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Seth Harp Takes Over ESPN Gainesville

“It will launch when I feel comfortable with everything else that’s going on,” Harp said while noting he doesn’t want to disrupt the station’s rhythm and peoples’ habits right now.”

Brandon Contes

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Seth Harp knows what many sports radio hosts are going though right now. Harp was laid off by iHeart in January, after more than four years as a host and program director of WFXJ 97.3 The Game in Jacksonville. 

Less than three months later, during a difficult time for sports radio and seemingly every industry during this global pandemic, Harp was able to land his next gig. Last Friday, Harp announced he was joining WRUF ESPN Gainesville as a weekday host and program director. 

“I wanted to be the face of the layoff,” Harp told me about being let go from iHeart in January. “I wanted everyone to know I was available. On my way home from the layoff, I was already networking. I got home around 10:30am and I bet by the end of the day I sent 40-50 emails and made 200 different phone calls.”

It’s not an easy time for many sports radio hosts, both on-air and off.  There are challenges in creating entertaining content without the support of live sports and there are certainly challenges in finding your next opportunity if you were recently laid off. With the coronavirus caused economic shutdown, there aren’t many advertising dollars available to radio stations, and subsequently, there aren’t many media companies looking to hire new talent. 

Several times during our conversation, Harp referred back to how lucky he is, but landing a job in the current climate is also a testament to his drive and persistence. It should serve as a source of inspiration to others who may have recently lost a gig. It might take a few months, but other opportunities will be available. 

Harp will be back on-air in the next couple of months, the date is TBD. “It will launch when I feel comfortable with everything else that’s going on,” Harp said while noting he doesn’t want to disrupt the station’s rhythm and peoples’ habits right now. 

Without launching a show, there’s still plenty of work to be done in his new role as the station’s program director. Harp said he has a lot of big social media plans, some of which were learned at the 2020 BSM Summit, and they’ll start implementing those immediately. 

I asked WRUF’s new leader what’s more difficult right now, hosting a show or serving as program director of a sports radio station while sports are suspended, and resources are scarce?

“The amount of creativity you need to have in your bones to make it work and make it sound good right now is enormous. Programming, I just have to make sure everybody’s on the same path and everybody understands what’s going on,” Harp said. “If you’re hosting right now, it’s the biggest challenge of your career because anybody can go through the motions as a host and get away with it, but to be really good at it, it’s a challenge.”

Still, there are challenges as a program director during unsettling times, to offer a sense of stability, reassuring the station will survive and making sure everybody isn’t constantly concerned about their standing. Harp is a great candidate to provide that confidence, because he’s able to speak from experience having just bounced back from a layoff. 

“I’m almost like a beta test that we’ve figured out it works,” Harp said. “I was laid off, I interviewed for seven different jobs, most of them are now in hiring freezes for the foreseeable future. Gainesville was the exact opposite, they said we want you here now.”

Harp also referred back to what SVP of sports for Cumulus and Westwood One Bruce Gilbert said at the BSM Summit earlier this year, ‘every orchestra needs a maestro.’ “You need somebody that’s a stabilizing force through all of it,” Harp added. “We’re all in this together, but we’re all alone right now too.”

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Sports Radio News

Dan Dakich: Craig Carton is ‘The Way Talk Radio Should Be’

“If you’re being critical because you want to be the guy that’s always critical I don’t think you can do that either. I think you gotta be honest. And criticism comes with it.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Craig Carton has prided himself on being one of those hosts who tells it like it is, especially when talking about New York’s pro sports teams.

That willingness to call a spade a spade and levy criticism on teams like the Jets and Giants, especially when things are not going well on the field, is something Dan Dakich has always seen as a recipe for success in the industry.

Interviewing Carton on Thursday on his Outkick show Don’t @ Me, Dakich praised the WFAN afternoon host for essentially creating a blueprint for how sports talk should be done.

“In Indianapolis I’m the bad guy right, because I say look the Colts stink, this regime is 46-49-1 – why are you telling me the GM is the best in the country – why are you telling me Frank Reich can really coach?” Dakich said. “New York’s different, though, right? I mean, New York they expect you to say look if you ain’t any good then you ain’t any good. Yu don’t sugarcoat nothing, and I think that’s the way talk radio should be.”

Carton noted that what’s key in how you critique a team or a front office, executive or owner is finding a balance. He said you can’t as a host be the ultimate homer and blow smoke up everyone’s behind.

“You have to be able to be critical when it’s warranted,” Carton said. “If you’re being critical because you want to be the guy that’s always critical I don’t think you can do that either. I think you gotta be honest. And criticism comes with it.”

Carton pointed out that the fan bases in both New York and in Indianapolis are ultimately the same, because at the end of the day it’s all about making sure you have competent people calling the right shots. He added that the organizations are the same too because of how sensitive they can be to criticism, which he said if they don’t like it, “too bad.”

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Sports Radio News

Nick Ashooh Joins BetMGM Tonight

Jordan Bondurant

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The talent lineup for the BetQL show BetMGM Tonight is expanding, and Nick Ashooh is joining the team.

The news became official on Thursday when BetQL announced the addition of Ashooh on Twitter.

Ashooh has worked mainly in the D.C. market up to this point in his career, hosting for Audacy and NBC Sports Washington. He had been contributing sports betting content for the BetQL network for the latter part of the last year.

Ashooh joins co-hosts Trysta Krick and Ryan Horvat on BetMGM Tonight. The show can be heard weeknights from 7-11 p.m.

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Sports Radio News

1010XL Jay Fund Radiothon Raises Nearly $250,000 For Pediatric Cancer Research

“In the 15 year history of the radiothon, the station has raised just under $1.5 billion for the Jay Fund.”

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Jacksonville’s 1010XL used its airwaves to raise money for the Jay Fund for the fifteenth year earlier this week. The radiothon was a smashing success, raising $249,784 to fight pediatric cancer.

This year’s total is a new record for the event. In the 15 year history of the radiothon, the station has raised just under $1.6 million for the Jay Fund.

“I’m truly amazed at the generosity of the 1010 XL listeners in times when a carton of eggs cost six dollars,” said General Manager Steven Griffin, “and equally amazed how the hosts, producers, radio staff and volunteers come together with a singular focus to year-after-year produce these results in one broadcast day.”

Former Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin started the Jay Fund in memory of  Jay McGillis, who developed leukemia while playing for Coughlin at Boston College. The organization has helped over 5,000 families and given away over $16 million in grants in Northeast Florida and the New York/New Jersey Metropolitan Area.

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