UConn Athletics has signed a new ten-year, multimillion-dollar deal with iHeartMedia and 97.9 ESPN, Hartford’s sports station, to serve as the home of UConn sports.
The first news broke Friday morning that WTIC 1080 AM will not have their contract renewed by the university following the end of the current basketball season. The station explained that an agreement between WTIC and IMG Sports, the rights holder for UConn, could not be reached.
The move marked the end of a 26-year partnership that saw the rise of UConn athletics to a national powerhouse. There were 15 national titles between the men’s and women’s basketball programs during that span, which also saw the rise of UConn’s football program to the FBS level.
Joe D’Ambrosio, the voice of UConn sports for the last 26 years, tweeted out the news Friday morning.
— Joe D'Ambrosio (@JoeDSports) February 16, 2018
WTIC was recently acquired by Entercom Communications as part of a $2 billion dollar merger with CBS Radio. Entercom currently holds the rights to over 60 professional and collegiate sports teams.
Entercom Sr. VP and Hartford Market Manager Phil Zachary explained in a press release Friday why UConn will not be one of the teams.
“I have the highest respect for UConn Athletic Director David Benedict and his goals for the university. Having grown up in Connecticut, there’s a special place in my heart for UCONN Basketball,” Zachary explained. “However, I couldn’t justify what they were seeking when compared to more successful partnerships Entercom enjoys with elite Power 5 institutions.”
97.9 ESPN will serve as the new, exclusive home for UConn Athletics airing regular season and post-season play-by-play for football, men’s and women’s basketball, and men’s hockey. Additionally, iHeartMedia plans to broadcast select UConn Olympic sports contests. The deal will start following the conclusion of current UConn athletic seasons.
“Our new relationship with iHeartMedia and 97.9 ESPN provides UConn Athletics with a powerful reach and the prospect of building an extensive affiliate network throughout the state and the Northeast,” UConn Athletic Director Dave Benedict said. “Our new partnership with a dedicated sports platform hosted by the most powerful sports and media company in the country, will offer fans and listeners more opportunities to interact with our teams and coaches.”
The deal includes pre- and post-game shows and will continue the UConn Women’s Basketball Coach’s Radio Show with Geno Auriemma, the UConn Men’s Basketball Coach’s Radio Show with Kevin Ollie, UConn Football Coach’s Radio Show with Randy Edsall, and the UConn Hockey Coach’s Radio Show with Michael Cavanaugh.
According to the press release, no decisions have been made related to on-air talent.
Connor Donahue is the digital editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @conn_donahue.