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Radio Cost Cutting Continues: Students To Call Islanders Games

Friday, 8 Oct 2010 | 11:00 AM ET

For years, college students have called their school's games alongside the broadcast crews that get paid to do it for real. Now, some of those college students will have a chance to call professional games while still in school.

As first reported by the blog IslandersPointBlank.com, the New York Islandersare close to signing a deal with Hofstra University that would make the school's non-profit radio station the official home of the Islanders. Financial arrangements are unclear, though we're told students would be compensated for their time, so they won't be losing money.

So how will the broadcast booth work?

What is known is that the Islanders broadcaster Chris King will serve as play-by-play announcer. The college students will produce the broadcast, cut and voice highlights and presumably have a shot at calling color alongside King.

First, teams including the Islanders simulcasted their television broadcasts on radio to save money. And this seems to be the next step. So is it a smart one?

New York Islanders
Lou Capozzola | Getty Image
New York Islanders

It's not good for the professional broadcasters out there, but I think this is going to work.

Why?

Because having been a college radio broadcaster and sports director of the station at Northwestern, I know there are college kids who can really call games.

And if Hofstra currently doesn't have the talent, they'll surely get it.

Can you imagine the draw to a high school senior who wants to be an NHL announcer of going to Hofstra to get his immediate shot? Schools around the country can say they prepare you for the big leagues, but no school can currently say that you can be drafted into the broadcast booth right away. Even more important to Hofstra is that the school directly competes with those interested in journalism with Fordham, whose alums have included Vin Scully, Michael Kay, Mike Breen, Bob Papa, Spero Dedes, Tony Reali and others.

There's one major issue from the university's side with forging this deal. If one Hofstra student emerges as a great broadcaster, the other kids aren't getting a chance. And then all of sudden, it's no longer an educational opportunity. It's business. Islanders sponsors have bought radio spots and they don't need the ratings to go south on a good game because some Hofstra kid does color and is so nervous he forgets the players names. At the same time, Hofstra's signal is actually stronger than WMJC, the station that broadcast games last year. So a bad broadcast might actually be better than a broadcast you can't hear.

We live in a world now that is clearly a meritocracy. If you are good, you no longer have to pay your dues. If you are good, you will be discovered, as a broadcaster, as a blogger, as a radio host. And while it seems like more people want to be in the business of sports more than ever before, I'd argue that it's never been easier to find the best talent than it is today. So while skeptics will say this experiment will turn into an embarrassment of the broadcasting profession. I actually have faith that it might help develop the next broadcast star.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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