Clear as day

By Steve LeMaster

The machine that is the University of Kentucky is now strong, soon to be even stronger by way of the airwaves. Now more people will be able to hear UK football and men’s basketball. Saturday,University of Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart announced a 10-year agreement with Clear Channel radio stations WHAS-AM in Louisville, WLAP-AM and WBUL-FM in Lexington, and WSAI-AM in Cincinnati to serve as Big Blue Network affiliates, beginning in fall 2007.

In addition to carrying all University of Kentucky football and men’s basketball games and related broadcasts, Clear Channel stations in the Lexington and Louisville markets have agreed to broadcast all Kentucky women’s basketball and baseball games starting next year. “We are delighted to establish this long-term partnership with Clear Channel’s excellent stations in these three media markets,” said Barnhart. “WLAP has been our flagship station since 2000 and the 50,000 watt WHAS and WSAI stations provide coverage for our games and broadcasts to Kentucky fans across the eastern half of the United States.

“We will no longer be preempted by other programming and our fans can now set their dials to one of these stations and hear every game, every coach’s show and every pre- and post-game show throughout the season. We feel this is an important element of our continued branding and expansion of our outstanding sports programs.”

The university’s women’s basketball and baseball games are to air on WLAP in Lexington and on WKJK in Louisville starting next fall.

“This is a major expansion of our radio network coverage that provides excellent exposure for these two growing athletic programs,” Barnhart added. “This is extending the existing relationship with UK Athletics,” said Clear Channel regional vice president Earl Jones. “The relationship has grown tremendously over the past years and we look forward to [a] long prosperous relationship in the future.”

Barnhart praised UK’s multi-media rights holders, Lexington-based Host Communications, Inc. and Gray Television, Inc., for their role in expanding the Wildcats’ long-standing partnership with Clear Channel. “UK Athletics, Host and Gray, and Clear Channel will work together to make sure that we maximize the value and quality of our broadcasts to our fans, our coaches and student athletes, our sponsors and advertisers.” This cooperation will include a high degree of cross promotions between the radio stations and the University, he added.

Under terms of the agreement, Host and Gray will purchase the airtime on the three Clear Channel stations for an undisclosed sum. In exchange, Host and Gray will be able to include the local advertising inventory into its comprehensive marketing rights sales efforts for UK sports broadcasts and programming. Host and Gray recently were awarded the school’s multi-media rights for 10 years at $80.5 million.

Also in UK football news, linebacker Wesley Woodyard has been chosen for the 2004 SEC All-Freshman Team as selected by league coaches. Woodyard, a true freshman from LaGrange, Ga., filled numerous roles for the Wildcats this season. He began the campaign at strong safety, then moved to inside linebacker midway through the year when numerous injuries struck the linebackers. He also contributed on special teams, primarily in kick coverage. He totaled 34 tackles, including a season-high eight stops at Mississippi State. Two UK football players have made known their intentions to transfer. Junior fullback Ronald “Rock” Johnson and sophomore wide receiver Maurice Marchman have asked for releases and plan to transfer and leave the UK football program.

Johnson played in nine games this season. He rushed for 26 yards and one touchdown and also caught three passes for 11 yards. He plans to attend Case-Western Reserve University in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. The move back to his hometown will allow him to be near his family. Marchman, a native of Louisville, played in 10 games this season. He caught one pass for 11 yards and also made two tackles on special teams. Tentatively, he plans to transfer to a Division I-AA school. Kentucky inside linebackers coach Ron McBride has resigned his post at UK in order to take the head coaching position at Weber State “Ron is one of the all-time great coaches and we will miss him very much,” said UK Coach Rich Brooks said. “I’m happy for him that he will get a chance to resurrect the Weber State program like he did at Utah.”

McBride coached the UK inside linebackers the last two seasons. He came to UK from the University of Utah, where he was head coach from 1990-2002. He guided the Utes to an 88-62 record, six bowl appearances, and won a share of two conference championships. His recruiting also laid the groundwork for the current undefeated Utah squad. n