Schopp-Dickerson to team up at WGR
News Media Critic
In a stunning move that teams two local, sports talk hosts with opposite styles, Mike Schopp bolted Adelphia-owned WNSA-FM to join WGR-AM's Chuck Dickerson in the afternoons. It could have a big impact on the future of Buffalo sports radio.
Schopp, who clobbered Dickerson in the last ratings book with what was promoted as his "Sports Talk for Smart People," now will be a teammate of the WGR host who helped lower the taste barrier in the market.
The show featuring radio's newest odd couple will premiere some time in July.
Schopp's switch was motivated by the mounting uncertainty surrounding Adelphia.
"I feel this offers me more security and more room for professional growth," said Schopp. "I loved working for WNSA. This is largely about Adelphia (and its problems)."
WGR General Manager Greg Ried said he approached Schopp several weeks ago after Adelphia's problems became public and before he re-signed Dickerson to a new deal. Ried said he knew when he signed Dickerson that the show would involve a co-host. Schopp wasn't originally an option.
"He's proven over the last year that he belongs with the great talk show hosts in this market," said Ried. "We are trying to build the best sports station in Buffalo and he's proven he needs to be part of it."
Schopp was free to leave WNSA because he didn't have a contract or a non-compete clause in the market, he said. He signed a deal with WGR on Monday. Terms were not disclosed. Schopp said he decided to make the change over the weekend and told WNSA General Manager Bob Koshinski about it Monday afternoon.
"I told him, "If you think I'm a traitor or a sell-out, here's your chance," said Schopp. "He didn't say anything biting. He said good luck."
"He did what he had to do," said Koshinski. He doesn't plan to switch morning man Howard Simon, who has been trying to leave that shift for months, to afternoons to fill Schopp's spot. He knows it will be hard to persuade anyone to join WNSA now that it is in flux, so the plan is to fill-in with guest hosts.
Schopp's unwillingness to wait until the situation at WNSA is resolved is a bitter blow to the prestige of the station that carries Buffalo Sabres games. Besides the games, Schopp was WNSA's most valuable property. He arrived from Rochester in October 2000, instantly impressing an audience looking for a counterbalance to Dickerson's negativity.
With the help of regular guests Jim Kelley, Mike Robitaille, Larry Felser and Steve Tasker, Schopp's smart talk practically made Dickerson's act irrelevant. Schopp is especially popular with younger males, while Dickerson's audience is much older and less desirable to advertisers. Now Schopp's joining the enemy.
"I think it can work," Schopp said. "It will be two guys with very different styles. It can be very different radio."
Schopp is not unmindful that his credibility may take a hit from listeners who might view his joining Dickerson as a dumb move.
"I'm prepared for a backlash," said Schopp. "But this is about my future. I feel like this is a necessary step."
In making the move, Schopp is essentially making a statement about what he views as the future of WNSA. Radio insiders have questioned whether the Buffalo market can support two sports stations. WNSA still has the Sabres - at least for now. But Schopp's switch would seem to make WGR the favorite if only one sports station survives.
However, WNSA would benefit if it were made part of any deal for the ownership of the Sabres, who last week were taken over by the National Hockey League.
"I'm less than certain (about WNSA)," conceded Schopp. "You never really know what the future holds. I think that WGR has firmer ownership."
Ried feels combining two hosts with very different styles and opinions will be positive for WGR's afternoon show even if the hosts spent time ridiculing each other in the past.
"In the heat of competition, a lot of things are done and said," said Ried. "When you are on opposing teams, you're doing anything you can to win. When you're on the same team, you do what you can to help your teammates. We combined the best of both talk shows and put it into one."
Schopp says his act won't change now that he has joined WGR instead of a station that owns the Sabres.
"I still want to do sports talk for smart people," said Schopp. "I'm not going to change now. I know it works."
He said he hasn't spoken with Dickerson since he came here from Rochester. He did have a few conversations with Dickerson when they both wrote for a publication that covered the Buffalo Bills. Dickerson was on vacation Monday when Schopp came aboard WGR.
Schopp is willing to make one prediction about his upcoming show with Dickerson.
"I expect there will be not a single dull moment," said Schopp.