By Kurt Chirbas
When news first broke that a new radio station, KNBR 1050 AM, had won exclusive rights to broadcast the Cardinal’s football and men’s basketball games starting this fall, officials at KZSU 90.1 FM, the student-run radio station on campus, started asking where the deal left them.
“I wasn’t concerned when I heard about a deal being made,” said KZSU sports director J.D. Haddon ‘13. “It’s more when I was reading the press releases by KNBR. Some of the language they used, I wouldn’t say concerned me, but confused me about what it meant for us.”
The station first heard about the change in the sports’ broadcasting home when students at KZSU came across online reports and brought them to Haddon’s attention. KZSU business manager Abra Jeffers, a graduate student in Management Science & Engineering, said this caused the station to question whether it would be able to continue carrying the Cardinal’s football and men’s basketball games next year.
“When we saw the news about the potential contract, we weren’t informed ahead of time,” she said. “So we were concerned.”
But last Wednesday, KZSU announced that it would retain its ability to broadcast these two sports next year and that the contract with KNBR would have no impact on its current sports coverage. The station is also the exclusive broadcaster for Cardinal baseball and women’s basketball games, among other sports.
Haddon said KZSU received confirmation of its broadcast rights from Eric Kwait, the general manager of Cardinal Sports LLC. Cardinal Sports LLC, a property of Learfield Sports, is the exclusive multimedia rights holder for Stanford Athletics.
Kwait did not respond to requests for comment from The Daily.
Haddon said that KZSU would be able to continue its coverage because of its status as a student-run non-profit station.
“We don’t go through the same process that a commercial station would go through,” he said. “I’m sure KNBR has exclusive rights in terms of the fact that no other commercial station would be able to cover those sports, but I think why we don’t conflict is because we are considered a different entity as a whole.”
There remains, however, some confusion over how KZSU receives its rights to broadcast Stanford athletics. Both Haddon and Jeffers said they were not aware of any written contracts with the University that delineates these rights.
“If there are contracts with KZSU, I’ve never seen them,” Haddon said. “From my understanding, it’s much more of an assumed relationship.”
Haddon said he is currently working on trying to find out how these rights are given to the station. He believes it might be tied to the fact that the station’s FM license is owned by Stanford’s Board of Trustees and given to KZSU’s Board of Directors to oversee the station’s operations. The Board of Directors consists of University faculty and staff members, two KZSU staff members, one student and the general manager of a local public television and radio station, all of whom are appointed by the University’s president.
“It would be kind of circular logic for them to draw up some sort of contract,” Haddon said. “Stanford gives the right to broadcast Stanford sports to KZSU, which in turn means they gave it to the Board of Trustees, which in turn means they just gave it to Stanford. That kind of makes no sense.”
But Haddon said that while there may not be an official contract, KZSU has always been on good terms with the University and that this announcement only serves as a confirmation of their relationship.
“I’ve always felt respected by Stanford Athletics,” he said. “I never felt at all that they were trying to do anything behind our backs.”
He called men’s basketball and football the “pillars” of the sports department and said the loss of these sports would have been “tremendous on many levels.” He cited the fact that football is the station’s most listened to program.
“To lose two of the major sports on campus, that would have been a huge blow in terms of building a relationship with the Stanford community and in terms of what we can cover,” Haddon said. “It would have also been a financial blow.”
KZSU, in fact, receives outside contributions. Haddon said many of these come from listeners of the station’s football and men’s basketball coverage. Jeffers confirmed that these sports fans help with KZSU’s operating expenses and allow the station to cover away games, giving it funding for airfare and hotel rooms.
She also said the loss of these sports would have had a huge impact on the station.
“We were really concerned about what we perceived as a potential loss of two of our most important sports,” Jeffers said. “But we were just hoping that our good relationship with the University wasn’t going to change, and we are thrilled that’s the case.”