The timing of Terry Elliot’s dismissal as color analyst on Wichita State’s radio broadcast is better than it was in 2008. That should dampen some of the negative reaction. However, I would guess there will still be a fair amount of discontent and questions from Shocker fans. When BGM Sports Marketing dumped Elliot days before the 2008 super regional, the outcry forced a redo and Elliot returned.
That was a poorly timed move that made no sense to outsiders. Two factors will probably make things go more smoothly this time around for BGM and WSU. First, making this move in July gives it time to cool off before baseball season. Second, knowing Shane Dennis will take over as color man will answer the biggest question and take the sting out of the news for some fans.
Baseball fans connect with their radio guys because of the frequency and pace of games. There is little TV coverage, so Mike Kennedy and Terry Elliot are the main conduit for fans. Listen to someone 70 or 80 times each spring and a bond grows. Elliot possessed a good sense of humor, a folksy style and wasn’t afraid to criticize, first-guess or second-guess WSU coaches and players for moves he disagreed with or found lacking in baseball smarts. He did that despite a close relationship with the coaches, and his personality served the listeners well. His role as a catcher at WSU from 1984-86 (and for many more years in the NBC World Series) gave him insight into hitting and pitching, which I think was a crucial part of his appeal. He also put a spotlight on the catchers, praising them for quick wits and feet and ripping them when they received with brick hands. Catcher is a position often overlooked. Not on Elliot’s broadcasts. Fans will miss him, and it will be interesting to see how strongly they react.
- From my perspective, Elliot will be greatly missed. He was always willing to answer my questions and talk baseball. His long tenure with the program was invaluable. When Elliot said he thought Tyler Grimes could be WSU’s best defensive shortstop, it means something because he watched most of them.
- Nobody wanted to go into the reasons for Elliot’s dismissal beyond wanting a consistent voice on all games – home and away. Elliot’s desire to skip the longest of the MVC road trips either opened the door for his firing or presented a convenient excuse. None of that should be a reflection on Dennis, who is an under-used broadcast talent. He is very talented and knowledgeable. Shocker fans, already comfortable with him from his women’s basketball days and his spot duty on baseball, are in good hands.
- Dennis, of course, is WSU’s director of baseball operations. He works across the hall from coach Gene Stephenson. This puts him in the position of evaluating the performance of his boss and co-workers on a daily basis from February to June. He will need to walk a line that allows him to be straight with the listener and not cause problems in the office. I think Dennis is eloquent and savvy enough to pull it off without short-changing the fans. In some baseball programs, this might be a bigger problem. My observation of the WSU baseball staff is that a certain level of dissent and give-and-take is allowed and appreciated – as long as you can take what you give. They can be sensitive to criticism, but they also realize that criticism is part of the job in a high-profile sport. Because of the personalities (and Dennis’ long tenure with the program), I don’t see it as a major problem. Some fans will listen with that factor in mind. If you wanted to be Mr. Journalism, this isn’t an ideal setup. But it’s the way of broadcasting these days and almost all colleges have their employees doing radio or TV broadcasts. Fans don’t seem bothered.
- Thinking way, way down the road – does this set Dennis up as the first choice for the next voice of the Shockers? Mike Kennedy, 60 during the last basketball season, is going strong despite a endurance test of a schedule that begins in August with volleyball and doesn’t slow until baseball ends in June. Dennis (if his situation allows in five, 10 or 20 years) would be an excellent choice to replace Kennedy as the play-by-play voice on all sports. I would think of Elliot as a baseball player who learned to do radio, and do it well. Dennis is a radio guy, with the requisite voice and delivery, who pitched.