IMG mishandled WSU booth change in a major way

IT'S BEEN TWO days but Washington State's ever-revolving door of personnel on its football radio broadcast team continues to beg one very big question following Wednesday's news that Bud Nameck is out the door.


Why did IMG, which owns the rights to Cougar broadcasts, feel compelled to go to North Carolina to find a Syracuse grad to replace Nameck when Washington State -- home of the esteemed Edward R. Murrow College of Communication -- produces broadcasting talent in bunches?

This has nothing whatsoever to do with the skills of Nameck's successor, Matt Chazanow. I talked with him at length Wednesday and came away impressed by his passion and knowledge. No, this isn't about Matt. It's about putting WSU's calling card -- "world class, face to face" -- to work. Not just in advertisements but in real-life practice.

I'm not one to blindly favor nepotism. I would never advocate that someone be hired for a job simply because of the school they attended. If nepotism ruled, then Cougar football and basketball fans wouldn't have been treated with the brilliance of Bob Robertson -- a WWU grad -- over the last five decades or the yeoman-like work of Nameck -- a Santa Clara man -- over the last 20-plus years.

But in terms of good old-fashioned marketing of your university, what exactly is the message you're sending when you produce truckloads of broadcasting talent yet apparently don't consider any of it when picking a new, singular voice for your football, basketball and baseball teams?

I asked Andrew Giangola, vice president of strategic communications for IMG, if he considered a pool of candidates for the job because the reading-between-the-lines of Chazanow's elevation sounded more like a coronation rather than a competition.

"That's a great question, I would have to talk with our audio guys and I don't want to speculate ... But Matt is absolutely a rising star within the IMG radio network. We're always trying to develop our talent and given them bigger and better opportunities and this was just a terrific opportunity for one of our bright stars who is looking to settle in at a school and make it his home," Giangola said from his office in Winston-Salem.

That's a little corporate speaky, so I was more direct.

Were any Murrow grads considered?

"You look at various options but because Matt has such great talent and experience in big-time college sports, we just felt Matt was the right choice. Matt was the guy and we're happy to have him in there," said Giangola.

Now that seems a pretty clear answer: Chazanow was the winner of what was essentially a one-man competition.

And that's incredibly disappointing. Again, not because Chazanow was selected but because outstanding homegrown broadcasting talent like Ian Furness and Jason Puckett at KJR Radio in Seattle weren't even considered. Derek Deis is another old Coug who could have been in the running. He's a morning anchor at KXLY-TV in Spokane and will be taking over Nameck's role on Bill Moos' radio show but he has play-by-play experience and would have been a fine candidate.

Or how about Cindy Brunson?

You heard me.

The former ESPN anchor, now living down the road in Arizona, is the biggest name out of Murrow in years and does great work covering women's hoops on the Pac-12 Networks. Who better to break barriers in the booth than a bona fide superstar?

The list of Murrow talent no doubt goes on and on, literally across the country. Yet nary a one was considered. Think about all the passion and historic perspective that was dismissed with such an imperious move.

Again, my first impression of Chazanow was highly favorable, but the fact remains: IMG would have done well to take a page from the CougsFirst! initiative, which says hire the best person or outfit for whatever job you're looking to fill, but make sure you're giving Cougs who meet the criteria a fair shot.

Instead, there was no competition for Nameck's job. It was an inside flush, but the insiders were from tobacco country, not the state of Washington.

Think about that for a moment. The decision on who should be the voice of the Washington State Cougars wasn't made by anyone at the university. And not even by anyone in the western U.S.

One well-connected WSU alum I spoke with this week was flabbergasted. "The disrespect IMG showed to Washington State University -- and the Murrow College of Communication -- is shocking. It's an embarrassment for WSU, really," he said.

All of which raises the question: where was Moos in all of this?

The IMG release contained no quote from the Washington State AD. And the only perspective on it from WSU came from CF.C's call to the SID's office on Wednesday in which it was pretty clear that IMG, as the rights owner, made the move it wanted to make.

Given that Cougar fans heard a lot from Moos when previous radio changes were made -- Jim Walden out, Shawn McWashington in, Bob Robertson's role changed -- I asked Giangola if the decision to cut ties with Nameck was made unilaterally by IMG, or in conjunction with Moos.

Effectively, it sounds like IMG made the call.

"The way it works is it's IMG recommendation. We manage, produce, distribute the broadcast. The school places their trust in IMG. It's one of the reasons why they brought us on as a partner, because we have expertise in the radio broadcast. So it's IMG's recommendation, they trust us and they ultimately sign off. As in anything we do ... the school always has the ultimate decision-making power because they're our client. But in situations like this they give us a lot of leeway and put their trust in us," said Giangola.

As for specifics on why Nameck was let go, we asked, but it appears IMG will keep those reasons quiet.

"First, we take great care in making a decision like this and we greatly and sincerely appreciate Bud's commitment, dedication and all his contributions to the broadcast. We're always looking to improve our broadcast. IMG is the nation's largest independent sports radio network. We are producing over 70 college broadcasts and we're always looking to have the best broadcast we can and we thought Matt would take a good broadcast and improve it even more. Really, we're doing this for the fans and the partners of Washington State, to really continue to improve the broadcast," said Giangola.

Giangola also stressed the importance of "the community factor." Nameck was based out of Spokane. Chazanow will live in Pullman.

"He's passionate about putting his roots down in Pullman, and that's typical about how it works at IMG," said Giangola. "A lot of our broadcasters hail from somewhere else and they settle into a market for sometimes 10, 20, 30 years in that market. Time will tell and I certainly don't want to predict anything but that's Matt's intention, to settle in, be part of the community and make it his home.

"The community element is an important part in the play-by-play voice for college -- I think it's a little bit different than the pros. When we can work it that way, we like to have it that way... The (play-by-play) job is bigger and broader than just showing up and calling a game."

Chazanow is a graduate of Syracuse's prestigious Newhouse School of Public Communications. He's got a "big game" voice. And Giangola in our conversation repeatedly expressed the utmost confidence that Cougar fans will greatly enjoy Chazanow's game calls, passion and energy.

I only wish Giangola had also told me that IMG interviewed Brunson, Furness, Puckett, Deis plus a host of other Murrow products ... and that Chazanow still came out of the group as their top choice.

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