Colin Cowherd’s firing at ESPN shows need for talent management

by Kent Sterling

Colin Cowherd a goner at ESPN because he stepped on a third rail management might have helped him avoid.

Colin Cowherd a goner at ESPN because he stepped on a third rail management might have helped him avoid.

Colin Cowherd is a great radio talent whose mouth gets ahead of his brain once in a while.  He believes that because he tries to tell the truth as he sees it that everything he says then must be the truth.

That’s a philosophy that leads to great success for sportstalk hosts, but can also make for disastrous mistakes.

Management is key for a talent like Cowherd because without perpetual reminders that words can have consequences, they tend to wander into trouble – as Cowherd did by insulting Dominicans en masse as ignorant yo-yos who would be incapable of playing another sport professionally.

Click here to follow Kent on Twitter

Cowherd used to be managed by a very capable guy named Scott Masteller.  Scott worked hard to help Cowherd become the dynamic talent that he is, and when Scott moved on from ESPN, I wondered how Cowherd might respond.

This wasn’t Cowherd’s first time saying something Trumpian, but because he was a short-timer it will be the last at ESPN.  It’s not that Cowherd was wrong in his assessment – I don’t personally know enough Dominicans to have an educated opinion about their level of intellect, although I have found that smart people are everywhere in similar ratios.  It’s that a group ESPN wants to maintain a positive relationship with are upset, and Cowherd is leaving.  Easy (if gutless) decision.

Cowherd decided over the last few weeks that leaving ESPN would provide a greater challenge, and he is headed for Fox Sports 1.  He was continuing to work at ESPN a period of time that had yet to be announced.

Managing talent requires them to understand that honesty is a compelling force for good until it disturbs broadcast partners like Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, and other leagues that supply much needed play-by-play to networks/stations.

While partners understand the need for unvarnished commentary to drive consumption of sports media, there are consequences for rubbing raw those who run the leagues.  ESPN’s slate of Monday Night Football games is wretched compared to those in previous years.  Is that because the NFL was more than a little honked off at ESPN for zealous coverage of Roger Goodell’s responses to the Ray Rice debacle?  No one will admit to it, but it’s a good bet.

With Cowherd, MLB was eager to defend the significant percentage of players from the Dominican Republic, and given that he’s is a short-timer, the decision to punt was easy for ESPN.  Adios!

Management can keep talent apprised of the dangers of overstepping into the kind of outrageous generalizations that Cowherd espoused, so now he becomes Fox’s challenge.

Will a high dollar free agent signee like Cowherd be eager to accept a mandate that he tone down the divisive rhetoric, or will he dance with the girl that brung him.  It’s a hell of a lot easier to get the attention of a host who is grateful for being discovered, as Cowherd was at ESPN, than to cajole compliance from a host that has been told he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread while being compensated beyond logic.

Click here for a $1 comprehensive dental exam done by the best dentist in Indiana – Dr. Mike O’Neil at Today’s Dentistry

Fox has partnerships that are critical to its success, including those with the NFL and MLB, the same people who were so agitated by his remarks.

While sitting alone in a room every weekday for three hours, it can become easy to amuse yourself.  It takes discipline to avoid the third rail topics that can define and wreck a career.  That discipline is supplied by high quality management like Masteller, who always put the needs of his talent and operation ahead of his own.

Without men like Masteller, talent like Cowherd have difficulty surviving.

7 thoughts on “Colin Cowherd’s firing at ESPN shows need for talent management

  1. LaneyB

    Cowherd was becoming a liability long before his ill-considered Dominican comments. His self-revelations about his political and social views, his family, his intellectual and business acumen became a constant theme leading to three hours of boasting, raving, and boring. He believed in his own press, and that’s never a smart career move.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      Especially as a three hours/day radio host. A little ego is a must for someone spending all that time alone in a room talking, but being a little self-effacing takes the edge off a little bit, and Cowherd has never been big on self-deprecation.

      1. LaneyB

        One wonders what business ESPN is really in. Were they not paying attention in the last few years or had the ratings been dying, and this was a perfect opportunity to end the misery early? Where does one go to find out radio/TV ratings that aren’t inflated?

        1. kentsterling Post author

          Some are inflated, and others are deflated. The methodology for audience measurement is flawed, and all numbers are at the minimum difficult to trust.

  2. Jeff Gregory

    His job should be safe at Fox. If they were going to can people for saying crazy, racist stuff, they would have no prime time programming on their “news” channel.

  3. Frank M. Cook

    I stopped listening to Cowherd a very long time ago when I heard him say on the radio that having pros play in some event would be like having the Super Bowl champions play “your local retarded high school.”

  4. Sarah Daniels

    While not on a public scale, similar situations can arise in any work environment. Employee training shouldn’t begin and end at the onset of employment. To keep employees “in check” management must continually train and nurture them.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *