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More on Minnesota Gopher Football, Basketball, and Hockey Leaving WCCO

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I was going to include this in the Nugz- and I know GN just posted this too- but I had to throw my 2 cents in about this, because I think it's potentially a very big deal for Minnesota's Big 3 programs. Starting this fall with the 2011-12 sports seasons, the "Big 3" Gopher Minnesota athletic programs are leaving longtime broadcast partner WCCO. In an interesting move, they're all not going to the same place, either:

The agreements, which both commence with the 2011-12 athletic season, will see Gopher football broadcast on Clear Channel’s KFAN Sports Radio 1130 AM and KTLK 100.3 FM, while Gopher men’s and women’s basketball and men’s hockey will air on Hubbard Broadcasting’s 1500 AM ESPN Radio.

I've been critical of Joel Maturi's run as athletic director at Minnesota, but I think this is a brilliant move on his part. WCCO is a staple and legend in the Twin Cities, but without question the two big dogs for sports radio in this town(s) are KFAN and 1500 ESPN. It's where I would say the vast majority of Minnesota sports fans who listen to the radio go for their sports fix, and they weren't hearing much about the Gophers on either station. Well that will all change because now both stations are contractually obligated to talk about them!

This will push Gophers athletics more into the spotlight and the forefront for Minnesota sports fans, and should get our favorite Maroon and Gold squads more pub and more attention. And I do believe that's what all of us have been asking for for a long, long time. I mean, I get it- the Vikings and Twins are King in this town, but it always bothered me how little KFAN (since they've been around as an all-sports entity for much longer than 1500 ESPN) would talk Gopher sports, especially football. Hockey is, and always will be, a niche sport here, and will never get as much attention as it probably deserves. Gopher hoops when they're winning always gets plenty of publicity at this time of year (from January-March) with no Vikings or Twins season, and that'll get ramped up even more on their new home.

But without a doubt, the big, big winner here is football. Buried in THE busiest time of year for not just Minnesota sports, but Minnesotans in general, Gopher football has always had trouble gaining traction in the Cities and around the State- and I'm not saying that's wrong. They haven't won jack squat in almost 60 years, and with all that happens in Minnesota in the fall, it's ridiculous to expect this to be a hardcore Minnesota Gopher football state. I mean think about it: between September and January (on the rare occassions the Gophs actually make a lower tier bowl), all three professional sports teams play (four if you count the TWolves, but I don't), as do both Gopher basketball and hockey. Not only that, but if you live in this fine state, you know fall is THE best season to be here. Weather is great, there's tons of outdoor stuff to do, and for those who like to hunt, it's also prime hunting season. So with all that there is to see and do...your football team needs to win to get noticed, and clearly it hasn't up to this point.

To make matters worse, and I don't mean this as a slight to a legend like WCCO...but Gopher sports were hiding over there. As a sports fan, CCO is always a distant third or even fourth on my listening radar, and the only time I'd ever go over there is if I wanted to listen to a Gopher game, but that was it. I'm sure the station had its share of Gopher listeners to their general programming, but they're going to reach a far greater sports audience in their new homes, especially football. Like a lot of Gopher fans, I've had my issues with KFAN. They've been SO Vikings and Twins-centric it's like they ignore the other teams in town. Well except the Timberwolves, who, of course, they're a broadcast partner with (I don't know how long Clear Channel's deal with the Wolves run, but I'd have to think this announcement may mean the end of them on those stations? I mean really, you could play static for two hours and get more listeners than you would for a Timberwolves game), and because it seems most of their hosts are big pro basketball fans, the Wolves get far more coverage than they deserve.

I've also never loved that KFAN has sports in the morning, and then in the afternoon has two programs who sometimes can't be bothered to talk sports at all, and act like it's beneath them when they do. I'm not saying it's wrong to want to broaden your horizons and have opinions that stretch beyond the world of sports, but call me crazy, when I tune into a sports station on my drive to work and drive home- I'd actually like to hear about sports!!!! Maybe it's just me. Their hosts are obviously very talented and good at what they'd do, but at times I'd just wish they'd do it somewhere else so when I do listen to an "all sports station" I could actually hear about sports. And yes, the world clearly revolves around me! Me! ME!

ANYWAY, what KFAN does well is self-promote, and we should (or at least we better!) hear a major increase in Gopher football talk. Today they've changed their site colors to Maroon and Gold. Jerry Kill will have an exclusive weekly coaches show, and there will also be a weekly one hour program about Gopher athletics. If you're a fan of Gopher football and want to hear it talked about more, on KFAN, call them. Email them. Tell program director Chad Abbott you want to hear more! For Gopher hoops and hockey fans, get on over to 1500 ESPN and do the same. Gopher basketball and hockey are going to get an increase in exposure. Football is finally going to get the exposure we've wanted, and they're going to be talked about more in the mainstream media than ever before. All they have to do now is win.