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UPDATED: There’s a Big Al sized hole in the Fan lineup

Colin D. | February 28, 2019

Wowzers! It turns out I was really onto something when I published this article this morning. Not only were my suspicions about Alfred “Big Al” Williams leaving 104.3 the Fan correct but word officially came down from the station today.

Here’s what I have learned:

Alfred WAS offered a contract from the station but something about the offer ticked him off and Bonneville International wasn’t willing to negotiate. Meanwhile, the Broncos have apparently been courting him for some time to come to work with them in their partnership with IHeartMedia, Orange and Blue AM760 / AM850 KOA and that’s where Alfred Williams is going and not until after he waits out a non-compete clause that will run out in time for the coming Broncos season. Yes, the biggest name in sports talk radio in Denver is heading switching over. There he will work with and cover the team presumably doing game broadcasts – his “swan song” with the team he once played for.

After that who knows? The University of Colorado could always use a guy who is good at raising money.

As for 104.3 the Fan – the station will make a hire rather than just moving around the talent they already have. Meanwhile, expect to hear Dmac paired with several different co-hosts over the coming weeks as the smoke settles. Some of the prospective hires might be pretty exciting. More to come on that as the days roll on.

Today is a sad one for me as a long time listener to the Fan and to the Drive with Big Al and Dmac. That show is just a part of my life it’s as simple as that. I feel awful for Dmac who I am sure is very bummed out about all this. But, it’s radio. That’s how the cookie crumbles. Raj Sharan, who was recently named the program director at the Fan, will have an opportunity to continue putting his signature on the programming there with the hire he makes. Already Raj has begun to ease the station away from the all-Broncos format and it’s been nice to hear hosts discuss the Nuggets, Avalanche and Rockies a ton more.

I leave work every afternoon at around six and every afternoon I tune my car radio to 104.3 the Fan to listen on my way home to the Drive (reloaded) with Big Al and Dmac.

In my mind it’s the best sports talk radio show in the market. It’s certainly the highest rated most widely acclaimed. And it should be. Alfred “Big Al” Williams and Darren “Dmac” McKee have been broadcasting together for the better part of a decade and each of them brings vast knowledge and experience to the show. They also both know people – a LOT of people – so they have access to certain inside stuff that allows them to skirt around certain truths that most local hosts won’t touch. The Broncos’ ownership drama is an example of a topic that the duo has tackled more extensively than most.

In 2018 named the Drive with Big Al and Dmac among their top 100 sports talk radio shows in the country which is really impressive considering the fact that Denver is seen as a “small market”. The list, the “sports talk radio heavy 100” includes the biggest names in radio – many of whom are nationally syndicated.  

Part of the “schtick” of the Drive that I like is that Big Al and Dmac often disagree vociferously and entertainingly. Dmac’s futile efforts to change Al’s mind have become a running theme of the show. Another can’t-miss recurring element during Broncos season is the “Friday fire up” when the show’s producer, “Big Sexy”, pumps high energy jams while the hosts “fire up” callers to carry on like crazies while Big Al and Dmac egg them on.

The Drive is a fun and fan-friendly show which is why it seems particularly odd to me that Alfred Williams has been missing lately. Missing, in fact, to the extent that promos no longer refer to the show as “the Drive with Big Al and Dmac” but rather only as “the Drive”.  

So what gives? Is it possible that Bonneville International, the Fan’s parent company, is considering leaving a Big Al sized hole in their afternoon lineup?  

It would be utterly insane of them to do that but having observed the comings and goings of radio talents in Denver over the past decade I have seen this happen before. I am beginning to suspect that they aren’t going to renew his contract.

Radio hosts, like many in the entertainment arena, exist contract renewal to contract renewal. At the end of any deal the bosses can just up and decide not to pay anymore – and in an ironic twist – the more successful a talent has been the more likely he or she may be to be let go. Alfred Williams is by far the most widely recognized talent at the Fan (or at any other station in town) having been a star at the University of Colorado and again with the Denver Broncos. As such Bonneville ponies up a relative boatload of money to keep Big Al around.

The profit margins in radio are razor thin – if there’s any profit at all. It’s a very difficult business. Just ask Andy Lindahl who was pushed out from I Heart Radio’s Orange and Blue 760 last week after years and years with the company – first at 850 KOA and then with the ill-advised new all-Broncos station that almost nobody listens to. When talents stick around long enough to start making some real money they often get phased out in favor of new, cheaper voices.

If that’s what Bonneville International is doing with Alfred Williams I believe they are making a BIG mistake. Alfred Williams is a beloved figure in this cow-town and his voice is almost synonymous with 104.3 the Fan. If I were Nate Kreckman at Altitude Radio I would be foaming at the mouth at the prospect of no longer having Big Al to contend with in the same time slot at a competing station. Of course, Nate’s contract will be up eventually, too.

That’s radio.  

Written by Colin D.


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