Two play-by-play broadcasts are planned for K-State's opener against Southern Cal on September 8. That's because Mid-America Ag Network (MAAN) scored "exclusive" radio rights to K-State athletics in December, but WIBW of Topeka persuaded a judge to allow the longtime rights holder to continue broadcasting K-State games.
Greg Sharpe, the voice of K-State sports for six years, and color analyst Stan Weber were forced to choose sides. Weber chose the newcomer and the university's preferred choice, MAAN. Sharpe decided to stay with WIBW, the station that gave him his first break. This dissolves one of the finest broadcasting duos in the Big 12 and beyond.
"We had a chemistry and shared a common bond of making the K-State broadcast team be as excellent as possible," says Weber. "We also shared a cohesiveness and friendship that was an added bonus." But working on different broadcasts that compete for the same advertising dollars will change everything. "We'll do the best we can to not let it affect our friendship," Weber says. "But the reality of the situation is that everyone will be pushing us to the realization that this is competition."
Both men readily admit that the decision-making period was uncomfortable, but neither had a particularly hard time deciding. "It's more like a hobby for Stan," Sharpe says. "I had to worry more about a full-time job." Weber is an executive with National Farms in Kansas City during the day and works as a broadcaster in his free time. Sharpe has toiled in the radio and television business for WIBW in Topeka since he graduated from K-State in 1986. "I didn't have two jobs on the line like Greg did," Weber says. "My loyalty was with Bill Snyder, the K-State football program and the university. Bill Snyder told me, 'I want you on the K-State network.'"
The university has made its preference clear. A few weeks ago, K-State strong-armed the Kaw Valley Catbackers into dumping Sharpe as the emcee for their annual summer picnic. The university wanted Weber's new partner on MAAN, Wyatt Thompson, to host the event.
"This is a little ironic," Sharpe recently told the Topeka Capital-Journal. "Last winter I received a distinguished service award from the alumni association, and now it's not appropriate for me to talk at Catbacker events."
The university has had the Foulston Siefkin law firm of Wichita write a letter to WIBW protesting Sharpe's role as the play-by-play announcer for Wildcat football. So far, Sharpe and WIBW have not blinked. "Competition is good," Sharpe says. "Listeners can go out and try both broadcasts and decide which one they want."
Sharpe leaves little doubt that he'd like to ram his microphone up MAAN's rear end. "The other group has never produced a major college broadcast," Sharpe says. After MAAN was made aware that it would have to share the broadcast rights with WIBW, the company decreased its payment to the university by about 75 percent. "I guess the network thinks we're going to take 75 percent of the listeners," Sharpe says. Weber, though, is optimistic about his new team. "I'm ready to roll on their behalf," Weber says. "I work for the official K-State network."
The battle in the booths may be more entertaining than football this fall in Manhattan.