the Ultimate Warrior was “cute and had a great body”. He wasn’t on the card and I thought it was odd she told us that but she was footing the bill for the pay-per-view and had mixed the fruit punch Kool-Aid, so who am I to judge one’s wanton desires?

Texas A&M at Alabama will be the SEC’s main event this season and, if the cards fall right, it may be college football’s main event. What happened between the two head coaches might not be the proudest moment in SEC history but it will bring more attention to that game. And, my word, we finally have a nano-second in which two prominent coaches weren’t pre-programmed robots refusing to deviate from the script.

As amazing as WrestleMania III was for my childhood, it was scripted. The Tide and the Aggies will not be. College football remains one of the greatest values in sports. I pay very little to watch unscripted game after unscripted game. Truth is, you couldn’t even script most of what we see on a college football Saturday. 

Texas A&M at Alabama is already beyond what the most creative writers could imagine and that is why this fuel to the already smoldering fire adds to this game. Now, if Nick Saban will just try to bodyslam Jimbo Fisher, we’ll have something.

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