With the dawn of the 2013 football season, Mountaineer fans will be experiencing the radio broadcast of games in an entirely new way. As everyone knows, after a seemingly endless battle that stretched from the State Attorney General's office to appeals court, the Mountaineer Sports Network will soon begin it's first season as a part of the IMG multimedia family. The Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG, as it is called, announced its radio broadcast team on Monday and while many of the names were familiar to Mountaineer fans, the man running point, Jeff Culhane, stood out as someone we hadn't heard of before. We decided to reach out to Jeff and get to know the man who's voice will soon be heard all over the state - and beyond.
I spoke with Culhane via phone on Tuesday night and he was kind enough to give me some of his background and also provide some insight as to what we can expect from his inaugural WVU broadcast on Saturday morning.
Given the late date of the final resolution of the media rights tussle, Culhane said it had been a "whirlwind two weeks" but in that time he's met some "great people" and "I'm really excited about the team we've put together. I'm honored at the opportunity and really looking forward to it."
Culhane's sporting background runs deep as the native of Mitchell, South Dakota graduated from the hometown Dakota Wesleyan University, where he played football and baseball (also he didn't brag, but I found out he was an NAIA All-America Scholar Athlete in both 2003 and 2004 - thanks, Google). After graduation he did work for the University of South Dakota on men's and women's basketball games and while there won an AP award for talk radio.
From there he moved on to Lincoln, Nebraska where he spent the last 5 seasons getting his first dose of big-time football as the host of "Sports Nightly", a 3 hour show that aired Monday through Friday. Additionally he handled the "Big Red Reaction" postgame call-in show and did color work for University of Nebraska baseball broadcasts as well as fill-in color duty on the 'Husker men's basketball broadcast.
His new destination reminds him of the old digs in that "there's just so much excitement with this fanbase. It's why I'm so thrilled to be here."
The new format will be greatly expanded from what Mountaineer fans are accustomed to, with a full 3 1/2 hours of pregame and 2 hours of postgame (a jump from 1 hour and a half hour respectively). I asked Jeff to give us a taste of what to expect and you could hear the excitement in his voice as he rushed through the lineup faster than I could write.
"I'll host the pregame and I'll have Dale Wolfley and Jed Drenning with me - Dale is great and Jed knows the game as well as anyone I've been around. We'll do extensive offensive and defensive segments where we break things down. Also we'll have coach's interviews - this week we talk with Shannon Dawson and Keith Patterson and also we'll have interviews with (Paul) Millard and (Clint) Trickett. Amanda Mazey gives us some great pieces on the staff and members of the team. We want to give comprehensive coverage of what's going on in the program, in the locker room, in the meeting rooms. It's a top to bottom fantastic team of folks and I'm really excited about what we're going to do."
Pausing to catch his breath, he sums it all up; "I want fans in the lot and folks at home to feel like they're already in the stadium on gameday."
When I asked him if plans were to spend more time with the Xs and Os of the game (which is something I personally think has only been skimmed in the past) he said fans would "definitely be getting a heavy dose of that. We're going to go very in-depth."
Like many new arrivals to the Mountain State (and when I say new, I mean new - Jeff just got in after a 2 day drive on Monday) Culhane is struck by how much people care about the program. "What's really stood out to me is the passion of everybody around the university and the fanbase. There's such a hunger for Mountaineer athletics. It's just a bunch of hard-working, blue collar people who want to see something put out there that they're proud of. It really reminds me of Nebraska." He seems to be adjusting quickly to his new digs. "I've been here for one night and it feels like home."
Emblematic of this new-wave WVU radio coverage will be an expanded role for social media - and when I say expanded, I mean it will for the first time exist. Culhane said "we want fan reaction and inter-action. That's phone lines and social media. We'll be reading Twitter responses on the show and interacting that way with fans. That had a great reaction in Nebraska." He encouraged fans to follow @WVUIMGSPORTS and include that handle in tweets to get them read on the air. You can also follow his personal account: @jeffculhane.
Here's a rundown of the team and their Twitter handles:
@TheSignalCaller (Jed Drenning)
@Wolfley64 (Dale Wolfley)
And while I'm handing out links, In the course of my research I also found a nice write-up of Jeff here - you should give it a quick look.
Culhane will be handling baseball color work and women's basketball color work once the season ends, but for the next several weeks it's wall to wall football. I know I'll be tuned in on Saturday to hear the next generation of WVU radio coverage and I'd encourage you to do the same.
It's sure to be a Great Day To Be A Mountaineer.