Kansas Jayhawks

Kansas, Kansas State rivalry flows into radio war

NCAA Football: Kansas at Kansas State

As an employee in the radio industry, this story especially peaked my radio nerdiness. After 18 years, 810 WHB is no longer the home of Kansas State football and men’s basketball broadcast. That’s because the Kansas athletics has entered into a three-year deal with Union Broadcasting, the owners of 810 WHB. So now that the Jayhawks will be 810, where does that leave Kansas State in the Kansas City market? Right now, no where.

As a result, Entercom’s 610 Sports is left without a college team, for now. For the past 18 years 610 Sports was the home for the Jayhawks. That worked out well considering their morning show host for several years, Bob Fescoe, is a KU graduate and became the go-to voice on many things Jayhawks athletics. The morning following a big hoops game (since let’s be honest, there weren’t too many big football games in Lawrence), Bob was “the guy.” Their afternoon drive spot was most filled by Syracuse alumni like Nick Wright and Danny Parkings, but with Fescoe in the mornings, it became must-listen to radio for many KU fans. Granted that may still be the case, but having the team on the station gives the station access to coaches, players and other interviews that the competing station may not necessarily get, or at least won’t get first dibs on.

The irony here is that Kevin Kietzman is the powerhouse afternoon host on 810 WHB and went to Kansas State, so we know where his allegiance is. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it will be interesting to see how he handles going from having his station being the home of his alma mater to being the home of his team’s biggest rival.

Frankly, I’m surprised by the move for several reasons. For years, 810 WHB was the ratings king in Kansas City sports talk radio, beating 610 Sports in every book. But I was interested to look up the Spring 2017 ratings and see that it was 610 Sports that crushed 810.

So why would the Jayhawks want to move to the station that is suddenly losing in the ratings? First off, 610 Sports carries the Royals, which created conflicts early in football season and late in basketball season. The Jayhawks athletic department folks may have felt like they are an important enough property to stand on their own and not be preempted. And with the recent success of the Royals, 610 is clearly all-in on them and focused on making the Royals their top priority (for those wondering: neither station carries the Chiefs, they are on Classic Rock station 101. FM).

So the Royals conflict, along with the fact that 810 has the stronger signal during the day of 50,000 watts, compared to 5,000 for 610. But at night, 810 is required to bring its power down to 5,000 watts, and with so many of the games (at least basketball) at night, I’m not sure this is really that big of a “win” for KU. Granted, this isn’t a huge issue since the teams each have several affiliates across the state in different cities and towns.

Of course a lot of times this also comes down to money. Entercom, who owns 610 Sports,  is in the process of buying CBS Radio. So maybe they are a little tight right now, and 810 saw a chance to jump in and land KU. I hate to say this because I love a ton of Kansas State folks, but the reality is that from an advertising standpoint, the Kansas Jayhawks are the easier program and team to sell because of the nationally-relevant basketball program led by Bill Self. That’s what 810 wanted to get in with KU. Money talks.

What happens from here? Hopefully Kansas State gets picked up by 610 Sports. There might be occasional conflicts with the Royals, but being tied to the highest-rated sports station in the market has plenty of perks that outweigh some of the negatives of a deal. Plus, I’m no Royals insider, but with all the free agents coming up this offseason, October baseball for the Royals may soon be a thing of the past starting in 2018, meaning come October, conflicts are nonexistent.

Plus, who wouldn’t want to hear Bob Fescoe regularly talking about all the success Kansas State Wildcats football will have this fall and going forward?!

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