Learfield Sports

Learfield Sports

Many ask me:  “So, how’d you get from farm broadcasting to sports?” The answer is simple:  we had full-time leased lines and the University of Missouri network wanted to use them on Saturday afternoons. They were paying about $12,000 a year, I told them I’d charge them $6,000. All of my stations were carrying the games anyway; so it was a win-win deal. Now a little history.

The Missouri Sports Network had been around since 1948 growing to 33 affiliates through the 50s. It was surely one of the earliest college radio networks in the nation. Coach Dan Devine’s successes in 1960 with an undefeated season and a national ranking and continued success through the decade helped the network reach 56 affiliates. Only eight stations carried basketball. Until 1973 the “flagship” of the network was Columbia’s KFRU, and its owner, Mahlon Aldredge, did the play-by-play with “Sparky” Stalcup on color. In 1973, after encouragement by Athletic Director, Mel Sheehan, KMOX took over as flagship. Nothing was exclusive as KCMO in Kansas City also carried its own description of the home games and KSD, St. Louis, provided play-by-play some years.

Judd Wyatt was the colorful, elderly, Director of Advertising, for MFA, Inc., the corporate sponsor of the network broadcasts. He contacted me in 1974 and asked if I’d be interested in sub-leasing my lines on Saturdays and that’s how the deal was struck. By the fall, we’d moved studios from our offices on Dunklin Street to “the farm.” But because the telephone company couldn’t run the game broadcast “back-haul” loop to Centertown, I sat up shop in an old house on Dunklin for those games. I’d go in each Saturday and make the connection–between the backhaul and the network’s “head end”. We didn’t have anything to do with the broadcast other than this connection–no commercials, no programming.

But it was the beginning of something really big. And, as you’ll see over the next several weeks on this blog, it was fun and competitive. So, as they say, stay tuned.