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Finebaum leaves WJOX, weighing options

By Scott Buttram

For the first time in more than 20 years, radio listeners will not be able to tune in to Paul Finebaum on Tuesday to hear the popular host pontificate on sports. Finebaum and his network director, Pat Smith, allowed their contracts with WJOX to expire at midnight Monday.

WJOX operations manager Ryan Haney resigned from the Cumulus-owned station Monday as well, according to sources close to the situation.

Sources say the Paul Finebaum Radio Network is considering several opportunities at this time, which include remaining with Sirius satellite radio, moving to ESPN, joining WJOX competitor 97.3 The Zone, or a combination of the listed options. Finebaum has not made a decision on which option he will pursue at this time.

Network Director Pat Smith, left, with Paul Finebaum after the 2012 BCS National Championship in New Orleans

The Zone radio has publicly pursued the Finebaum team for more than a year and even went as far as running on-air ad promos taunting WJOX. However, sources say that Finebaum has not signed a contract with anyone and is keeping his options open.

Finebaum has been the radio ratings king in the Birmingham market for most of the last two decades. He began his career in Birmingham as a sports columnist for the Birmingham Post-Herald. His quick wit and bombastic approach made him the personality fans loved to hate, but couldn’t turn away from or turn off.

While the Paul Finebaum Radio Network domination of the local market wasn’t a surprise, many were caught off guard by his national success. Finebaum had already become a national name, making regular appearances on ESPN as a guest, before launching his broadcast on satellite radio.

The transition to satellite radio came easier than most expected. But Finebaum had already been drawing nationally known guests to his show including the late Beano Cook and Bert Sugar, as well as some of the biggest current names like Kirk Herbstreit, Pete Thamel and Gary Danielson. The guest list played well with the broader audience despite much of the conversation revolving around Alabama and Auburn.

When the state of Alabama produced the last four BCS national champions in football, Finebaum only became more popular with his national audience. Sources say the radio personality isn’t under any time frame to make a decision about his future, but believe it will come relatively soon.

Finebaum had been with WJOX since January 2007.

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