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Howard Simon Just Wants To See Somebody Win

“I can’t stand losing. I’m tired of it.”

Tyler McComas



The people of Buffalo are tired of losing. The Music City Miracle, 47 Wide Right, No Goal, those are just a few of the agonizing moments that have kept the Bills from winning a Super Bowl and the Sabres from a Stanley Cup. But there’s a belief in sports radio that the teams you cover need to be either really good or really bad, since both create storylines. It’s the mediocre seasons that causes the fans and listeners to lose interest. 

Image result for sabres no goal

But not every show host believes in that theory. Howard Simon, co-host of Howard and Jeremy on WGR 550 in Buffalo is one of those that doesn’t. Much like his listeners, he’s tired of losing. Though the rest of the country might look at Buffalo affectionately with all the sports misery they’ve suffered, a 17-year playoff drought for the Bills doesn’t equal a giant payoff for local sports radio. 

“I really don’t know who says that,” said Simon. “If it’s a sports talk show host I’d love to meet them because I can’t stand losing. I’m tired of it. I kind of kid here, but maybe Boston sports talk show hosts are bored? I have no idea. I would much rather talk about winning teams. The early 90s around here with the Bills were fantastic. 

“Nobody wanted to talk about a playoff drought from 2000 to 2017. We got tired of it and we got tired of being reminded about it. We got tired of bringing it up every year at training camp. Coaches and GM’s getting fired every three years, quarterbacks changing, that sucks. Sure it gives us great shows and quarterback discussions are always fascinating when there’s a controversy, but no, I don’t think it bonded anyone together. If anything we get tweets every now and then from people who feel sorry for us because we have to talk about the Bills and Sabres. I kind of look at us as therapeutic, like a communal psychiatrist. We’re just like a bartender. You go to the bar, you get a drink and you spell your woes to them about how bad your teams are. We allow people to vent and cheer. If you need someone to be with you in your time of need as a sports fan, we’re there. Because we’re going through all the sports stuff with them.”

Simon has been with WGR since 2004, which serves as the flagship for both the Bills and Sabres. In this Q&A we cover if Bills fans are as crazy on the radio as they seem on the internet, how the station handles training camp and a whole lot more. 

Image result for howard simon wgr

TM: So you’re the flagship of the Bills. Obviously, the recent past hasn’t been easy for this team. Are you able to accurately describe the pain that fans are feeling and be critical about decisions made by ownership on the air? 

HS: If you’re wondering if we’re given a directive to go easy because were the flagship, no. In fact, quite honestly, there’s been more bad than good here. During the Bills’ drought, if we thought a coach was bad, we said they should fire him. If we thought a GM was bad, we said they should fire him. If they had a draft pick we didn’t like, we’d be outspoken about it. We just always speak our opinion.

That’s the nice thing about our bosses, they’ve never once said to us that we can’t say things because were the flagship and our contract is almost up. Last year‘s hockey season was one of the worst in franchise history, so we’re not going on the air to sugarcoat that. We said the coach should be fired and he was. If the team is really bad, we’ll say they’re bad. Fans are smart and they see through that stuff. It comes down to credibility and you have to have it at the end of the day.

TM: So when the Sabres are bad, I’m going to guess you find yourself going deeper on the Bills earlier than normal. When that’s the case, is it tougher to keep it fresh since you don’t have a hockey team to steal the big stories of the day during the winter?

Image result for buffalo bills2018

HS: Well, yes, but the good news is we’ve had a lot of practice. There’s been plenty of hockey seasons that crapped out January 1st or February 1st. The thing I think around here, and this is getting back to how passionate people are around here about football, it’s become a 12 month a year thing. More than any other sport, as soon as you get done with the season you start talking about the combine in February. Right after that, you talk about the free agency period. Right after that, you dive into a month and a half of NFL Draft. After that, you dive into rookie minicamp, OTA‘s and mandatory camps. So usually there’s always something to talk about with football. It’s not really hard for us, if the Sabres are playing well, that’s great. But if not we have to get a little creative.

TM: Is there a third-biggest team in town? 

