A slimmed-down lineup of Minnesota Duluth sports found a radio home Wednesday when the school signed a two-year contract with Red Rock Radio to broadcast men’s hockey and football starting this fall.
UMD sports had been connected with Midwest Communications, and its previous owners, for nearly 50 years, since men’s hockey went on KDAL, 610 AM in 1960-61. But in recent years the company has de-emphasized sports, which included moving Bulldog hockey from AM to FM last season.
UMD officials looked for a new sports partner and, after Red Rock Radio made a proposal in April, worked out deal for two teams that participated in the NCAA playoffs last season. The Bulldogs will be carried on KQDS, The Fan, 1490 AM. No other Bulldog sports are expected to be on commercial radio in 2009-10, UMD sports information director Bob Nygaard said Thursday.
“We’re happy to get together with Red Rock Radio which is a first-class operation with a lot of energy, and it has a network that will get us out to more of our fans in the Northland,” said Nygaard. “It’s a change for us after so many years with one company and we’d like to have more of our sports on the radio, but it’s not for a lack of trying. With the present economy, it’s difficult.”
Other UMD sports have been on Midwest Communications stations in recent years, including women’s hockey since its first season in 1999-2000, and men’s and women’s basketball.
Former Midwest Communications employee and longtime high school and college play-by-play announcer Mark Fleischer is now sports director at Red Rock Radio and will do UMD football play-by-play. He said it’s also possible he’ll work the UMD hockey broadcasts.
Fleischer, 43, said he approached UMD athletic director Bob Nielson about a radio deal after the school’s one-year contract with Midwest Communications ended recently.
“These are high-profile UMD sports and it’s exciting for us,” said Fleischer, who worked for Midwest Communications for 22 years, through 2008, most recently as operations manager.
Bruce Ciskie of Proctor was UMD’s hockey play-by-play voice for more than three years, working as sports director for Midwest Communications, but his position was eliminated last December and Jeff Papas of Cloquet was hired to finish the season. Fleischer did UMD football play-by-play last season.
Fleischer noted that the Red Rock Radio signal should reach throughout Northeastern Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin aided by affiliates in the Grand Rapids-Hibbing area on KBAJ, 105.5 FM, and the Iron Range, on KAOD, 106.7 FM in Babbitt-Ely-Virginia.
UMD hockey had been with KDAL, 610 AM, or KHQG, 102.5 FM, for 49 years, recognized as the longest radio relationship among Divsision I hockey schools.
While UMD women’s hockey and men’s and women’s basketball won’t be on radio this season, streaming internet video, without play-by-play, will be available for home games of men’s and women’s basketball, women’s soccer, volleyball and football. Streaming video of home men’s and women’s hockey games will be on a per-per-view basis with B2 Networks.
The Bulldogs also announced a continuing relationship with Charter Communications for 13 cable television games for men’s hockey.
UMD, defending NCAA Division II football champion, opens the season Aug. 29 at home at 6 p.m. against Concordia St. Paul. Men’s hockey, which advanced to the 2009 NCAA quarterfinals, has a home exhibition Oct. 3 with British Columbia and begins the regular season Oct. 9 at home with Lake Superior State.
Red Rock Radio also recently added Minnesota Vikings games to its schedule on 1490 AM and 95 FM, and broadcasts NHL Minnesota Wild games on 94X FM.