WHAS torpedoes once-popular Louisville sports talk show

Interesting that WHAS Radio is doing away with the sports talk radio show between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. after more than 30 years, especially at a time when sports talk appears to be enjoying enormous popularity.

The station announced Wednesday that Mandy Connell, who left Louisville last year to do a general talk show in Denver, will replacing Lachlan McLean, who is leaving the station in May. Connell previously held down a 9 a.m. to noon time slot, discussing a wide variety of issues and she will do her new show from Denver. Her new time slot in Louisville will be 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Van Vance made sports talk radio popular in Louisville.
Van Vance made sports talk radio popular in Louisville.

The show was a personal favorite of mine, I rarely missed it during the 15 or so years Van Vance was the host. Van was so easy going, allowing callers to express their views, rarely interrupting them or cutting them off. He was especially knowledgeable about University of Louisville athletics, simultaneously serving as the UofL play-by-play man. He retired in 1999 and was succeeded by Tony Cruise until Tony was picked to be the host of the morning drive host.

McLean became the sports talk personality in 2004, bringing with an often abrasive style that he believed was required for the job.  He was often argumentative with listeners, criticizing their opinions, and often resorting to cutting them short and hanging up on them. He also employed an approach intended to deliberately antagonize listeners, especially when it came to the UofL-UK rivalry.

McLean also appeared to spend an inordinate amount of time discussing University of Kentucky sports. I say “appeared” because I quit listening to the show several years ago because he was so negative. He was suspended by the station for two weeks in 2007 for reading a UK fan’s malicious poem about a UofL football player’s legal problems. McLean also had a paid segment of the show devoted to UK sports.

I have no statistics to back this up but it was probably his attentiveness to UK sports, at the expense of UofL, which drove many listeners away from the show. This combined with the growing number of locally-oriented sports talk shows on other stations and the fact that WHAS sold exclusive rights to Kentucky over UofL has never been received well in Louisville.

Mandy Connell is well versed on many topics, including local sports, and should have an entertaining show. But WHAS has lost a sizeable segment of audience for the time slot that may never return.

Author: Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, as well as a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

8 thoughts on “WHAS torpedoes once-popular Louisville sports talk show”

  1. I, too, quit listening to Lachlan McLean shortly after he joined the station. The show was all about his opinions with little regard for those who called his show. Not that there’s any unusual about that these days, but he was often insulting while often not being knowledgeable about the facts. He was skilled at getting under people’s skins, not that that’s a desirable quality. He seemed to lack the ability to understand that his base audience is Louisville and he drove UofL fans away by the hundreds.

  2. An absolutely mind-boggling decision. I didn’t care much for McLean as a sports host mostly because I didn’t find him to be very knowledgeable about sports despite being paid to talk about them for a living but at least he did provide something to listen to on the drive home from dinner or while running errands. But to replace it with a “local” show hosted by someone in Denver is one of the most laughable things I’ve heard of. They say she will talk about local issues, the only difference from her previous show is that she’ll physically be in Denver. So they think buying her a subscription to the C-J’s pay wall is the same as living here? Total joke, IMO.

    Is there any precedent in other cities for something like this?

  3. Charlie, I couldn’t agree with you more. It seemed that with every passing year the show reflected more of McLean’s abrasive style. I just got tired of listening to the UK fans blather on, and hear the same tired snarkiness out of the competing fan bases, and the host. I’m a huge U of L fan, and thoroughly enjoy the afternoon underdogs with Dave J and Tony V anyday. They crack me up.

  4. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Clear Channel consider starting a nightly local sports talk show on one of their other stations here. Maybe WKRD (ex Cards Radio)? The “reach” would be as great as the 50,000 watt blowtorch’s is…but with internet, streaming and such…it could be readily accessable.

    Fully agree, Charlie, about our pal Howie. One of the most knowledgable guys around on ALL facets of UofL sports. Love it when he gets “fill in” gigs at stations but he does deserve a full time. 93.9 would be the logical choice.

    Last but not least, adios to Jared Stillman. His shock and awe broadcast style is headed to his hometown in Nashville. There was no middle ground on “J-Bone”. You either hated him and his style or appreciated the “out of box” thinking and rants he was capable of going on. He’ll have a couple of local pro sports (the Preds and the Titans) to concentrate his attacks on now.

    I had the pleasure of watching him evolve from a pesky, annoying little freshman that you wanted to stuff into a gargae can head first into a polished and confident antagonist. I doubt Nashville is his final destination. He’ll most likely get something on a national scale before too long. He draws them in, either to agree or dispute and ratings, hits and tweets are what it’s all about in sports talk radio and media…or so it seems these days

    Paulie

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