HS: Honestly there’s no clear-cut answer. It really is a Bills and Sabres town. We don’t consider ourselves a satellite Toronto market. I guess if you want to pick baseball there’s more Yankees fans in Buffalo than any other Major League Baseball team. From a basketball standpoint it’s a mixed bag. This would not be considered a secondary Raptors market. It’s very Bills NFL and Sabres NHL centric.

TM: Bills Mafia videos during tailgates have really taken a life of their own. Does that craziness shine through on the call line?

HS: I grew up in New York so I listened to New York talk radio when I was growing up. I worked in Toledo and listened to Detroit talk radio when I was there, so in terms of craziness, I don’t think anybody would top New York or even Philadelphia. I think the fans here are mostly like other fans, they are very passionate. Maybe it’s a little bit different here because we’re talking about a city that has two major professional teams as opposed to New York City having eight, Philadelphia having at least one in every single pro league, Boston has a bunch, but there’s no MLB or NBA team here. So maybe the fever is a little higher.

Image result for buffalo bills mafia

Maybe the intensity and pressure is a little greater on the Bills and Sabres because you don’t have a third and fourth professional team to help you out if you’re struggling. In terms of the people that are calling our station, you get your occasional crazy caller but I think that happens in every talk market in the country. People aren’t calling us as they’re jumping into a table. They’re passionate fans and I think they enjoy the crazy fans label they get but it’s not like crackpot is calling all the time.

TM: With Bills training camp being in Pittsford, New York (A little over an hour from Buffalo) how are your shows covering training camp? 

HS: We have a Bills beat reporter and he’s also the sideline reporter on the broadcast, so he’s out here. When the Bills are there, he’s out there. As far as the shows, it depends what their practice schedule is. If they’re practicing in the afternoon, the afternoon show will do their show live from camp. We have seven shows here from camp. Seven morning practices during the week so we’re here for those seven shows.

TM: Though it may cost money and a few more resources, how important is it for your station to be on-site during those opportunities? 

HS: Yeah I like it, I really do. I can only speak for me but I like seeing practice. Our beat reporter is great and now with Twitter and the Internet you can read reports from every single media person or blog member who’s out here. But I just think it sounds really good. If a fan is listening and the morning show comes on and they say, “hey, good morning we’re at Bills Training Camp,” it just sounds good. I think that always sounds appealing to the fan. We’re out where the stories are.

When we’re out here, we get players on as well as national media guests that are here. It’s very active and I feel more connected when we’re out at training camp. It’s just cool and beneficial to say, hey, here’s what the offensive line looks like today, or here’s what Josh Allen look like today. Things like that, Cole Beasley look very good today. Ed Oliver is knocking offensive lineman over. It just sounds good.

TM: Being in western New York and on the border in Canada, is Buffalo a really unique place to do sports radio, in terms of, yeah, you’re in New York but the teams in NYC are six hours away? 

HS: Yeah we’re around 400 miles away from New York City. It’s funny, I think sometimes when players get drafted by Buffalo teams they think they’re in a suburb of New York City. Then they get here and realize it’s this far away and don’t realize it. In terms of location, I like it and think it’s a good location.

Image result for buffalo ny

You have the teams here, but in terms of what’s around us, Cleveland is three hours away, Pittsburgh is 3 1/2 hours away, Toronto is two hours, we’re in an area where there’s a lot of other professional teams and cities around us. That might also be a reason why we have a mishmash in the fan base, because there are so many cities within reach that you can be attached to their teams.

TM: Speaking of players being mistaken where Buffalo is, has there been anyone more famous than Marshawn Lynch for doing that? What was the fan reaction to that? 

HS: He’s not the only one. I can’t give you any names off the top of my head but it seems like it’s happened to more football players than hockey players. There have been plenty of rookies that come here, and when you talk to them, they were planning on going to see a Broadway Show or even to hangout in Manhattan. You then have to explain to them that they can, but it’s an hour plane flight. Marshawn is probably the highest profile guy to do it, but he’s far from the only one that’s made that mistake.

TM: The Bills are No. 1 and rest of the NFL storylines are No. 2 at this point in the year for you. So does that leave any room to talk college football? Does there need to be a guy like Khalil Mack playing for the University of Buffalo for you to even mention them? 

