By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - USF Athletics continuously looks to "expand" its brand and the Bulls have a new platform.
USF celebrated its partnership with 98.7 The Fan, Tampa Bay's newest FM sports radio station, Thursday at a packed press conference inside the Lee Roy Selmon Athletics Center. The Fan, a CBS Radio affiliate, did its first-ever broadcast during the press conference and continued the two-hour show by chatting it up with most of USF's head coaches that included Skip Holtz (football), Stan Heath (men's basketball), Ken Eriksen (softball), Courtney Draper (volleyball), Chris Malloy (men's golf) and Marci Kornegay (women's golf).
"It's an exciting time for us. I don't know many programs that are on an FM station that has such wide range of coverage throughout our community, but also nationally," said Heath, the 2011-12 Big East men's basketball coach of the Year. "It gives us a voice, a presence, a way to sell our program and to get our message out. Hopefully it will create more fans, create more interest and attract more recruits."
USF has grabbed headlines in the past two years with its success in sports and the growth of basically a whole new athletic district that includes a renovated Sun Dome, a new football practice facility and new baseball and softball stadiums. USF Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Doug Woolard said the Bulls plan to keep growing and is excited to have 98.7 The Fan involved in the process.
"For us to have 98.7 The Fan as our partner and to be the premier sports entity in the Tampa Bay area is exactly what our alumni, our student-athletes and our fans deserve," Woolard said. "Along with President (Judy) Genshaft, I continue to desire to expand the brand of the University of South Florida. Aligning with a great national brand like CBS Radio will certain assist us in that effort."
Longtime USF radio personality Jim Louk said the benefits of partnering with 98.7 The Fan should be exponential for the program during the multi-year agreement. The station will cover live events that include USF football and men's basketball games along with airing a Bulls Report twice a week and the weekly one-hour USF Magazine Show.
"People are going to know where we are and it's going to be a consistent home," Louk said. "It's going to be a home that people are tuning into already for the sports programming and it's going to be a natural fit."
USF's coverage will actually be on two radio stations with 1010-AM staying with the Bulls to air women's basketball, baseball and softball games. The station also will periodically feature a USF game of the week.
"We have a lot of opportunities to showcase a lot of different sports," Louk said.
Times change in all industries, especially radio, and USF's continuous presence on an FM station will allow the Bulls to reach the maximum amount of listeners, including the ones that constantly skim through the music stations. Saturday afternoons during football season will be a prime time for USF coverage and football broadcasts will continue to be produced by IMG College with Louk on play-by-play, Mark Robinson doing color commentary and Mike Pepper doing the sideline reporting. Jim Lighthall and Justin Pawlowski will continue to host the pre and postgame shows.
"Let's face it, all the pro sports teams and college sports teams want to be on FM now," Lighthall said. "I read something the other day that 80 percent of radio listeners never even go to the AM dial. That opens a huge door for USF to be on FM and the exposure is just a whole different audience."
FOLLOW THE FAN: You can get to know more about 98.7 The Fan by following the flagship station of the Bulls on Twitter @987TheFan, on Faceback at Facebook.com/SPORTSRADIO.987TheFan. Go online to 987TheFan.com to access the station's weekly on-air schedule.