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FRIARS SPORTS CHANGE RADIO STATIONS
(August 2, 2007) For the first time since Chris Clark helped discover a small Dominican school on Smith Hill through radio broadcasts of its basketball team in the late 1950s, Providence College basketball will no longer be heard on a Rhode Island-based station.

PC announced yesterday that its radio rights were acquired by Boston-based WEEI and said its games will be heard on the 103.7-FM signal. WEEI-FM will broadcast PC’s home and away regular-season and postseason games, as well as 30-minute pregame and postgame shows on all game days. The station will also be the home for 10 editions of the Tim Welsh radio show. WEEI and PC will be partners through the 2011-12 season.

Both the station and PC officials made sure to note that play-by-play voice John Rooke (left; an STAA client) and color man Joe Hassett, who are entering their 19th year together on Friars broadcasts, will be paired again on WEEI.

WEEI is one of the most successful sports radio stations in the country. Its primary signal in Boston at 850 on the AM dial is a ratings leader. Three years ago, the station purchased the 103.7-FM signal and entered the Providence-Connecticut-Southeastern Massachusetts markets. That strong signal has helped WEEI move toward the top of the Providence-Warwick ratings book, but one station official feels the addition of PC basketball will further boost those numbers.

“We admittedly came into the market with a cocky attitude because we felt we had superior programming,” said Jason Wolff, WEEI’s vice president for programming. “We did well from the start, but one of our goals has been to incorporate ourselves more into the community, and the addition of PC basketball is a major step for us.”

WEEI’s ratings regularly beat WSKO (790-AM and 99.7-FM) by a substantial margin. WSKO and its sister station, WPRO-AM, have owned the rights to PC basketball since 1989. Before that, the Friars were heard on a series of Providence stations, including WICE, WEAN and WJAR.

“I’m very appreciative of what Citadel (the owner of WSKO) has done for Providence College basketball over the years, but I just felt that long-term this is a good move for our program,” said PC athletic director Bob Driscoll. “WEEI has said that they want to treat us as an important part of their family.”

WEEI owns the rights to a host of New England sports teams, most notably the Boston Red Sox and Boston Celtics. On game nights when the Celtics and PC both play, the Celts will be heard on 850-AM.

Barbara Haynes, the general manager of Citadel Broadcasting in Providence, did not return calls yesterday. In the last two years, Citadel has lost both the Red Sox and PC basketball to WEEI. WSKO still holds the rights to Brown University football and basketball. The University of Rhode Island is close to an agreement to renew its deal with long-time radio partner WHJJ, but no deal for this season is finalized.

Driscoll made note that WEEI’s superior signal strength was a major issue for PC.

“There were problems with hearing our games in parts of Rhode Island. Now we can solve that and give our alumni in Boston and around New England a chance to listen to our games,” he said.

Wolff said that when PC called to inquire about WEEI’s interest in a deal, “it was a no-brainer. This was something we’ve always kept our eye on.”

Like several other colleges nationally, PC contracts with a professional marketing company to sell its radio rights and arena advertising. PC has extended its agreement with Nelligan Sports Marketing, which is based in New Jersey, for the next five years. Nelligan pays PC an undisclosed sum to partner with the school, and then employs a staff in Providence to sell advertising. John Egan, Nelligan’s general manager in Providence, will work with WEEI’s sales staff to sell commercial time during Friars games, and PC keeps a percentage of the advertising dollars generated.

“It’s a win-win for us and the station and there is a tremendous upside for us,” said PC’s Driscoll. “We have an opportunity to receive exposure on a broader scale and grow our program.”

Talk on WEEI is dominated by the Boston pro teams, especially the Red Sox and Patriots. The station airs some Boston College football and basketball games, but college sports are rarely the topic of daily conversation. PC basketball is discussed on WSKO in Rhode Island, but on a limited basis. PC’s Welsh was on WEEI yesterday at five o`clock to announce the new deal and discuss his team, but talk quickly reverted to the Sox and Kevin Garnett.

“We talk about the most compelling issues for our audience,” said WEEI’s Wolff. “I know (PC) is on top of everybody’s mind down there, and if they do well and make news will we talk Providence basketball all the time? Probably not. But it won’t be ignored anymore, either.”

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