MVictors: How did you get started in radio?
Sam Webb: We started the GoBlueWolverine hour in 2003, but I’m so foggy with dates. It was around that time. In 2005 I began to do fill-ins for the WTKA for the morning and afternoon shows. Then in 2006 I was on the afternoon show with Josh Vernier and that was really the starting point for me in a long term capacity.
I also did The Huge Show a few times and that was great preparation for radio because when you host the Huge Show, you’re it, you’re the show. When I was on with Josh, it was like he was the play-by-play and I was the color guy, and it’s much easier to just be the color guy. For the most part Josh did the research and then I just jumped in.
What I found with the Huge Show was really a release. I always felt like I when did the WTKA show, because of the audience, I had to be a little constrained. You can’t you can’t totally be yourself. You can’t do everything on the radio like you say in real life. But on the Huge Show you could push that line a little bit more. I think on that show I was able to figure out a better balance.
When I started out on WTKA I was totally bland. It was all Xs and Os, and a little about this recruit and that recruit. What I found it that’s not what people want to hear. People want more personality in who they hear on the radio.
MVictors: Is the development of that personality the biggest difference in your radio career between 2005 and today?
Sam Webb: There is no question. And here’s what I don’t do, and this was a conscious decision of mine. One of the things they first told me when I got on the radio is that it is character driven so even if you don’t believe something, take a position just to create conflict or play this character that no one likes or be this guy that everyone likes. And I just found myself saying, if I am going be on the radio everyday and it doesn’t work, I want that to be because people didn’t like me as opposed to some character. I would much rather be myself.
Playing a character doesn’t work for me or a number of reasons. Number one I’m just a regular guy. I am not interested in being fake or phony. When I say something on the radio, I want people to know that I mean it, to know that it is not contrived. When I listen to radio I want to hear the person and to know what they really really feel.
MVictors: Outside of the people that appear on this station, who are some of the people you listen to on the radio?
Sam Webb: I like Colin Cowherd. He’s not a Michigan guy, but that’s not a prerequisite for me to like him. I mean, I do like people that share the same opinions as me but it’s not a prerequisite. I listen to Cowherd on the way out of here.
I really liked [former WDFN time drive time hosts] Stoney and Wojo. Some of what they did was contrived but that was more during the games and bits they did, but I always thought that when you heard their opinions, you heard their opinions. I also think Mike Valenti is talented and I don’t think it’s contrived.
MVictors: You and Ira [Weintraub] seem to be doing well and have a natural chemistry on air. Speaking of chemistry, the WTKA afternoon slot is a hodge-podge of hosts. To me, it’s almost impossible to build a following when you are swapping out the hosts each day. Where is that going?
Sam Webb: To be perfectly honest, a lot of what goes on in the afternoon is limited by finances. The reason why is not as limiting factor for me, in the morning, is because I have more things going. If the radio was the only thing I had going I wouldn’t be the morning show guy. It works for me because of cross promotion. The radio promotes the Detroit News, the Detroit News can promote the radio and both can promote the GoBlueWolverine. That synergy makes it more palatable for me.
Right now financially radio is not that lucrative of a business as it once was and that’s just the economy in general and radio has been affected even more by the economy. The ad revenues just aren’t what they used to be and stations are spending less and you’ve seen talent move on–I mean Stoney and Wojo got cut! If they’re cutting Stoney and Wojo, imagine what they’re doing at WTKA.
MVictors: Where do you see yourself in five or ten years in this business?
Sam Webb: I think recruiting coverage will be around because so much of it is still a grassroots kind of thing. So much of the information is still gathered on the ground. It’s not really something you can cover accurately from afar.
I think the landscape can change a little bit more with ESPN getting into the game a little more seriously. They don’t strike me as being very serious right now, I don’t see a lot of information sharing between their recruiting sites. But that could be something that impacts the game.
For me, in five years, I expect to still be working with GoBlueWolverine and the Detroit News. The biggest question for me looking out five years is radio. The pace for me right now…I don’t know if, say, in five years that pace will be feasible. I love doing radio and WTKA, but that’s a long way looking out. I don’t know. Nothing immediate, I’m not about to quit tomorrow or even next year. But I just can’t say. A lot depends on a lot of personal things will dictate what goes on.
MVictors: Speaking of looking out 5-10 years, it seems like the verbal commitment of recruits holds less and less meaning over the years. Is that trend going to continue?
Sam Webb: I think so. It will exist insofar as coaches allow it to. You’re at the point now where you’ve got to play that game with some prospects. But it won’t be a level playing field for all guys. Some guys will be able to make a verbal commitment and say, ‘I’m going to still take visits.’ Some guys won’t have that kind of leverage, if they say that to a coach the coach will say, ‘Ok, but I’m going to recruit with your scholarship.’ That’s just the unfortunate circumstance.
MVictors: What would you do to change this trend?
Sam Webb: The first thing I would do is have an early signing period. Because the schools are put at an unfair disadvantage when it comes to gaining a verbal commitment from a kid and then setting aside that position for that guy, only to have him back-out of that commitment a couple months before signing day when a number of your options that you would have recruited to fill that position are off the board. It is a logistical nightmare from a planning standpoint.
An early signing period forces a guy to let you in on the seriousness of his commitment.
On the flip side of that, I think there should be greater flexibility when coaches leave. Working out the particulars is something I debate, because you can’t have everyone leaving a school once a coach leaves. Maybe there should be restrictions how quickly you can leave a job. To have Lane Kiffin leave Tennessee after one year…that’s not fair to the kids at the program.
And I liked the rule that allowed guys who completed their graduation requirements in four years and has a fifth year of eligibility and wants to go somewhere else, I think a guy should be able to do that. That allowed Ryan Mundy to go to West Virginia and eventually make it to the pros.