HS: We have not talked a lot of college football, because, quite honestly, for most of UB’s 20-ish years at the FBS level they’ve struggled. As it turns out, yeah, Khalil Mack made people more aware of UB but they need to win more games. Our college football talk is more geared towards watching guys who we think we’re going to be talking about come NFL Draft talk. Like, when we knew the Bills were going to draft a quarterback two years ago, we went all in every weekend watching Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen. I’ll watch college football because I’m a big fan, but our conversations tend to sway more to “hey, the Bills need a wide receiver and you’ll never guess which one I watched this weekend.” We still incorporate college football talk into Bills talk.

TM: You’ve been around the market for several years so you must like the area and your gig. But what do you like most about doing sports radio in Buffalo? 

HS: (Laughs) It’s a bad time to ask that question, we’ve been in a real bad stretch. I’ve been a sports fan for over 40 years so I like talking about sports and watching the games, as well as talking other people about it too. It’s really cool to connect with the fans. Having been here for 30 years it’s a great place to live and it’s a great fan base. The sports fans are really good, they’re knowledgeable and passionate. They can be critical when they need to be, but they’re not over the edge crazy. It’s a fan base that I think really appreciates the work we put in and the product we put out.

Image result for howard simon wgr radio

Honestly I think we enjoy doing the show because we realize how much people enjoy listening to the station. The one thing I would say, I would just love to see someone win around here because the fans have put up with a lot of really rough years of football and hockey. No Stanley Cup. No Lombardi Trophy. They really do deserve it here and I hope to live to see the day when someone wins a championship. If that happens the city would go absolutely crazy.

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104.5 The Zone Keeps Rising Under Paul Mason as Nashville Continues to Grow

“It starts with the people that you have on your staff but it starts above that.  It’s having great people that trust you to build your vision.” 

Avatar photo



Nashville background with the 104.5 The Zone logo and a picture of Paul Mason
Nashville Skyline Courtesy of: SeanPavonePhoto/Fotolia

When Paul Mason arrived at 104.5 FM “The Zone” in Nashville to take over as Program Director in April of 2020, he was hoping to made an immediate impact at the radio station. The growth was helped by a Tennessee Titans run to the AFC Championship Game during the COVID year of 2020 and four years later, the station is doing very well.

“I could not be happier with what we’ve seen here at The Zone with just the growth of this group as a whole,” said Mason who took on the added title of Operations Manager of Titans Radio in April 2021. 

“It’s come together as a team and everybody roots for everybody and pulls for everybody to win. I think you’re seeing all tides rise because as a PD I cannot be anymore pleased with what I’ve seen unfold the last several years.”

There’s no question that the Nashville sports market is booming and that’s just a part of the rapid growth that the city has experienced in recent years. Major pro sports arrived in town when the Houston Oilers relocated to Nashville in 1997 and two seasons later they were renamed the Titans. In 1998, the Nashville Predators joined the National Hockey League as an expansion team and went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017. And now, there’s a Major League Soccer club in town after Nashville SC was born in 2020.

Throw in the fact that it’s always been a huge SEC market and the sports scene is exploding in Nashville.

“It’s growing and it’s growing very quickly,” said Mason. “There are new people moving here every day and getting exposed to not only different teams but also to us. It’s important to us and we’re always marketing what this brand is and who we are to not just the people who have been here and have been loyal to us over the years but the new people coming in.”

Building a radio station and the brand that comes along with it is not an easy thing to do. A lot has to go your way and now there are digital considerations that play into a radio station’s revenue stream.

In the case of The Zone, business has been good for the brand.

“If the brand is right, everything else is going to follow so if we’re talking about or targeting the things on air that our audience comes to us with an expectation, that’s going to grow,” said Mason. “We are delivering on those expectations. We’re obviously very football-centric and very Titan-centric but the key is balancing that with everything else in the town as well.”

There’s no question that the sports radio industry has changed over the years and continues to evolve, especially when it comes to technology. These days, it’s not just about the terrestrial aspect of a radio station but other ways that content is distributed whether it’s video, podcast or streaming. Those other components are extremely important to a radio station’s success.

It’s something that Mason and his team have taken to very well.

“You have to embrace technology and you have to embrace things evolving and if you resist, you’re going to get left behind,” said Mason. “What we’ve done well here is we’re on every social media platform and we do it well. We’ve embraced video by creating Zone TV a few years back. In the world that we live in now, you need to be in all the places that your audience wants to consume you.”

