SE: Return of 580 WIBW Reconnects K-State History, Extends Broadcast Reach

Stan Weber enters his 30th season broadcasting, but in a way he’s returning to his roots this season because of a revitalized relationship with the K-State Sports Network and AM 580 WIBW. 

Hearing this, the now veteran color commentator can’t help but smile. 

“To say that they’re a part of our group again, it’s like grandparents who had been in Europe for 15 years moving back home, I can’t wait to spend more time with them,” said Weber, taken back to memories of working with Ed O’Donnell — who put in more than 40 years of work at WIBW — and with former Voices of the Wildcats Mitch Holthus and Greg Sharpe. “They taught me so much. It brings a warm feeling to my heart that the organizations are working together today in 2016.”

The K-State Sports Network, a property of Learfield, announced a five-year deal in February with Alpha Media to bring WIBW back into the Wildcats’ far-reaching group of affiliates and to end a decade-plus long hiatus with Topeka’s top sports station.  

“When I first came here in 2009, one of the things a number of our fans communicated to me right away, both by email and personally at Catbacker Events, is how important the historical relationship between 580 WIBW and the K-State people had been,” K-State Athletics Director John Currie said. “Thanks to the great work of (Learfield General Manager) Ben Boyle and the K-State Sports Properties team, we’ve been able to work it out to get WIBW back in the fold.”

The history between K-State and WIBW is beyond extensive. 

K-State football and basketball’s origins on the radio began in the 1950s with WIBW, which launched the original Wildcat Sports Network in 1980. During that basketball season, O’Donnell and Steve Physioc made history by broadcasting the first Big 8 women’s basketball game, between K-State and KU. 

“Many collegiate programs can trace their long-time traditions and their passionate fan base to radio,” Boyle said. “At K-State, that link between the teams and the fans for so many decades was 580 WIBW.  K-State and 580 WIBW have always been a great fit and we’re thrilled to have WIBW back in the family.”

Currie agreed, adding that every attempt to connect Wildcat fans to K-State goes toward providing the Best Fan Experience in the Big 12. 

“Our fan experience is not limited to Bill Snyder Family Stadium and Bramlage Coliseum. It’s also how we proactively make it as easy as possible for our fans to stay connected to K-State, be it the K-State Sports Extra or, and certainly the radio networks,” Currie said. “As time goes by, there’s a lot more technology and media out there, but radio is still very, very important to our fans at Kansas State and college sports fans in general. Rekindling a relationship like this one is really important.” 

“I just think it’s important if you want to listen to a K-State game, that you ought to be given the opportunity. It’s amazing how many stations we have on the network,” Weber added. “Compared to most networks and most states, we cover it with much greater strength and reliability, but if everything holds in areas where someone’s in their car or sitting at home and isn’t close to one of those many stations, a lot of times 580 is the one that can fill in the gaps.”

Specifically, the listening gaps for K-State women’s basketball fans have been greatly filled with the return of WIBW’s powerful signal. 

“I still remember Ed O’Donnell, the longtime executive producer at WIBW, telling me the story when I first came to K-State in 1989 that there was a women’s basketball player from Albuquerque, New Mexico, whose parents were able to listen to the games on 580,” Boyle said. “So this is not only significant for football and men’s basketball, but in many ways more so for sports like women’s basketball where only some of our current affiliates carry those games. Now, when women’s basketball is playing on 580, fans can hear those broadcasts throughout the state.”

K-State’s season opener at No. 7 Stanford, in which more than 6,000 Wildcat fans are expected to attend, kicks off Friday at 8 p.m. (CT) and can be heard on AM 580. 

When certain football games conflict with the Kansas City Royals’ schedule, K-State fans can tune in to Alpha Media’s top-rated 100,000-watt FM station, 94.5 Country. This will also be the case when K-State’s men and women’s basketball teams play at the same time. In those instances, the men will be carried on AM 580 while the women can be heard on 94.5 FM. 

“I would just say great job by Ben Boyle of Learfield, John Currie with the K-State Athletic Department and the administrators at WIBW to get these two groups back together,” Weber said. “There is a natural connection between what WIBW stood for forever and what K-State does. Just start with the agriculture, add on the sports and these two should be associated together. So for them to work hard and to bring that connection back, I just thank them and congratulate them for this coming to fruition. 

“I know it’s not easy working out business deals, and those guys deserve a ton of credit for getting it done to the benefit of K-State, WIBW and mostly the people in the state of Kansas. No matter who you root for, you want to have the capability of turning on the Cats’ game and listening. The fact that that’s being done now is great work.”