For the Fantasias of Fairmont, it all started a half century ago.
These were days when television was just beginning to catch on but most everyone had a radio, and if you wanted to be brought West Virginia University football or basketball, it would come over that radio, be it alone in the car or with the family gathered around in the living room.
The late Nick Fantasia was representing his radio station, along with a few others and a young broadcaster by the name of Jack Fleming, putting together the network that would carry the games … in those days over telephone lines.
Over the years, no matter how high the definition became on television, radio ruled and, for that matter, it still does. Fleming, of course, is gone, replaced by Tony Caridi and now what you had come to know as an in-house Mountaineer Sports Network has been sold off to IMG.
The sale was completed just a week or so ago under the messiest of circumstances, with John Raese and his West Virginia Radio Corp. battling if not to keep its piece of the broadcast pie, at least to keep some of its competitors from moving forward.
They saw enough dirt to move the fight into the courts and to make life uneasy, but not impossible, for what seemed to be inevitable from the beginning, this marriage between WVU and IMG.
Now, though, July is rapidly melting into August, and a new network has got to be woven together while Caridi has to be brought back into the fold, in part because it is the right thing to do, in part because he carries a strong following and, in part, WVU won his heart away from his alma mater at Syracuse.
Time became a factor and so it was that on Friday IMG announced that its first station in the new Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG would be WMTD-FM in Hinton, also known as ESPN Radio 102.3 The Ticket.
Shortly after that announcement was made, IMG came forth with yet another announcement, and that was that Nick Fantasia, the son’s, WRLF-FM and WTCS-AM in Fairmont would be the first stations on the network in North Central West Virginia.
Considering the half century connection, one wondered what it was like for Fantasia to be on the sidelines as this battle was waged, not knowing what the future held, although as it turned out that was a bit too dramatic.
To begin with, Fantasia’s contracts with MSN ran for another year, so he was fairly certain that no matter what the outcome short of a blackout that his station would be carrying the games, just as he is as certain as he can be that he will be signing up for an extension beyond this year.
“From our perspective we’re a willing participant,” he said. “If there’s an opportunity for us to be a part of WVU that’s what we’re going to do. That’s where we’ve grown up; it’s where we went to school. My family has had a strong on-going relationship there. My kids were born there.”
Still, there were things churning inside as the battle raged in the media over the network and the school’s media rights.
“It’s like you sit back and watch folks you know battle over something and, while you’re not worried it would affect you, you had to be mindful of if you went one way or another,” Fantasia admitted. “It’s a shame in a state this size with everyone having similar interests we can’t learn to play in the same sandbox.”
Certainly there is a lot of money at stake, WVU getting $86 million for its rights to its radio and other Tier 3 rights and all of the radio stations landing important properties in WVU athletics.
And there are changes that can only help the local stations, for WVU will go from an hour pre-game show to a 3.5-hour show and from a half-hour post-game show to a two-hour show.
“How could it not be a good thing (to get WVU sports)?” Fantasia said when asked what it meant. “As a station you have opportunities to bring more advertising in. As a program director you have more opportunity to present a very high-profile product to your listeners. As a sports fan, there’s WVU … how can that be bad?”
WVU, of course, is everything Fantasia could want for both his stations. It offers ratings and more, although the ratings angle is sometimes difficult to figure.
“That’s hard to quantify because the audience that listens to WVU is different than the audience that listens to your regular programing,” Fantasia said. “WTCS, for example, is a 45-plus demographic with a news/talk format. The WVU audience is a younger, 18 to 45 person’s audience. So, while the numbers may be the same, it’s a different audience.
“With WRLF-FM it’s a classic rock audience, so the demographic for WVU is very similar.”
Fantasia Broadcasting has sports image.
“We carry the Steelers; we carry NASCAR; we carry the Penguins and the Pirates. From our standpoint, all of the teams you like are part of the family, so it’s a good fit,” Fantasia said. “For us, our image is the station that brings the marquee teams to the market.”
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.
For the Fantasias of Fairmont, it all started a half century ago.
East’s Postlewait, North’s Latocha toss no-hitters
Tori Postlewait made a deal with her great-uncle, Kenny Carpenter, before her freshman season.
If the Bees’ pitcher tossed a no-hitter, Carpenter promised to give her $20.
Well, it took four years, but it’s finally time for Postlewait’s great-uncle to pay up.
East tennis splits with Polar Bears
Fairmont Senior and East Fairmont split a pair of tennis matches Thursday, with Fairmont Senior winning the boys’ match and East Fairmont taking the girls’ competition.
In the Bees’ 6-1 girls’ victory, Cara Laswell took second singles, 8-2. Erica Gorman won third singles, 8-1. And Carrington Reese won fourth singles, 8-3.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules
At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.
McCutchen, Alvarez lead Pirates over Brewers
Andrew McCutchen hit his first homer of the season and drove in three runs, Pedro Alvarez had a three-run shot and pinch-hitter Josh Harrison broke a tie with a long ball in the seventh inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates handed the Milwaukee Brewers their first road loss, 11-2 on Thursday night.
Means, WVU baseball shut out Oklahoma
Junior left-hander John Means of the WVU baseball team threw eight shutout innings and the Mountaineers had a five-run first inning en route to a 7-0 victory over Oklahoma on Thursday evening at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
The Mountaineers (18-15, 3-6 Big 12) broke a six-game Big 12 losing streak after being swept by TCU and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weekends. WVU had 16 hits and did not make an error for the second-straight game.
FURFARI COLUMN: Dr. Graber disagrees with Gee’s stance on Turnbull firing
Dr. Stephen Graber, an associate professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is among the latest WVU teachers to deplore Oliver Luck’s firing of veteran wrestling coach Craig Turnbull.
He raised some significant questions about that issue last Monday in a meeting of the WVU Faculty Senate.
University hands Huskies first loss; East edges Elkins
The mercy rule has been a familiar part of North Marion’s softball season.
Through the first seven games, the Huskies regularly pounded their opponents with stingy defense, sharp pitching and timely hitting. Rarely did a game go all seven innings for the previously undefeated team.
Huggins signs junior college guard
Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.
HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing
The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.
Pirates shut out by Reds’ Cueto, 4-0
Johnny Cueto was on his game, and the only thing that the Pirates could do was watch.
Cueto pitched his third career shutout against the team that beat him in the NL wild card game, and Joey Votto hit a two-run homer that led the Cincinnati Reds over the Pirates 4-0 Wednesday for their first winning series this season.
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