While Mason has been very successful in the role of Program Director, it does take a village for a sports radio station to be successful. At The Zone, Mason has been getting a lot of help from his friends. Whether it’s Cumulus Nashville Market Manager Allison Warren or Operations Manager Charlie Cook, Mason has and continues to receive a great deal of support from up above.

“It’s all about the people,” said Mason. “It starts with the people that you have on your staff but it starts above that. It’s having great people that trust you to build your vision.” 

And the vision has led to a terrific lineup at The Zone including Ramon, Kayla and Will from 6am to 10am, Buck Reising 10am to 1pm, Blaine and Mickey from 1pm to 3pm and 3HL from 3pm to 7pm.

“Just beyond our air staff, it’s having a good sales staff, a good promotions staff and good producers,” said Mason. “My job is to be the resource for them to put them in the best position possible to do what they do best.”

Speaking of those shows, the lineup at The Zone did very well in the 2023 Barrett Sports Media Top 20 list.

*Paul Mason finished 5th in the voting among Mid-Market Program Directors.

*The Zone finished 5th among Mid-Market sports radio stations.

*Ramon, Kayla and Will finished 4th among Mid-Market sports morning shows.

*Buck Reising finished 2nd and Blaine and Mickey finished 5th among Mid-Market sports midday shows.

*3HL finished 2nd among Mid-Market sports afternoon shows.

“I was thrilled to have every one of our shows place in the top five,” said Mason. “I think that just shows the growth of what we’ve done here at The Zone. I couldn’t be anymore happy for our staff. I love the results but we want all of our shows to be number one so that’s going to be our next goal.”

Mason will get a chance to revel in the success of The Zone when he rubs elbows with the entire sports radio industry at the upcoming 2024 Barrett Sports Media Summit in New York City on March 13th and 14th. Mason attended the 2023 Barrett News Media Summit in Nashville in September but this will be his first visit to the BSM Summit. 

“I can’t wait to go to the summit,” said Mason. “If I can go up there and learn one or two things that I can take back here to Nashville and try to figure out how it works within my structure, that’s great but I think I’m going to learn a lot more than that. It’s meeting different people in the industry with a lot of minds coming together and you just never know what you’re going to learn or who you’re going to run into and how it’s going to turn out. I can’t wait to get boots on the ground in New York to check it out.”

While Paul Mason hopes to learn a few things at the BSM Summit, there’s no doubt that other Program Directors and media professionals from around the country will want to pick his brain as well. That’s because Mason has guided The Zone in Nashville to incredible success and there’s no telling what lies ahead.

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Reimagining the Relationship Between ESPN and Major League Baseball

So, how can ESPN and MLB’s relationship evolve in their next contract?




Last week I wrote about the three media storylines heading into Spring Training with Major League Baseball. One of them was ESPN possibly opting out of their MLB contract after the 2025 season, letting the league know after this season.

MLB’s relationship with ESPN began in January, 1989 when MLB Commissioner Peter Ueberroth agreed to 4-year $400 million agreement with the 10-year-old cable network to begin televising 175 games per season starting in 1990. ESPN was not considered “The Worldwide Leader” yet, they were owned by Capital Cities, not Disney, and ESPN was just one network. It had the rights to the NFL, but split Sunday Night Games with TNT. They had no NHL or NBA rights, so ESPN’s baseball coverage was paramount. It included a nightly highlight show called “Baseball Tonight,” with all the highlights and coverage on each edition of SportsCenter.

Now in 2024, ESPN has 30 exclusive regular season telecasts, and also has coverage of all Wild Card Series games. “Baseball Tonight” is now limited to just a pre-game show before the Sunday Night game. The sport is rarely talked about on ESPN’s marquee shows “Get Up” and “First Take.” Another major difference is ESPN now has the rights to almost everything. The now Disney-owned network airs 23 regular season NFL games and two playoff games. Add in the fact they now have a plethora of NBA and NHL games and MLB went from a priority to an afterthought at ESPN.

