As LSU heads to the Sweet 16, Dick Vitale joined Jordy Culotta and T-Bob Hebert’s Off The Bench on ESPN 104.5 in Baton Rouge to discuss the Tigers men’s basketball head coach, Will Wade. Earlier this month, Wade was indefinitely suspended by the school after being named in an FBI investigation regarding payments to recruits.
Wade and LSU was not the only program named in the investigation, but Tiger fans feel Vitale has been particularly hard on their coach, while showing leniency toward others. With that being the background for the interview, the fireworks that ensued between Culotta, Hebert and Vitale were no surprise.
After being welcomed to the show, Vitale quickly jumped into explaining his stance, controlling the first four minutes of the interview before the hosts asked any questions. From the start, Vitale seemed agitated that he needed to defend his opinion, specifically with fans on social media who wished him ill will in profanity laced tweets.
Half way through the interview, the hosts clarified that they’re not defending Will Wade, but they do wonder why Vitale is zoning in on the LSU coach and not others involved in the scandal.
The iconic ESPN college basketball analyst became especially tense when the word hypocrisy was mentioned. “I come on your damn show, and I’m gonna be on it for you, but don’t sit there and tell me its hypocrisy when I’m telling you play the tape! Let your people hear the tape of that coach!” said Vitale.
Throughout the interview, Vitale would yell at the hosts to “play the tape,” which isn’t possible considering the tape hasn’t been made public while the federal investigation ensues. At least three times, Culotta and Hebert asked Vitale if he heard the tape, but he never gave a clear and definitive answer.
Vitale wasn’t amused when he was asked, “how much did Duke pay for Zion, in your opinion?” The hosts were confused as to why Vitale was defending certain coaches, even supporting the idea of paying players, but dug his heels in when claiming Wade committed “one of the biggest sins and crimes in all of sports.”
More than once, the interview sounded as if it was about to end on bad terms, but credit Vitale for sticking with the show for 20 minutes. Although the trio never reached an agreement, the interview ended cordially.
16.9% of All Sports Radio Listeners Are Streaming
The news comes as Nielsen reported that 11.3% of all radio listenership comes thru a stream, up from 6.9% in May of 2020.
According to Nielsen, sports radio stations are the third-most streamed spoken word format, just behind Talk/Personality and News/Talk/Info. The trend is continuing to show that streaming is on the uptick.
The survey found that in May 2022, 16.9% of sports talk radio’s audience tunes in via the station’s online stream. That news comes as Nielson reported that 11.3% of all radio listenership comes thru a stream, up from 6.9% in May of 2020.
Nielsen notes that in the 45 PPM markets they are grabbing data from and the 4,800+ stations that stream in those markets, just 30% of them are encoded. That encoding allows for Nielsen to accurately measure the streams. They used the listener data from 1,500 stations across the U.S., in their latest report, AM/FM Radio Streaming Growth in PPM Markets.
The survey also showed that streaming levels differ widely by radio format. Spoken word formats display strong streaming listenership (Talk/Personality: 31.2%, News/Talk/Info: 19.1%, All Sports: 16.9%). In fact, Nielsen found that 1/3 of all AM/FM streaming in PPM markets is to spoken word formats.
New Study Finds Listeners to MLB on Radio Are Willing to Spend
More than one third (34%) of the respondents recently purchased clothing/apparel that features their favorite team… 27% have visited a ballpark in the past year. That compares to only 19% of the average MLB fan base has made an apparel purchase to support their team while just 11% have gone to a game in person in that same time span.
When it comes to advertiser’s attempting to reach an affluent and engaged audience, sports talk radio might have a whale on their hands. Major League Baseball play-by-play features an audience that has money and has no problems spending it.
In a recent MRI-Simmons study, data shows that consumers who listen to MLB broadcasts on the radio are the perfect audience for sports marketers. According to the analysis, done by Katz Radio Group, nearly two thirds (62%) of those surveyed consider themselves “super fans” of baseball. That number is 58% higher than the average.
Those “super fans” are willing to spend to support their team, as well. More than one third (34%) of the respondents recently purchased clothing/apparel that features their favorite team. Those fans are also far more willing to make the trip to see their team. The study found that 27% have visited a ballpark in the past year. That compares to only 19% of the average MLB fan base has made an apparel purchase to support their team while just 11% have gone to a game in person in that same time span.
The news continues getting better for advertisers. Continued analysis reveals that 66% of listeners are currently employed and have a median household income greater than $106,000.
Listeners to MLB games on the radio are also 34% more likely to place a sports bet and 106% more likely to be a participant in fantasy baseball.
Jeff Dean Signs Off At ESPN Tucson for The Final Time
Dean said on Facebook: “…the years of burning the candle at both ends has taken a dire toll on my health and for the first time in my life, I’m going to put myself and my livelihood first”
Fans will no longer be able to tune into ESPN Tucson and hear Jeff Dean hosting his show. Friday morning was his last show, according to his Facebook and Twitter pages.
The Jeff Dean Show had been airing from 7-9a MT weekday mornings. Dean took to social media to relay the news and the reason behind him stepping away from the microphone. Dean said on Facebook:
“This morning I signed off from my radio show on ESPN Tucson for the final time. I have been devoting too much of my life and my time to working multiple jobs…the years of burning the candle at both ends has taken a dire toll on my health and for the first time in my life, I’m going to put myself and my livelihood first”
Dean went on to emphasize that he isn’t stepping away from ESPN Tucson, he’s just taking himself off the air. He also added that “gladly, I will be continuing my position as PA announcer of University of Arizona Football and Men’s basketball.”
Dean would also go onto Twitter to add even further context for his self-removal from the ESPN Tucson airwaves. He added, “It’s not a decision I arrived at hastily, as it’s been a 6 month mental grind to make the ultimate decision that had to be made, and I’m not particularly happy about it, but I have to put my health first, we all do, and make sure we’re around long enough to enjoy life”.
Dean had been ESPN Tucson’s morning host since November 2019.