No Mustang Football Broadcasts This Year: 40 Year Streak Is Broken
Today is an anniversary of sorts for Radio Western. This is a somewhat long post, but there is a point that I am going to make. If you want to get right to the point, you can skip ahead to the second last paragraph.
But first, a quick history of CHRW.
Although there was a Radio Western broadcasting from the basement of Somerville House during the 1970s, the version of CHRW that we all know, and volunteered for, got its broadcasting start at 8:00 AM on the morning of Monday, January 14, 1980. Back then, CHRW was only available from 8:00 AM to 1:00 AM each day as a carrier current station. That meant we were available to be heard on closed circuits at various points on campus, at 6:10 AM in Saugeen-Maitland, and over the airwaves--if you had cable (such as 106.5 FM on London Cable). The station broadcast up until April 30, after which it took the summer of 1980 off. Part of that summer was spent using a Government grant to make the vinyl library more accessible to the visually impaired (you can still find some records in the vinyl library with braille on the top right corner of the record sleeve).
But on Tuesday, September 2, 1980 – exactly 40 years ago today – the station resumed broadcasting, still on a closed circuit, cable only. And it has been on the air ever since--save for the odd power outage, for about 5 days in late September 1993 when we moved from our studios in room 42 of the UCC to our current studios in room 250, and for about 15 minutes on November 28, 2003, when we switched from 94.7 FM to 94.9 FM.
On Friday, October 16, 1981, we began test broadcasting at 94.7 on the FM radio dial with a staggering 50 watts of power. We officially started broadcasting on the FM band in London at noon on Saturday, October 31, 1981--what we call CHRW’s birthday. On October 31, 1990, we increased our power to 3000 watts, where we have been ever since.
Over those 40 years, we have had 9 different station managers – Pat Nagle, David Freeman, Ted Miller, Earle Veale, Mario Circelli, Kaarlo Koskiala, Grant Stein, Tim Glasgow and Andrew Barton. The current station manager is Tim Glasgow, making his second stint in the position. We have had countless program directors, music directors, technical directors, and news/sports directors as well as thousands of volunteers who have walked through the doors of CHRW. Some stayed for only a short period and others, like me, never left!
However, despite all the changes in technology and personnel that Radio Western has seen over the years, there have been TWO things that have been consistent about CHRW in the 40 years since September 2,1980. And they are:
1. Some form of a top 30 alternative album chart – We have been producing a weekly list of the top alternative music since September 2, 1980--save for the occasional summer month here and there. The album “Etceteraville” by Random Hold has the honour of being the first-ever number one album on our charts. Today, this tradition continues with weekly charts produced by our current music director Ian Doig-Phaneuf.
And the second thing that has been consistently done at CHRW since September 1980:
2. Mustangs Football broadcasts – We have been broadcasting live Mustangs football games since September 1980. In that first year, the broadcast team was John McKenna on play-by-play, Art Becker on colour commentary, and Kevin Newman on production at J.W. Little Stadium. Back at the Radio Western studios, either Bill Carss III or Mike Demo held down the fort. Later that season, we added some sideline reporting with Steve Brunt, Scott Weldon, and yours truly, Steve Kopp.
In the first three seasons, 1980-'82, we only broadcast the home games, both regular season and playoffs. When Scott Weldon took over as sports director in 1983, he had the foresight to add road games to the mix. And thus, since 1983, Radio Western has broadcast live every Mustangs football game, both regular season and playoffs, home and away. Other radio stations in town have broadcast games as well, but we are the only ones to do it for 40 straight years.
The only exception was Sunday, September 4, 2016. That day Western travelled to Ottawa to play the Carleton Ravens. Radio Western was supposed to go and broadcast the game, but Carleton could not (or would not) find a place for us to broadcast the game, as it was their homecoming and space was limited. They found a spot for the other London radio station, but not us. As a result, we did not broadcast that game (which, by the way, is the last time Western lost a regular-season game – they have won 30 straight regular-season games – is it a coincidence that they lost when we were not there to broadcast it? I think not!).
But as you may know, university sports across the country, both team and individual sports, have been cancelled this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that for the first time in 40 years there will be NO Mustangs football broadcasts on Radio Western. Our streak is over. Those who host music shows on Saturday will not have to give up their time slots from September to November for the very first time.
Our only hope is that university sports can get back into some sort of action in January. If that does happen, then Radio Western will be there to bring you the action for men’s and women’s basketball, and men’s and women’s hockey (if we are allowed). If that does happen, then we can at least keep our streak of broadcasting men’s hockey for the past 40 years. Although it did not start as early as football, nor do we broadcast every game, we have been doing Mustangs men’s hockey broadcasts since November 14, 1980, when Bernie Morrow, myself, and Kevin Newman did the very first broadcast from Thompson Arena (Western beat Brock that night 14-5!). We will keep our fingers (and maybe our toes as well) crossed.