ESPN MLB Coverage19902024
Total Games175 (25 exclusive)30 (all exclusive)
Cost Per Year$100M$550M
Nights CoveredSunday (exclusive), Tuesday, Wednesday, FridaySunday and Other Weeknights TBA for 3 games (all exclusive)
Special GamesOpening Day, HolidaysOpening Night, International Game, Little League Classic (counts with SNB)
Baseball Tonight7-Days A Week during SeasonSundays prior to Sunday Night Baseball
Other Notable EventsEquitable Old Timers Game at All-Star GameHome Run Derby, Every Wild Card Series Game
Major Sports on ESPNNFLNFL, NHL, NBA

That deal agreed upon in 1989 was also the last television contract negotiated by Peter Ueberroth, as A. Bartlett Giamatti would take over as baseball’s head man on April 1, 1989. Fast forward 35 years and during Spring Training media day in Florida this past week, current MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said the 2029 season would be his last as commissioner, thus he will have a similar task as Ueberroth did.

As I said last week, consider ESPN opting out of the MLB as a reallocation of their payroll. Disney is in the process of negotiating rights deals with the NBA and have reportedly agreed to a 6-year $7.8 billion deal for the College Football Playoff. So, how can ESPN and MLB’s relationship evolve in their next contract? Here are some options:

Regular Season Games & Coverage

The number of regular season games on ESPN is the amount they want and that’s probably not going to change. Anything more could affect the other entities they have to cover.

However, MLB has a regional sports network (RSN) issue, everyone is aware of this. Even teams that own their own network are worried. Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said on Monday, “TV is a challenge for everybody right now…we’re going to have to adapt.”

ESPN could use ESPN+ for more MLB games to help the RSN problem. If MLB gets to 15 teams where they takeover production, ESPN+ could be the one-stop-shop for those teams, in-market, while could serve as the out of market option for all teams. ESPN+ could also simulcast “MLB’s Big Inning” which already airs on and Apple TV+ on weekdays. It could bring value to the streamer and more money to the owner’s pockets.


The only league that might see the new streaming platform established by Warner Bros. Discovery, FOX Sports and ESPN as a positive is Major League Baseball. They are the only major sports league that airs regular season and postseason games on all three entities. While we mentioned ESPN’s opt-out, WBD and FOX Sports have their deals through 2028. Could the last rights Commissioner Manfred negotiates be to open up WBD and FOX’s deals, and re-negotiate with an extension to 2031.

Why would it benefit WBD and FOX to open up their deals? Right now the Tuesday night baseball games on TBS are non-exclusive, making their contract the only linear TV contract, that is not league owned,  to have a non-exclusive package. Also with their new streaming platform, there is more room to carve out digital rights, and alternate broadcasts, which has become the wave in sports.

Could you imagine FOX with an alt-cast with Jeter, A-Rod, and Big Papi on their FOX Saturday Night games. It could be another version of the “ManningCast.” The big key in this is to establish more postseason rights, and bigger games for ESPN. Here is the current structure.

Current MLB Postseason CoverageESPNTBSFOX
Wild Card SeriesYesNoNo
Division SeriesNoYes (alternating league)Yes (alternating league)
League Championship SeriesNoYes (alternating league)Yes (alternating league)
World SeriesNoNoYes

Here is my proposed idea

Proposed MLB Postseason CoverageESPNTBSFOX
Wild Card Series2 Series (league TBS is not doing)2 Series (same league as LCS)No
Division Series2 Series1 Series (same league as LCS)1 Series (same league as LCS)
League Championship SeriesNoYes (alternate leagues each year)Yes (alternate leagues each year)
World SeriesYes on ABC (even years starting with 2026)NoYes (odd years starting with 2027)

With this proposed idea, the network that loses is FOX, they lose a division series, which means they lose October programming on FS1, and they go from having a World Series every year, to just every other year starting in 2026, That would probably be the biggest hurdle for Commissioner Manfred to clear.

Also the World Series is on a Monday Night, so would ESPN be willing to have competition air on their sister network for a night. Or would they make that the game you possibly bring back an afternoon World Series game – something the sport has not seen since 1987.


This plan gives ESPN more of a reason to be invested in Major League Baseball. Even with the new hockey deal, there’s no more talk about Connor McDavid on the network’s morning shows than there was before. But more exclusivity on the network, and carving more marquee events for ESPN, could give them more reason not only to extend the deal, but still give MLB the money it wants.

