MTSU athletics expect to find new radio home in Nashville

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 at 4:23pm

The decision by WNFN-106.7 FM to change its program format has left the Middle Tennessee State University athletics department scrambling to find a new broadcast outlet.

MTSU director of athletic Chris Massaro said that he had discussions Wednesday with Cumulus Media, the parent station of WNFN, on available options and expects to have something in place in time for the Blue Raiders’ opener, Sept. 5.

“Obviously, the sooner we make a decision the better but we don’t want to make a hasty one,” Massaro said. “… But we have to be able to educate our fans on where to go.”

MTSU has more than 60,000 alumni in the Nashville area. WNFN has served as its flagship station for the past three years.

In August of 2007, the school and the station extended their agreement through the coming academic year. The deal made WNFN, a local ESPN radio affiliate, the exclusive Middle Tennessee broadcast outlet for MTSU football and men’s basketball games and coaches’ shows. It also guaranteed three women’s basketball broadcasts.

Wednesday morning, though, all programming was off the air at 106.7 and a promo promised a new station beginning 1:06 p.m. Thursday.

According to Massaro, a change of format offer MTSU the option to back out of the current deal with Cumulus. It is also a possibility that MTSU broadcasts might be moved to WRQQ-97.1 FM, one of three other local stations owned by Cumulus Media.

“If you look at the Titans, they’re on a country station (WKDF-103,3 FM), but it’s one with great signal and a good audience,” Massaro said. “It doesn’t have to be an all-sports station.”

Realistically, there are limited opportunities at best for MTSU to align itself with another all-sports outlet.

WGFX-104.5 FM has the broadcast rights to Vanderbilt football and men’s basketball as well as the Nashville Predators, which does not leave a lot of air time.

WNSR-560 AM has the broadcast rights to Vanderbilt baseball and women’s basketball.

“Of course, we always have an opportunity to do things, but we’re under contract with Vanderbilt athletics right now,” WNSR general manager Jeff Kolb said. “Basically, we would have to work withon what we already have.”

MTSU games also have been carried live on WMOT-89.5 FM, a non-profit National Public Radio station on campus and will remain there. WMOT has a 100,000-watt signal, which reaches into Kentucky.

In recent years, WMOT has broadcast only football games. This year that package will be expanded to include men’s and women’s basketball and up to 18 baseball games.

“WNFN, overall, has been a good partner,” Massaro said. “Particularly at the start of the deal, to be with an all-sports station in Nashville and to be aligned with ESPN, we reaped some real rewards.

“This was something we anticipated might happen but hoped would not – particularly not at this time, but our fans in the Nashville area will continue to have the opportunity to hear the Blue Raiders.”