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Can FOX Sports Solve its Greg Olsen Problem with College Football?

“FOX can keep Olsen and Olsen can stay the network’s top analyst. All that has to happen is the network has to move Greg Olsen from its NFL coverage to its college football coverage.”

Demetri Ravanos



Greg Olsen
Courtesy: FOX Sports

Fox seemingly has a problem. It was talked about throughout the playoffs. Tom Brady is really coming aboard next season to join Kevin Burkhardt in FOX’s top NFL booth, which will unseat Greg Olsen, widely considered the best game analyst on TV.

There have been plenty of theories about what to do. Everyone has a thought about which network should cut ties with its top NFL analyst to make room for Olsen. The most obvious answer though is that Olsen gets bumped down a peg to FOX’s number two booth. Currently, that’s Joe Davis and Moose Johnston. What other changes would that necessitate? 

Maybe Amazon moves on from Kirk Herbstreit. Maybe Cris Collinsworth decides to retire, opening up a spot on NBC. Those are the best case scenarios for Olsen, but my guess is FOX does not want to lose him to a competitor. In 2022, I wrote that FOX may not realize what it has in Olsen. I received an email the next day from a FOX executive that said he definitely knows what the network has and thinks Olsen deserves to be in the spotlight in his booth, not playing second fiddle to Tom Brady.

So with that in mind, I have a suggestion. FOX can keep Olsen and Olsen can stay the network’s top analyst. All that has to happen is the network has to move Greg Olsen from its NFL coverage to its college football coverage. It’s a radical idea, but I think it’s a good one.

Don’t get me wrong. There is no reason FOX has to think about replacing Joel Klatt. He also regularly receives high praise for his work. But if the network sees Olsen as a higher priority, this is a chance to keep him in the fold without diminishing his role.

Greg Olsen’s future at FOX probably does not include another Super Bowl. It sucks. I thought he did a great job with Super Bowl LVII. But if the reality is he won’t get to do that again, wouldn’t you rather still be on a top broadcast each week? The College Football Playoff Committee has denied earlier reports that a deal on a new TV contract with ESPN is done. We know FOX really wants a piece of the event. If you’re Greg Olsen and you are open to moving to Big Noon Saturday, there is still a chance that comes along with the chance to call the National Championship Game in the future.

Right now, FOX Sports boss Eric Shanks has to solve the Olsen problem. He can cross the Klatt bridge if it gets to that point, but there are options. Even if his playing days didn’t have the star power of the rest of the Big Noon Kickoff cast, he has established himself as an elite analytical mind. He could move into a featured role on the pregame show. 

Olsen would bring not just star power, but authority. He was a standout tight end for The University of Miami in the early 2000s. It’s undeniably a marquee brand. He was an all-conference performer. He experienced the beginnings of realignment first hand. As a member of the notorious 7th Floor Crew, his college career even has that little bit of infamy and controversy that FOX loves. 

Pairing him with Gus Johnson could be a home run. The energy would be the complete opposite of ESPN, CBS and NBC. Imagine Johnson and Olsen going off the air and then flipping over to whatever game Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson are covering. It would sound like a funeral by comparison.

College football is not the NFL. I get that. But if the last handful of years have proven anything in the sports broadcasting business, it’s that star power matters most of all. Olsen may have proven himself more than capable, but he just can’t compete with Tom Brady in the area that has the most influence on who gets the top job.

Plenty of football fans and media members view college football as a step down from the NFL. I get why, the NFL dwarfs everything else on television. But the college football audience is still trending upward. Nowhere has that been more evident in recent years than at FOX

FOX doesn’t want to lose Olsen, and I don’t think it will. He may have an opt out clause but I am not sure a job that is worthy of exercising it will be available to him. 

So if you’re in charge of FOX and you have an asset like Olsen, you have to ask yourself what the best way to use him is. If Brady is there, there is a ceiling on how high Olsen can go, so do you stick him at the number 2 spot and risk losing him every season, or do you try to sell him on being the number one guy in a new booth – one that already has shown its growth potential? 

Maybe there is no obvious answer, but if FOX wants to pitch Olsen on making the move to college football, it can play to his ego and competitive instincts. That should make it an easy sell.

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